Anyone that knows me will know that I love my job, truly. Being a teacher is #thebestjobintheworld everyday is a new adventure in learning and the past week and a half heading back it’s been about welcoming (new) students in to school and issuing new books and documentation and sharing expectations; what they can expect from me and what I’d like from them (honesty, effort, to try their best, to treat one another with care, kindness and respect and to ask for help or clarification when they need it) Verbal agreements made and wearing big smiles we head off as an excited and engaged group of learners in to the language learning jungle of fun, grammar and great learning!
The start of term is hard for students and teachers alike after the long six week stretch of holiday its a shock to the system setting the alarm and getting up that early after being able to enjoy extended breakfast reading sessions or the elusive extra hour dozing before starting the bell and register free day. I think it fair to say we forget the routine and rigour of our working day so the first day, the CPD day always seems worse than it actually is.
Arriving at school, still clad in summer clothes; open toe shoes, maybe even flip flops, lasting remnants of sun cream and aftersun wafting here and there and not a suit, ironed shirt nor tie in sight, we greet colleagues and friends bleary eyed and probably sleep deprived, it is indeed a little peculiar. These are the colleagues we laughed with, cried with, shared practice with, supported and stood firm with throughout last academic year yet we haven’t seen many of them since the end of July, some perhaps recently on results days. After a brief spell of quick hugs, kisses and speedy catch ups, caffeine and new stationery in hand we all head to the hall probably avoiding the front row.
Friends I know who are SLT and Headteachers have been thinking, planning and preparing for the launch to the year, in the same way that we teachers seek inspiration for those first springboard lessons with students. Racking brains seeking to ‘get it right’ from the outset is key, high expectations and positive mindset as well as training on new initiatives, sharing priorities and strategies for the year ahead and keeping us all up to date on new systems, white papers, curriculum changes, staffing changes, qualification changes and making sure this is communicated clearly and concisely to us all at one time so we get it right, start working on it (whatever it might be) from day one.
I don’t think anyone plans a lesson nor CPD session that is intended to undermine, bore or belittle anyone yet apparently it seems to happen. Well according to social media anyway.
In first day back CPD sessions honest thank yous for hard work, commitment and effort for working with the previous years exam cohorts are genuine, as lives and fortunes have been changed forever and post-16 and 18 destinations will imminently commence thanks to the commitment, drive, endless chasing, supporting and guiding by teachers in the room (that means you) focusing those young people to be their absolute best and give it their best shot in the exams. But regardless of how sincere the thank you and congratulations from the Head, Deputy Head or Chair of Governors, the summers exams performance news can be tough. Teachers give their everything trying to ensure that students in their classes are valued, supported and cared for, that the tracking, intervention and support is bespoke and assists to prepare them for the exams. So when the grade boundaries change to become ‘more rigorous’ and predicted results based on decades of understanding, experience and exam marking and targets aren’t reached those teachers struggle to not weep. Results go up and down it is a fact of life. It is beyond our control despite our best efforts. Grade boundaries changes based on the performance of students therefore is inherently unfair but that is the system. Analysis of results will help understand where students performed well and where focus need to be thus identifying the next steps forward so the start the year is focused on the future which we can do something about rather than the past that is unchangeable.
Carousels of CPD follow and are in some schools directed. In my experience these sessions are often a choice where staff select from a list of options based on their wants, wishes and desires for continued professional development or self improvement. I work in a school where I can choose my own CPD to benefit and develop my skills and my toolkit to help me do a better job and support my students more. I understand that this may not be the case in all schools but my team and I seek to develop our skills and the learning experiences for students so take charge of our own CPD by attending teach meets after school and education conferences at weekends or in the school holidays. Reading edublogs, sharing experiences and good practice on Twitter and reading edu books. We do this because we want to. For anyone dissatisfied at the CPD provision in their school; my advice, take charge of your own CPD and make it happen for yourselves to ensure that you start the term, week, day, academic year positively knowing that you are ready to be your absolute best rather than berate it.
There might even be meeting time or department time, we had both. Time to focus on the strategic challenges ahead but also time to connect with the team I lead. Department time was welcomed as it allowed time for thinking and for questions to be asked as well as answered but also time to get ready. Teachers in my department were grateful for this time and used it wisely.
I’ve had a brill start to the academic year, and yes it’s only the end of week two, but I know it’s only going to get better! The colleagues in my team are ready for the challenges of the year ahead and we shall go proudly forward feeling fresh, tooled up with teaching and learning strategies and really excited to work with the students and colleagues in our school.
In the words of Talk Talk, Life’s what you make it.