Here are four things to do this summer that will make you a better teacher – and not one of them includes CPD.
Teaching is exhausting, and recognising when you need some down time is the key to longevity in this job. Sleep late, read books, watch box sets, walk the dog at a leisurely pace instead of the usual route march, and just generally do what you want, when you want.
At the start of the holidays, taking it easy can be hard work for teachers. Your mind and body are not used to this slower pace, and hence will try to keep you on the straight and narrow of your term-time routine. You might ping awake at 6am or feel guilty for having a glass of wine on a school night. Persist and show them who is boss. After a few days, the deep relaxation of being off the clock will settle over you. This is when the much-need battery recharge truly begins.
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2. Learn something new
Whether it is Mandarin or how to do an underwater handstand in the hotel pool, putting yourself back in the role of the learner is a crucial reminder of how difficult mastering a new skill can be. You need patience, perseverance, gentle correction, encouragement and more than a little time to get the hang of it. It can be hugely frustrating and deeply annoying when others succeed before you do and your confidence is likely to take a battering as you wrangle with all that new and overwhelming information, all whilst others make it look so easy. Which is exactly what our children and young people face in our classrooms every single day. Being a learner yourself means you can empathise when the going gets tough, and share your own experiences of getting there in the end.
Think big, big, big, but also tiny small – into the nooks and crannies of your littlest work problem. Give yourself time to just think about the job, how you do it and how it has gone this past year. Think without intent, agenda or purpose, just let your mind wander through your mental corridors and open all the doors, peering behind each one. Be a casual observer in your own head and give yourself permission to think it all out. Often in education, for reasons of necessity or self-preservation, we have to park the things that are bothering us, filing them away to be thought about at another time. Well, that time is now. Thinking about it won’t make it right, but keeping it all under permanent lock and key is a sure-fire way to ensure it will still be bothering you in August.
Because things tend to get a bit serious in schools at the end of term. Emotions run high, tempers run short and everyone is generally just scunnered with the whole business. So make sure you lighten up a bit over the summer. See the funny side. At the end of the day, it is all just learning, even when it’s awful. It is all just finding out, so try not to take any of it too seriously and find something that tickles your funny bone this summer. A right good laugh helps to keep things in perspective.
Susan Ward is depute headteacher at Kingsland Primary School in Peebles, in the Scottish Borders. She tweets @susanward30