How to survive going back to school

Don't arrive early for Inset, try and remember where the photocopier is and pack some snacks, says Michael Tidd

Snacks are a lifeline for teachers starting a new school year, says headteacher Michael Tidd

How did it come to be September again? 

It seems like only yesterday that I was writing words of wisdom about surviving the trials of the summer term, and yet here we are wondering wherever it all went. (Well, aside from those of you who have already been back at work for a week: we salute you!) 

So here are my hints for getting through the first few days. No promises that they’ll be accurate, helpful or even coherent, I’m afraid: I’ve not quite got back into the swing of things myself.

Passwords and other hurdles

Before the children arrive

There’s no sense in turning up too early. If it’s an Inset day, then any extra time you spend in school will likely be spent just repeating the answers to the questions about how your summer was. Much better to turn up just before the day begins and wear a badge reading: “Lovely, thanks, although all too short, of course."

Anyway, there’s every likelihood that you’ve forgotten the code to get in the main entrance, or mislaid your car-park pass, or forgotten where the photocopier is. Wait until someone else is in the building to help you with all of that.

The next hurdle is passwords. You probably made sure that you remembered your main login password. After all, you typed it several times a day for the past 11 months before the holiday. 

Unfortunately, you’ve forgotten that last year the IT team made you have those new-fangled GDPR passwords that change every month. So my advice is: try what you think your password is, and then add a 1. Or a 2. You’ll get there eventually.

Pack the right snacks

Classroom and food preparation

Hopefully you’ve got everything set up – maybe even back in July. Your classroom display boards are backed; trays and pegs are labelled; you’ve even got labels ready to stick on exercise books for every child in your class. 

This is, of course, the perfect time to find out that over the holiday a new child has been admitted to the school and they’re going to be in your class. Oh, and they have a really long name that doesn’t quite fit the label template you’ve used. Be sure to make them feel welcome!

Oh, and you’ve packed snacks, right? Even if you haven’t been snacking particularly over the past few weeks, you’ve also probably not had such a long gap between breakfast and lunch recently. Nor have you had to sit through the health and safety chat while your stomach is rumbling. 

You don’t need to pack much: just a cereal bar should do it. And maybe some fruit. Perhaps pack a sandwich. And treat yourself with a chocolate bar. The 500g one should do. That should see you through to lunchtime.

And, while we’re on the health and safety thing: do listen carefully. True, never use a ladder, but chances are that someone spent hours of their holiday trying to work out how to make this presentation vaguely tolerable for you. And, frankly, if you can watch three episodes of Murder, She Wrote in one day of holiday, you can listen up for this.

Fighting over the photocopier

When the children return

This time, get in early. It may only be one thing you still need to photocopy, but Margaret in Year 3 will likely commandeer the copier from 7.45am til just before 9am, because she wants to get the whole year’s guided reading ready.

You’ll also need time for a snack just before they all arrive; it’s not quite Dutch courage, but it’ll have to do. Then make sure you’re in the right room/playground/school in time for them all arriving.

No further advice needed, I’m sure you’ll agree. By 10 o’clock you’ll feel like you were never away.

Michael Tidd is headteacher at East Preston Junior School, in West Sussex. He tweets as @MichaelT1979

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