Across the country, trees and decorations have been taken down and endless tubs of Celebrations have been consumed.
For many teachers, the hardest part of the year is now over: trainees have successfully navigated their way through their first gruelling term; NQTs are now established in the classroom and have probably been more keen to take risks without the beady eye of an observer perpetually watching over them; and even those more experienced teachers can congratulate themselves on another dark and gloomy autumn term under their belts.
But that does not mean that you can take your foot off the gas. With the return to school imminent, now is the perfect time to refresh your expectations of pupil behaviour – especially if you let these slide in the exhausting run-up to Christmas, when you were otherwise bogged down with assessment marking, data entry and devising schemes for the Spring term.
Regardless of your level of experience, taking the time to reiterate those all-important rules and routines to your students will set you up for a smoother ride through the rest of the year. This is particularly important with that tricky class who took a bit longer to tame than all of the others, and might, admittedly, still not completely be up to scratch.
How do you make sure that behaviour gets off to a good start this term?
In the first lesson, welcome the class back with a sincere smile and a warm personal greeting for each student as they enter the room. Ask them about their Christmas break and show a genuine interest in what they tell you.
But it’s also vital to assert yourself by ensuring that classroom routines are re-established right away. Entry into the classroom must be calm and orderly, not chaotic and filled with Christmas chatter.
Gently remind students of the need to take their correct place within the seating plan – there will always be one or two who will try to swap places without you noticing.
Once everyone is seated where they should be, students then need to be reminded not only of the correct behaviour for conducting themselves in the classroom and around the school, but also of why those behaviours are expected of them.
Take the time to explain to students how your own expectations are in line with those handed down from senior management and how meeting these expectations are crucial for success in school.
These messages should be communicated clearly; don’t just shove a list of rules up on a PowerPoint and read them to the students. Instead, provide them with three or four concrete guidelines that cover the vast majority of behaviours.
And if, during the course of the first few lessons, you notice that your expectations are not being followed, ask yourself why this might be. Do you need to have private conversations with key students? Or do you need to review how consistently you are using rewards and sanctions yourself?
Whatever the answer, ensure that you recognise students who meet your expectations and sanction those who don’t. Remember, it’s your classroom and you deserve to teach quality lessons to students who are ready to learn.
Laura Tsabet is lead practitioner of teaching and learning at a school in Bournemouth. She tweets @lauratsabet