4 New Year's Resolutions for teachers that are actually helpful

4 New Year's Resolutions for teachers that are actually helpful

New Year is traditionally that time of year when we make all sorts of unrealistic promises to ourselves, both in our personal and professional lives. Whether it’s getting fit, or saving more money, or mastering a new skill or hobby, it’s often the vaguest and most ambitious personal goals that have a tendency to fall by the wayside. To have the best chance of success, a resolution needs to be specific and realistic, and that goes for professional goals just as much as personal ones.

Now, we’re not here to pass comment on New Year’s Resolutions for your personal life, but with more than 40 years of experience with school exercise books, we know a thing or two about resolutions when it comes to teaching. So, here are some of our top suggestions for New Year’s Resolutions for yourself this year - and the ones that could bring you the greatest rewards.

1. Make contingency plans

Teaching can be a somewhat frantic profession at the best of times, but since March 2020, it’s become especially challenging for the nation’s teachers. Constant disruption and uncertainty have become par for the course, and that looks no different this year, with widespread warnings of staff shortages already. You can’t predict everything, but you may be able to save yourself some stress by making some rough contingency plans if you’re suddenly forced to isolate, or asked to step in for a colleague.

You don’t need to make these contingencies particularly intricate - in fact it’s probably better not to, as the unpredictable nature of the disruption might render a fair bit of that planning moot - but at the very least it can give you a place to start, which can help take some of the edge off any potential panic. At the very least we’d recommend having a rough plan in place if you’re suddenly forced to switch to remote learning, and what you’ll ask pupils to use their school exercise books for.

It can also help to have the answers ready for some key questions you’ll need to ask yourself if your situation changes. Who will you ask first to help? What will you need help with first, and what can you manage from isolation? Is it worth pre-warning the parents of anything? These are just a couple of questions to get you started - we’ll leave the specifics to you!

school-planners

2. Step outside your comfort zone

We recognise that every teacher has a curriculum to follow, but don’t hesitate to try something different for your lessons occasionally. It doesn’t have to be revolutionary - it could be something as small and simple as trying out a new bit of software. (Just make sure you try it before the lesson first, rather than discovering it on the fly!) Worst case scenario, if you don’t find it helpful then you can simply not use it again - free trials are brilliant, aren’t they? - but if you find it works for you, it could even end up completely transforming the way you teach.

We’re not just talking about software though - you could also do a bit of extra research around your chosen topic, especially if you’re particularly confident with the subject matter, and perhaps try some more unorthodox, experimental, or creative activities with your class. It probably does sound a bit scary, but stepping outside your comfort zone by its very nature involves taking risks!

Besides, if the activities end up being a success, these are the types of lessons that can become the most engaging, effective, and memorable. By stepping outside of your own comfort zone, and incorporating something like singing, acting or drawing (as just a few examples) into your lessons, you can inspire your students to do the same. The best role models make for the best teachers, and by helping them to test their boundaries, you can help them discover new things and help them learn in exciting new ways.

3. Prioritise prioritising

Here’s an unsettling truth that you knew already: you’ll never quite get everything done. You’ve probably got a to-do list as long as your arm, and if you’ve always struggled to get to the bottom of it, chances are you never will. And to be honest, that’s probably fine. Sometimes it helps to think of your to-do list less of an actual list, to be completed and wiped clean. Instead, think of it more of a conveyor belt - it’ll probably never be empty, as there’s always more stuff on the way, so the trick is rather to just make sure you’re dealing with it all in the right order. (Our teacher organisers and planners are always helpful for that.)

Instead of trying to get absolutely everything done, try and start each day by re-evaluating and prioritising your workload with fresh eyes. And - this is the tricky bit now - be realistic! It’s all very well telling yourself that those fifteen tasks absolutely have to be done by bedtime, but if you know in your heart of hearts that it’s extremely unlikely, or even impossible, be sure and admit that to yourself early on. Teachers aren’t superheroes (well, not all the time, anyway). You need to be honest with yourself about your capabilities, and if it looks like something won’t get done, then make sure you have backup plans and explanations ready - see our point about contingencies, above.

Don’t forget, if you’re working yourself down to the bone all the time, you won’t have time to get to one of the most important resolutions you could make this year. Which is…

school-books

4. Look after yourself

Teaching has always been a job that’s required skill at dealing with pressure, and the last few years have seen that pressure increase exponentially. Taking work home is a mainstay of the profession, but with the continuing impact of the pandemic, it’s not uncommon for work-life boundaries to blur to such a degree that it can all too easily lead to burnout. That’s partially because it’s the kind of thing that doesn’t happen all at once - instead, your workload can creep up on you. Just an hour more of marking, you might tell yourself. Just one more night of planning. But before you know it, those concessions can start to become habit, and you may find yourself with a lot less time and energy for yourself - which can eventually start to take a serious toll on your mental health.

The best ways to avoid that are reasonably simple and straightforward - they’re just not necessarily easy. Take your lunchbreak, for example, and try and give yourself at least one entirely work-free day a week. If you can, try and avoid marking work on weekends. (And don’t forget, the school holidays are supposed to be a time when you can take a break too!) Changing ingrained habits can take a lot of effort initially, but you’ll be happier and healthier for it - and happier teachers mean better teaching, and happier classes. When you’re more well-rested, you’ve got more energy to focus on the particularly important things.

These are all just some general suggestions, of course - we’ll leave you to decide how best to approach the specifics! But what we can help with is making sure that you’ve got everything you need to keep your class equipped with what they need, including school exercise books, and educational books and resources. We’ve been doing this for more than 40 years, so when you buy from us here at EPSL, you can count on lasting quality. And if you’ve got any questions, or need any advice, don’t hesitate to give us a call on 01254 686 500!

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