Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati
Accompanying podcast episode:
It’s been a busy Summer vacation for me.
As a Chemistry teacher at an international school, I get a similar ‘Summer Holiday’ to my colleagues back in the U.K. – about 7 weeks from the end of June to mid-late August. However, I’ve not been resting that much as I’ve been involved in two excellent summer camps which have kept me productive and active.
I now have another two days left before school starts, so I’m enjoying a short break in the seaside resort of Pattaya, Thailand (a short drive away from Bangkok).
Getting into the swing of things
7 weeks is a long time to be away from school and if we are to be at our optimum when we meet our new students on day one, then we need to get physiologically, biochemically and mentally ready.
I’m now going to go through my top 5 tips for starting the new academic year like a superhero! Over the past 12 years of my professional teaching career these tips have been absolute life-savers!
I know they will work for you too, as they have done for the hundreds of teachers and trainees that I have counseled and mentored over the years.
Here’s a quick video summary of these 5 tips:
Tip #1: Rest yourself
This can be difficult, especially if you’re a parent with small children. However, it is absolutely essential.
When we rest ourselves before school begins, however, we must do it in a systematic, organised way. What does this mean? – Well, let’s take a look at this list together and see if we could implement these actions at least 1 week before going back to school:
- Hydrate ourselves well: We should drink low-sugar, high-water fluids to get our bodies biochemically ready for the new academic year
- Get enough sleep: I personally need 8 hours per night – any less and I find it hard to function!
- Implement a regular sleeping pattern: I don’t want my first Monday back to be a total shock to my body (that’s happened to me before and it was ugly!). From now until the day I start back at school, it’s bed at 10pm and up at 6am every day. A pattern like this allows our circadian rhythms to become balanced just in time for the first day – so that we’ll feel fresh and ready!
- Do recreational stuff: You know what you love to do. Do it! For me: I love to read in the countryside with a windy breeze in the background. I enjoy going to the gym and taking my time when I’m there. I enjoy karate. I love writing my blog at a sleepy little coffee shop somewhere in the back-of-beyond. Whatever it is that you love to do, give yourself the gift of doing it before you go back to school. This will help you to relax and will adjust your nervous system to a state of ‘positive awareness’.
- Eat properly: I don’t need to lecture anyone about this – we all know what we should be doing. I know, for example, that by having three-square meals per day, at around about the same time each day (followed with wide-spectrum multi-vitamins and mineral supplements), then by the process of bio-accumulation my body will be biochemically at its optimum before I launch into my teaching modality on day one.
Tip #2: Know your curriculum!
We need to know two important things well before we start teaching our students:
- What we are going to teach
- When, exactly, we are going to teach it
This process is called ‘curriculum mapping’ and it’s so important, especially if you’re starting at a new school or if you’re a newly-qualified teacher whose starting a new job.
I know, for example, that I’ll be teaching a Year 12 and 13 IBDP Chemistry class this coming academic year. I know that Year 13 need to have covered Topic 17 (HL Equilibria) by the end of August, and Topics 8 and 18 (Acids and Bases) by the end of September. Year 12 need to have covered Topics 2 and 12 (Atomic Structure) and Topic 1 (Quantitative Chemistry) by the end of September.
I need to know exactly what’s happening, in terms of my teaching and school events that could interrupt my normal schedule, for each and every month of the upcoming academic year.
Curriculum mapping benefits us in so many ways:
- It keeps us confident because we are ‘on-track’ and going in the right direction
- It relaxes us (because we know what’s coming next)
- It gives us time to plan ahead
So get mapping – you know it makes sense!
Tip #3: Get photocopying!
Here’s something I can guarantee – on day one of teaching, and the day before, many of your colleagues will be using the school’s photocopiers and printers to get their resources ready.
If me and you want to start the academic year in a hassle-free, relaxed way, then we need to be a step-ahead of everyone else.
Go into school a few days before you’re due to start and get your first week’s worth of worksheets, booklets and whatever else you need printed and ready.
Trust me – you’ll be glad you did it!
Tip #4: Read ahead
We all forget subject content, even the most highly-qualified and knowledgeable of us.
If possible, get your hands on the same textbooks your kids will be using. Use these textbooks to:
- Read ahead and make sure you understand the stuff you’ll teaching the students
- Think about which questions from the textbook you’d like to set for your kids. Do these questions have model answers? If not, then you’ll be creating unnecessary work for yourself when you come to mark them. Will you set these questions as homework or classwork?
- Does the textbook contain any good graphics that you could scan/photograph and put into a Prezi, Google slides or PowerPoint?
Tip #5: Don’t be nervous
Whatever your situation is: starting at a new school or staying at your current school, you’re likely to have new colleagues, systems, resources and even policies that you’ll be working with.
Don’t be in a rush to get to know everyone all at once. Take your time, relax and get to know people one at a time.
See the new academic year as an opportunity to inspire, care-for and motivate your new students. With this mindset, you’re sure to start back at school like a superhero!