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8 Essential Habits for your Second Year of Teaching

Get it right and you may be bestowed with that greatest of honours – a pupil naming their pet after you...

  • 8 Essential Habits for your Second Year of Teaching

A few years ago my husband and I were out shopping locally when we came across a young man who my husband used to teach.

“Hello Sir, do you remember me?” he said. “Of course,” my husband replied, shaking the young man’s hand and grinning broadly.

The two conversed for a few more minutes before finally shaking hands once more.

As my husband turned to leave, the young man stopped again. “Oh, sir. I nearly forgot to tell you. We named our cat after you!”

Yup, somewhere around the local area was a cat called Mr Caswell.

I often think about the qualities this cat must have had to remind the family of my husband. I’m assuming he was a PE-loving creature with an accent from Ellesmere Port. Who knows?

As you move into your second year of teaching, it’s time to think of the qualities that make you the teacher that you are.

How do you want to impact and influence the lives of the children you teach? How can you make sure you become the best teacher for the pupils in your class?

To help you on your way, I’ve thought of the eight best teaching habits you can acquire as you go forward. By developing these consistently, you’ll be well on your way to a successful teaching career – as well as many pet-naming ceremonies in your honour.

1 | Be reflective

A reflective teacher is an effective teacher. Reflect consistently on your practice, finding the positives from each lesson as well as the areas for development. You don’t need to write your reflections down unless you want to, but consider the impact of the lesson and the progress of the children and what you might do differently next time.

2 | Put yourself first

Your pupils may seem like your number one priority, but if you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t be able to be the teacher they need. Consider the oxygen masks on an aircraft. Put your own mask on before you assist others. Once you can breathe more easily, you’re more helpful to those who might need extra support. As a teacher, you need to put your own metaphorical oxygen mask on before you can be a brilliant practitioner.

3 | Be organised

Organisation is the key to a less stressful teaching existence. The more organised you are, the calmer you’ll feel. You can deal with difficult situations with clarity. If you know you have a data deadline looming, plan the time in your diary to do this. Staying up until midnight the night before isn’t a sensible solution. If you find time management difficult, I strongly suggest reading up on the subject; it could make all the difference.

4 | Learn to say no

As a new teacher you’re often tempted to say ‘yes’ to everything so that you appear keen and enthusiastic. This may seem admirable in the short term, but in the long term you’re going to feel exhausted. Don’t be afraid to say no to something if it’s going to add even more work to your already endless to do list. Be polite about it and explain your reasons – there’s nothing like an overworked teacher and people should respect that.

5 | Learn from others

Always strive to improve your practice. There are so many excellent teachers out there, so seek them out and learn from them. Teaching is a profession that is always evolving and new, exciting ideas can make all the difference to your practice. Just make sure you don’t attempt too much at once.

6 | Plan your down time

Planning your day is part of teaching, but what about planning your time away from school? Unless you schedule some down time you’re going to fill it with teaching ‘stuff.’ Try to do things you enjoy and that take your mind off teaching completely. You’ll feel much better for it. If you’re marking or planning until late into the evening, you need support for time management. Seek that advice from your mentor or a member of SLT.

7 | Speak up

When things get tough, as they so often do in a teaching job, speak up. Don’t bottle up your emotions and let things get on top of you. It’s so important to seek help and accept it graciously. Nobody is going to think badly of you and you’ll find that most people just want to help. Find someone you feel confident to talk to and tell them how you feel.

8 | Seek self-improvement

As important as it is to learn from others, don’t strive to be an exact replica of another teacher. Let them have their strengths. You find yours. Don’t compete with others, as tempting as it might be. You simply need to focus on being a better version of the ‘teaching you’ than you were yesterday. What areas do you need to develop? Make a plan on how you could improve these and then go and do it.

Teaching is a career that gives rich rewards. It provides us with a chance to lead and inspire the next generation and encourage them to follow their dreams. It gives us the opportunity to share our knowledge and our passion for the world around us. We are in a unique position and we should feel proud of it. But unless we develop good habits, we won’t be the teachers our pupils need us to be and that’s the most important type of teacher we can be.

How to avoid RQT burnout

In 2014 it was reported that nearly 50% of teachers were considering leaving the profession. What was once a ‘career for life’ now seems the ‘career to avoid.’ With a bigger workload and an increasingly diverse role, teaching can feel overwhelming at any point in your career. It is therefore imperative that you make your own health and wellbeing the most important thing you consider each day. This can feel like an impossible task, as there is always more marking, more planning and more meetings to contend with. When things feel overwhelming, it is vital that you seek support.

Too many teachers try to soldier on and assume that things will get ‘easier’ eventually. Before they know it, they’ve reached burnout and are no longer able to manage it effectively. Some find it too hard to come into school at all. Your mentor should be your first port of call. Hopefully you’ve built up a relationship that enables you to have a meaningful, supportive conversation. If you’re not able to get the help you need, ask to speak to a member of SLT.

As teachers we are also fortunate to have the support and guidance of our unions. Don’t forget that help and advice can be found at the end of a phone call. If you’re struggling, call them. Remember the analogy of the oxygen mask on an aircraft. You can only be a great teacher if you’ve put yourself first. We are losing too many skilled, passionate and caring teachers each year – don’t be one of them.

Steph Caswell is an educational consultant and writer. She is the author of three books for NQTs and a regular contributor to Teach Primary magazine. You can connect with Steph on Twitter at @thebumpywriter.

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