It’s back to work after a gruelling Christmas term. You might be a bit heavier but the days are lighter and your head is buzzing with ideas about how you’re going to get from here to July.
Take my simple quiz to determine what kind of year is in store for you:
You’re lucky enough to have a designated classroom. How are you preparing it?
- You’ve been in over the Christmas break, ripped down the "Inside the Mind of Scrooge" display and replaced it with an illustrated "Eva Smith Timeline" that runs around the whole room – starting with her holiday in August 1910 and ending with her untimely demise on a marble slab. You have a concurrent "1912-1945" timeline running above it and a life-sized mannequin of JB Priestley greeting students at the door.
- At the end of term, 7BX wrote the most delightful Christmas poems. They might be past their sell-by date now but they’re still worth displaying – at least until 7CX write the next batch about snowdrops.
- During the lunch break on Inset day, you’ll unearth the wall stapler and – unless it’s lasagne on the menu – spend 20 minutes restapling the borders that Year 11 picked off during detention.
Pedagogy is high on the agenda at work this term. What have you done to bring yourself up to date?
- Your blog posts on the past six ResearchEd conferences you attended are on the school website and you’re busy reorganising the Pedagogy section of the staffroom library and dusting off the bust of Daniel Willingham. What’s more, you’ve just about finished chapter seven of your own EduBook, "Fifty Shades of Feedback": all you need now is a publisher.
- Luckily Santa was generous and you received a preview copy of the latest David Didau best-seller in your stocking. You haven’t read it yet, but you’re hoping once the Year 11 mock marking is out of the way, you might get a moment to flick through a couple of pages before half-term.
- You can’t decide whether "pedagogy" has a hard second "g" like "hog" or a soft "g" like "dodgy". You’ll wait until someone in Teaching & Learning briefing mentions it before you attempt saying it out loud.
"A healthy mind in a healthy body" is the new school wellbeing motto. How will that look for you?
- Obviously, the 5am runs will continue, but now it’s time to make lunch matter. You’ve batch-frozen 30 portions of kale broth and you’ll be whipping up a goji berry and almond salad every morning for break. You can squeeze in a brief mindfulness session while the broth is defrosting and it’s great that the school has offered free use of the gym to staff. Finally, you can put your toning bands to good use!
- You’ve put on a couple of pounds over Christmas, so it’s back to Slimming World for you. Luckily hardboiled eggs are syn-free, so you can fill up on them throughout the day. And I’m pretty sure your colleagues will be delighted to hear about your progress and the detail of how many tablespoons of rice you’ve consumed since last Tuesday.
- Once you’ve finished up the final morsels of last term’s Quality Street in the staff room, that’s it – no more chocolate at work … unless, of course, Fiona makes her special choctastic super fudge cake for Greg’s birthday next Wednesday …
Behaviour Management will be a focus should Ofsted arrive. What are your plans?
- You’ve implemented SLANT, SLIDE, SLOTH and SQUASH in your classroom. It’s been effective so far. As has the rewards-based, gender-neutral seating plan and the bars on the windows so no one can be distracted by the view.
- Every lesson starts with an equipment check and you ensure that planners are open on desks at all times. You’ve revamped your red/amber/green warning cards and you’ll be reinstating the "Gold Star" system for anyone who meets the 17-point behaviour criteria each lesson.
- Fortunately, your classroom is next door to your head of department on one side and head of Year 11 on the other. If the noise level gets too high, one or the other will pop in and remove the loudest child.
Feedback? Your thoughts?
- As outlined in your yet-to-be-published Edu book (see Question 2), you are relying on comparative judgement. On a twice-weekly basis, you and your department will be arranging exercise books in order of achievement. Pre-printed feedback labels – using the language of growth mindset – are available for each task. It only takes six or seven hours a week, which, if you think about it, is a huge improvement on last year.
- You’re ditching triple-impact marking and you’re going for whole-class feedback. You’ve designed some rather cracking Powerpoint templates, an "A-W" marking code, a series oftask-orientated level descriptors that the students can glue in next to each piece of work and highlight in two different colours – it’s all about making feedback more accessible!
- As usual, you’ll be awarding the highest marks to the heaviest piece of work. Oh yes, and you’ve bought some new red pens!
It’s time to tot up your scores.
Take a look around you. Do you have a life? A partner? Friends? Do you remember laughter? You’re in this game until you’re 70 – that’s a long way off. Slow down and take a night or two off; read a book that isn’t written about education and leave work before 5.30 a couple of nights a week – or this year in education might be your last.
You seem to have struck a balance but you also need to be a little gentler on yourself. Focus on the children, do what’s best for them and remember what it is you do well. Oh – and by the way – that hard-boiled egg diet might not be going down well with your colleagues in a poorly ventilated department base.
Enough now. Perhaps it's time you asked yourself: is teaching really for you? If yes, then make "should try harder" your motto for 2019.
Sarah Ledger is director of learning for Year 10 at William Howard School in Brampton, Cumbria, and has been teaching English for 30 years