It's Christmas: that exciting, draining and seemingly endless period in the school year. A time of love, cheer, happiness and presents.
But what Christmas present would I give to teachers in 2019, which would also prove useful in the coming year?
Simple: the ability to cope with the job at the moment: a job that changes constantly and seems to consume all those who try to tackle it.
Handling teacher workload
We all know and appreciate the problems surrounding education at the moment. At the very top of any list would be workload: an issue all teachers have to endure.
So my gift to teachers is a list of strategies that I and others have adopted to cope with this aspect of the teacher's life.
- Remember that teaching is a job. It’s an important one, yes. But it is just a job, and should be treated as such.
- Stop saying 'yes' to everything that's asked of you. Try saying, “No – I’ve got enough to do,” occasionally, when you’re asked to do more work. You never know: it might actually work and catch on.
- Stop believing you are ever going to get to the bottom of your to-do list. It will never happen. Revisit it daily, and continually delete unimportant items.
- Try to stop emotions dominating your teaching life. Feelings of self-pity and frustration eat away at the positivity all teachers need at their core.
- Always remember that teaching is a people-driven profession. Your pupils should always be the most important part of your job, no matter what others might say.
- Enjoy and celebrate those teacher-pupil moments. After all, that is why you became a teacher.
- Stop dwelling on what you didn't do well. Instead focus on what you do brilliantly, day in and day out.
- Don't worry overly about visitors to your classroom. In my experience, most of those who tell others how to do it could never do it themselves.
- For goodness’ sake, stop taking on other people’s problems as well as your own. You have enough to deal with, without this burden.
- Stop taking your work home in a curver box. Instead, use the same box to put your work in at the end of the day. Then go home and enjoy your other life.
- Remember, you have family and friends who want to see you in the evening and weekends, not a cardboard cut-out of you.
Young and old
There you have it: my present for all teachers, young and old. I hope there’s something in there you like.
And, finally, may I take this opportunity to wish you a happy Christmas and a great new year.
Thank you for all you do, every single day of the year, for the youth of this country.
Colin Harris led a school in a deprived area of Portsmouth for more than two decades. His last two Ofsted reports were 'outstanding' across all categories