Three things for September that you need to do now

Getting ready for next term ahead of time will make your return to school so much smoother, says Mark Enser

Mark Enser


As soon as the cheers from the Year 11 leavers’ assembly have faded away, and the last tear has hit the floor, my mind turns to September. I have been teaching long enough for my end-of-term routine to have become a well-oiled machine that leaves everything ready for a smooth return to the excitement of the new year.

Here are three things for next year that you should be tackling now.

1. Clear out your room

First, clear the decks. Find yourself the biggest roll of recycling bags you can and set out to fill them. If in doubt, chuck it out. That budget statement from five years ago you were keeping just in case? Bin it. That new marking policy you were given paper copies of at the start of a year that is already ignored? In the bin it goes. Be ruthless. If you think there is a chance you might need to refer to it, then get a scanner app and keep an electronic copy – but in over a decade of merrily throwing everything away, this problem has never come up for me.

While you are at it, throw away as much as possible in any department cupboards. My department consists of an incredible group of teachers, but they are hoarders to a man and woman. This time of year sees me sneaking out old faded worksheets like a tunnel digger in The Great Escape. Those half-dozen textbooks from the 1970s with one page that was once used for a lesson that no longer gets taught? Scanned and binned. Those maps that still show the USSR and possibly Rhodesia? Out they go. Exam papers from a specification that hasn’t been taught for a decade? They can go, too.

2. Nail the admin

Next up, I think of all those admin jobs I hate having to do in September and get on with them now. Luckily, the person who does our timetable is a kind of genius. Watching him work is like watching Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes go into his "mind palace". This means that not only do we have our timetable by the end of June but also it doesn’t somehow change by September. This means I can get seating plans drawn up, class lists written and go through the special educational needs and disability (SEND) information for my classes now. I also make the most of the relative quiet around the photocopier and get the first couple of week’s copying done. That’s an extra 10 minutes in bed right there.

Open evenings seem to get earlier and earlier each year. In the past, I would be there the week before trying to think about activities and displays while also teaching for four- five hours, looking at books and getting to know new classes. Not any more. By the time I leave in July, I want to know that everything I need is ready to go. The same goes for field trip planning for the first term and any other events I can already spot on the horizon.

3. Get reading

Finally, I read. I work in a school that values staff reading and we are encouraged to find the time to read all year. In fact, we are given the time to read all year. But in other schools this would be the only chance I would get to settle down with a book, journal or paper. I’d suggest finding a quiet corner and having a look at Alex Quigley’s The Confident Teacher, Jamie Thom’s Slow Teaching or Peps Mccrea’s Memorable Teaching. All will leave you bursting with ideas for September and motivated to get going again.

If you can’t find the time for a book then try a short research paper. Rosenshine’s Principles of Effective Instruction (2012), Dunlosky’s Strengthening the Student Toolbox (2013) or Meyer and Land's Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge (2003) are all great places to start. It is also worth delving into the journals from your subject associations and the Chartered College of Teaching’s journal Impact. If not now, when?

If anyone suggests that reading isn’t the best use of your time, this means it is time for the final part of the end of term routine. Log into Tes and start looking for jobs in schools that recognise teachers as professionals who need to keep up to date with their subject and pedagogical knowledge. If you are returning to a school you don’t want to go back to in September, at least make sure you aren’t having to go back in January.

Mark Enser is head of geography and research lead at Heathfield Community College. His first book Making Every Geography Lesson Count is out soon. He tweets @EnserMark

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Mark Enser

Mark Enser

Mark Enser is head of geography and research lead at Heathfield Community College. His new book, Powerful Geography, is out now. He tweets @EnserMark

Find me on Twitter @EnserMark

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