An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback).
Illustrated by Sutthiya Lertyongphati
Originally posted on August 18th 2019. Updated on September 3rd 2022.
Getting back into the swing of things can be a challenge: especially after a long summer vacation. Our body clocks are normally out of sync and we’ve probably been taking life a bit easy for a while (and rightly so).
The new academic year pounces on us like a monkey from a tree.
In order to be prepared for the craziness ahead I’ve devised a list of ten things to do prior to the first day back at school. Follow these magic tips and you’ll be energized, prepared and ahead of the game.
Tip #1: Create a regular sleeping pattern
Get up at your normal ‘work day’ time each day for at least a week before school starts. This will calibrate your body clock so that it’s easier to get up when school begins.
It’ll be hard at first – if you’re like me then you’ll be exhausted at 6am. Just try it – force yourself to get used to getting up early.
Tip #2: Set up a morning ritual
Come up with a sequence of events that will inspire, empower and energize you each morning. For me, my morning routine looks like this:
- Get up at 4.30am
- Go to the gym (it opens at 5am)
- Work out at the gym
- Shower at the gym
- Have coffee and breakfast at the gym lounge
- Read over e-mails and lesson plans for the day ahead
- Leave the gym and be at school by 7am
Getting the hardest things done in the morning (e.g. exercising) is a very empowering way to start the day. This ritual of mine also serves to give me energy – I’m not rushing to school and I’m fully breakfasted, coffee’d-up and mentally prepared before the school day even starts!
Tip #3: Learn about the A.C.E. method of post-pandemic teaching
The best way that we can re-integrate our students after so much disruption due to lockdowns is by facilitating the following:
- Action: Include lots of kinesthetic activities in your lessons.
- Collaboration: Get students working together in groups (see my blog post here for more advice about how to do this).
- Exploration: Encourage deep learning through problem-solving and research-based tasks.
I’ve a quick video all about the A.C.E. strategy here:
Tip #4: Read ahead
Whether you’re teaching the same subjects again this year, or if you’re teaching something totally new – it always helps to read ahead.
Go over the textbook material, watch out for subtle syllabus changes and make sure you read over the material you’ll actually give to the kids (PPTs, worksheets, etc.).
Tip #5: Prepare ahead
Linked to reading ahead but involves the logistics of lesson delivery – make sure your resources are prepared.
Don’t forget – every teacher will be scrambling for the photocopier on the first day back. Prepare your paper resources in advance, or plan to do photocopying at ‘off-peak’ times (e.g. late after school one day).
Tip #6: Set personal targets
Is there anything that you could have done better last year?
If you’re a new teacher, then what are some life-challenges that have held you back in the past? Procrastination? Lack of organization?
We all have things that we could do better. Think about what those things are for you and write down a set of personal targets in your teacher’s planner. Read them every day.
One of my targets, for example, is not to set too much homework but to instead select homework that achieves my aims most efficiently.
Tip #7: Get to know your new students
Spend time talking with your new students and take an interest in their hobbies, skills and attributes.
Look at previous school reports if possible and find out if any of your new students have any weaknesses in any subject or behavioral areas. Talk with members of staff at your school about ways to accommodate and target such needs if necessary.
Tip #8: Contact key colleagues
You may be working very closely with certain individuals this year. Perhaps there’s a school event coming up after Christmas that will involve collaboration with a colleague.
Maybe you’re running an after-school club that requires assistance from another person.
Find out who these ‘key colleagues’ are, and start reaching out to them early. Professional relationships between colleagues are built on trust and, crucially, time.
Tip #9: Get your planning documents ready
These documents may include:
- Schemes of Work
- Curriculum Maps
- Unit plans
- Individual lesson plans in your teacher’s planner (the absolute minimum)
Here’s a video I made about efficient lesson planning which you may find helpful:
Tip #10: Prepare your marking schedule
Look at your new timetable, when you get it, and figure out:
- When you’ll set homework and when you’ll collect it in (you may need to refer to your school’s homework timetable too)
- When you’ll mark notebooks
Look at your free periods, after-school time and times when you’re not in-contact with the kids. Try to maximize on this time by getting a regular marking schedule in place.
You may also want to think about:
- Setting up a ‘learning journals’ system
- Using efficient, time-saving marking techniques (such as ‘live-marking’)
Don’t forget – your weekends belong to you. Don’t use those for marking (I recommend) – life is too precious.
Tip #11 – Get your clothing sorted
Don’t under-estimate the importance of this. We don’t need to break the bank and splurge on a new wardrobe every year, but we do need to:
- Make sure we look presentable
- Make sure our clothes are in good condition
- Making repairs to old clothes (three of my suit jackets needed buttons replacing this summer, for example)
- Shoes – I like to have a few pairs so that they last longer. When I’ve worn the same pair of shoes every day for a year they’ve tended to wear out quickly.
- Socks – they get holes in them and the elastic can fail
- Dry cleaning – some of my ties and suits really needed a good dry-clean this summer