Finding a balance between work, a social life and that ever-elusive “me time" can sometimes feel impossible for teachers.
This is especially true for those who have families to entertain, nurture and monitor at the weekends and during school holidays.
So for those keen to develop their professional practice, finding time for CPD – whether it’s a structured course or self-directed in the form of reading, online study or conference attendance – can be tricky.
Quick read: The 5 key rules of effective CPD
Quick listen: Could Bananarama be the answer to social mobility?
Want to know more? The art to a good meeting? It’s science
But there may be an elegant solution hiding in plain sight: visiting local museums, galleries and cultural spaces to meet some of your CPD needs.
Here’s how to do it:
Keep it focused
Pick a clear text, topic, or aspect of your subject and a matching cultural venue. The wreck of the Mitsubishi A6M fighter and surrounding artefacts in the Imperial War Museum in London, for example, is a hugely rich corner to spend time reading and absorbing key contextual information relevant to the GCSE poem "Kamikaze".
Focusing on quality, not quantity, and making a note of exhibitions to revisit another day, is a great way to maximise value from a finite amount of time.
Work around meal times
This is especially relevant for families, but also a fantastic opportunity to maintain a social life during busy periods.
Arranging to meet a friend or family member for coffee, brunch, or lunch before or after heading to your chosen gallery while also having the opportunity to reconnect with your subject is part of the magic of “teacher trips” as CPD.
Most museums have cafes, gardens or picnicking spaces, so the meal can be as fancy or economical as you like. For special events, the National Gallery and Wallace Collection have awe-inspiring and sumptuous dining spaces.
As you explore these cultural spaces, keep track of your thoughts, resources and genius lesson planning ideas. A smartphone is all you need for this, as you can store photographs and audio notes for later discussion with your edu-network.
For text-based subjects, the back-to-basics of annotating can be hugely powerful, as can making a note of questions or ideas to research further.
If you want to be really organised, print off your medium-term plans to annotate with additional information as you wander.
Plan in real time
Putting your developed subject knowledge into practice immediately is one of the best ways to ensure it has a positive impact on your students and colleagues.
Take a notepad (a treat from the gift shop, perhaps), a moment to stop in your beautiful surroundings and lesson plan for the following week.
For those who don’t have the luxury of a quiet moment around family logistics, use the journey home and audio or written notes to consolidate your ideas.
How can you plan simple, but informed lessons using the knowledge you have just acquired? Which moments of your visit left you buzzing, or pondering, or moved? If you can’t bring your students to the gallery with you, how can you bring the gallery to them in Tuesday’s lesson?
Keep it affordable
Between the coffees, travel costs and tickets, teacher trips can appear to be a pricey CPD option, but there are lots of ways to enjoy these experiences for free, or on a low budget.
Packing a picnic or a thermos can be logistically and financially liberating, and many museums and galleries have free fixed exhibitions.
The parks and natural places so important to geographers, historians and scientists (not to mention English teachers!) are free to roam, and the farms and libraries that act as hubs for early years (EYFS) and primary CPD often have low workshop fees or donation suggestions.
Membership options with organisations like the National Trust, or sites that you find yourself drawn to again and again, can be an affordable option offering you unlimited access to exhibitions, as well as a thoughtful gift for parents, siblings and partners.
An hour enjoying and learning at a museum, gallery or park can often result in two or three lessons’ worth of content, and offers a far more refreshing approach to planning than staring at a screen or tweaking fonts on a Powerpoint presentation.
In a time-starved profession that often finds passionate specialists suffering from over-work, strained social lives and poor mental health, these teacher trips can help teachers to develop their subject knowledge in an inspiring and social way.
Emma Sheppard is founder of The MaternityTeacher/PaternityTeacher (MTPT) Project and a lead practitioner for English