The days are getting shorter, the temperature is going down and you are starting to forget where you put your pencil case. All of this can only mean one thing - it’s the start of a new school year! But before you all begin to get sweaty palms at the prospect of the nine months of teaching ahead of you, we have ten top tips on how to make the most out of your preparations for the new term. You can all breathe a communal sigh of relief.
- First thing’s first- dig out that pencil case! It may seem like a while since you last used a pen a paper, but it’s a very good idea to get your teaching kit ready to start the new year. Throw away any broken or old stationery and treat yourself to something new and exciting to brighten up your day. Come on, what teacher doesn’t love a fancy new pen or a beautiful notebook?! You’ll then be able to start the school year in style whilst being the envy of all your new students.
- If you are starting a new job or are going to have any new teaching colleagues, then organise a time at the start of the term when you can all meet up and get to know each other. Teaching can be tough at times and it’s so important for us teachers to create a positive and supportive working environment from the outset. This in turn leads to a more pleasant place for everyone to spend time in and helps create an upbeat environment for students to come into. Remember happy teachers=happy students!
- If you’re going back into the same classroom as last year, then spend some time at the start of the year clearing out the things you don’t need to keep. Organise your text books and folders neatly and make sure you have everything you need for the year ahead. Starting the year with a classroom clear of clutter will help you start the year with a mind clear of clutter.
- In the same vein as the top tip above, spend time organising the files and folders on your computer. Yes, it may be painful, but it has to be done. Organise them according to level, age, subject- whichever means it’ll be easily accessible when you’re looking for something extra to use in class. We’ve all had that moment ten minutes before a class when we remember we have a great worksheet somewhere on our computer, but can’t for the life of us remember what we called the file or which folder we put it in. Do your future self a favour and organise those files now.
- If you attended any training courses or conferences last year, spend some time collating and reading through your notes to remind yourself of what you can do differently in your classes this year. Once you step back in to the classroom, it’s so easy to fall back into the same old teaching habits you’ve had for years. Make yourself a list of teaching objectives for the year and at Christmas, you can check them again to see how much progress you’ve made.
- When it comes to exam teaching, it’s worthwhile familiarising yourself with the format and the different parts of the exams you’re going to be teaching this year. It could be that something has changed slightly, or merely that there is new information available to you which will help you when planning exam preparation activities for students. Once you find anything that you think could be useful, save it in a safe place so you can access it throughout the year and pass it on to other teachers to use with their students.
- Once you get your new teaching timetable, it is important to start planning regular activities around this. Teacher burnout is a sad but common side-effect of the job, and whilst teaching can be time-demanding and overwhelming, it is essential that you make an effort to schedule in some well-deserved ‘me’ time.
- If you are living in a different country/city then make sure your spend some time at the beginning of the term researching the local festivities. Why don’t you ask any local colleagues you may have if they can recommend any places to visit or fun things to do at the weekends? Make the most of your surroundings you’re working in; remember being able to live and work anywhere in the world is one of the big perks of the job!
- Cast your mind back to the lessons you taught last year, were there any particular grammar point that you weren’t very confident when teaching? If this is the case (which I imagine it will be for most people, unless you’re a robot) then crack open a book or any respectable grammar website and brush up on that area of language you dreaded teaching last year. Turn your fear into your teaching challenge to nail as you head into the new term.
- Do some research into courses, conferences and events that are being held in your city/country next year. When you look into it a bit more, you’ll find that there’s a lot out there to help teachers of English. Why not get a group of your fellow teachers together and make a day of it? Think of it as a team building exercise which can be followed by a very sociable glass of wine/beer/cider over which you can share the things you’ve learnt and put the teaching world to rights.
Happy preparing and enjoy the start of the new academic year! May it be as fruitful, rewarding and enjoyable as you imagine it can possibly be.