8 things that are inevitable on Inset day

Coffee, jeans, password panics. Oh yes, and professional development. Sarah Mullin looks at what Inset days really mean

Sarah Mullin

CPD: What do Inset days really mean for teachers?

New year's resolutions have been made. Gym memberships have been renewed. The Christmas holidays are, if not a distant memory, then a memory nonetheless. And now it’s Inset day.

We all know the official line: Inset days are intended to enable staff to enhance their professional development. But what really happens?

What to expect on teacher Inset days

1. Copious amounts of coffee

You went to bed early and set numerous alarms. But the fear of sleeping in still filled you with Sunday-night dread, keeping you awake until the early hours

When you’ve spent the past two weeks enjoying leisurely lie-ins and lazy afternoons, there’s only one thing that’s going to get you through a morning of staff Inset: caffeine, and lots of it.

2. Wardrobe conundrums

Heels or flats? Tie or T-shirt? Dress-up or dress down? If your trousers are a little too tight after indulging in turkey, fear not. Inset day is teachers-in-jeans day: a chance to ease yourself back into work without easing out of the jeans and jumpers you’ve been wearing all holiday. 

3. Password panic

The Christmas holidays are the perfect time for Netflix marathons, video-game tournaments and family board games. So your head is full of invaluable nuggets of information, none of which is the log-in for your work laptop. 

Being away from regular school routines can result in password panic on the first day of term. What were those security gate codes, photocopier PIN numbers and laptop log-ins?

4. Catching up with colleagues

One of the best things about going back to school is catching up with colleagues. Expect hugs and handshakes from colleagues who saw in the new year on a snowcapped mountain or who hosted the whole extended family at home. Try not to feel intimidated: they probably also wish they’d spent new year’s day nursing a hangover on the sofa in front of Toy Story 3. Maybe. 

5. Diet? What diet?

You can always trust the Inset day biscuits to ruin that new year’s healthy-eating plan. There’s nothing like a training day to scupper your promises to dodge the digestives, relinquish the rich teas and banish the bourbon creams.

And there will always be that well-meaning colleague who has generously donated her tub of Christmas chocolates to the staffroom. Surely one miniature Hero won’t hurt…

6. Endless small talk

"Did you have a nice break?" "Christmas feels like ages ago already, doesn’t it?" "I know: I can't believe it’s January already." "No, not too cold." "Do you remember the year it snowed in March?" "Only six weeks to go until half-term." And the perennial favourite: "It feels like – ho, ho – last year since I last saw you." 

7. Elbows out and eyes down

The first presentation is about to begin. Teachers sprint to fill the seats towards the back of the room. Post-It notes are being circulated, while graphs, charts and motivational quotes flash up on the projector screen.

Phones on silent are partially hidden underneath worksheets, while Inset-day bingo players are eagerly listening out for the latest edu-jargon.

When the presenter asks for a response to a question, all eyes dart to the data in front of them, each teacher silently hoping not to be the one picked on. It’s almost as though we were, ahem, at school.

8. Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Although you may have spent December counting down the days until the Christmas break, you’ll probably have missed your pupils over the holidays. The school will seem so quiet without the hustle and bustle of children roaming the corridors. And your classrooms will look bare without pupils in their seats, ready to learn.

Inset days are valuable, but you’re eager to get back to teaching tomorrow.

As teachers, we are privileged to have the best job in the world, and nothing beats welcoming our pupils back to school after the Christmas break. Happy new year, and happy new term.

Sarah Mullin is a deputy headteacher and doctor of education student. Her book What They Didn’t Teach Me on My PGCE is currently a number-one bestseller on Amazon

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