Peter Greaves shows how teachers can let go without losing it. This week: That was the year that was...
It's the season of end-of-term games, so here's one for you and your colleagues - Seasonal Bingo. Write in a grid some words or phrases that you can guarantee hearing over the next week or so. When people say, "It goes quicker every year", "I can't believe a year has gone already", or "They've grown so much", just cross it off your card, and yell "Holidays!" when you complete a line. All good fun and games, but you probably say the cliches as often as you hear them. It's natural and healthy to reflect on the defined period of time that is now coming to an end. It's also sensible to carry that reflection forward into planning for next year. You may find the fatigue of the season constructive, bringing some helpful realism to the process, which for me has three main themes.
First, try to put the personality of the class you have been working with to one side. Their characters may have defined this year to an extent, but that need have no impact on next year. Focus on you. Have you created and managed the kind of classroom that you wanted? I find being methodical helps, writing myself a little review of the year, listing five things I am pleased about - for example, I got stories back into my classroom in a regular, exciting way. A natural outcome of this is to think of at least 20 things with which I am not pleased, such as the fact that I didn't get as involved in pupils' personal reading as I should. Again, I try to pick five things I want to work on next year and any systems or strategies I might need to develop over the summer.
Second, think of something new for next year. Over the course of the year, I'm sure you have heard of things going on in other classrooms that excite or interest you. Begin planning now, so that when you start to make arrangements for next year, your new element is in place first. You'll find there is no room for it as an "extra".
Third, give yourself a break. Not just the physical rest of the holidays, but a break from the pressure we put ourselves under through endless self analysis and fear of failure to meet others' expectations or, even more stressful, our own. As you recoup for another year, read again that book that helps you remember why you want to be a teacher, or spend time thinking about the places, people and experiences that made you take up this most vital of professions. Find a "flower" to pick from this time and bring it back into your classroom at the beginning of the year. My photo of "Cabin 11 - Camp Hi-rock '89" may be more tatty each year, but its ability to inspire is stronger than ever. I hope that, come September, that's true of us all.
Peter Greaves teaches at Dovelands Primary School in Leicester Email: firstname.lastname@example.org