“Back to school” – already?

Every year it’s the same. We’ve barely begun the summer holidays and the papers talk of “Back to school”. Work worries whilst on holiday certainly seem like a rude interruption.

Without spoiling your well-earned break, what is the best way to prepare without exhausting yourself before teaching that first lesson?

Easy does it

Early preparation is as much about getting the tanker moving as anything else.

Be realistic. Budget your time wisely. Set up manageable goals.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching


One step at a time

Prioritise what’s essential: a new specification, for example.

What can you leave till later? Teachers tend to be overly conscientious. We fall foul of Parkinson’s law: we allow tasks to fill the time we give them.

In our last blog, we preached the importance of disconnecting completely from work worries.

Set up quick wins

Make a start on set lists, seating plans, class numbers for photocopying, and the like.

Write key dates in your diary – get a feel for the shape of the year and the challenges to come.

(And, don’t forget, our app can do much of the admin for you. For more on this, see … link?)

Build on past successes

If September seems a little daunting, remind yourself of last year’s successes. You’ve done this before, survived, and got the t-shirt and thank-you cards and presents to prove it.

Do you write down those kind words and compliments from students, colleagues and parents? No? You should.

Remind yourself why you chose teaching in the first place: a love of learning, the wild unpredictability and fun of young people, the buzz of the school community. It’s the best job in the world.

Reflect rather than rush into things

Review what worked and what didn’t work last year. Again, a journal works wonders for this.

Remind yourself of classroom expectations. Review routines and rituals that get you and your students through the tough times.

A new term is the perfect time to embed new habits – for yourself or your students. Would tweaking marking symbols save you some time? Would you like to experiment with new ways to give feedback?

Start with the fun stuff

We all have our favourite activities. For many, it’s lesson prep.

Now is the time to get inspired. Teachers and pupils alike are stimulated by the new. Now is the time to test drive new apps, resources, and podcasts.

Nail those first two weeks

We don’t advocate over-preparing, but starting well creates confidence and momentum. Start the year with your best and brightest lesson ideas.

Clear the decks … Wage war on clutter

A good clear-out is a great way to start and finish the term. You spend much of your week in your classroom. You might as well make it your home from home.

Thoughtful displays and ergonomics set the tone for your new students come September. Show them you care. Show them you mean business.

Is it time for redecoration, or a change of theme? Perhaps the students could help in those first few weeks.

Stock up on emergency supplies and resources

Another easy way to create a feeling of calm preparedness is to get a head-start on stationery and photocopies.

I’ll never forget a former colleague who swore by stacks of emergency worksheets and handouts that covered every available surface. Some threatened to topple over at any minute – not very Feng Shui. He over-egged it a bit, but it made for painless cover work.

It’s good to talk

Talking of colleagues, get in touch. Arrange to catch up. Have a good natter. It’s only natural to want to share approaches and allay concerns for the new term.

You’ll be reminded of how much you value being part of a school life.

Let’s not forget, school is where you spend time with some of your favourite people and enjoy many of life’s highs and lows

Ready, steady … relax

To sum up, ease into the start of term. We all know it’s a marathon not a sprint.

Squeeze out some fun in these last moments of the summer holidays.

Don’t work for the sake of working, or to offset fears of being overwhelmed when term starts. Rest is essential if you want to be your best in those all-important early weeks.

And rest doesn’t just recharge the batteries: it renews one’s love of the job. It helps to take each day and each half-term at a time. You’ll soon be on half-term holiday.

All the best for the new term.

Mike Dowling and the team at Milk


“There is a maxim, ‘Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.’ It is a maxim for sluggards. A better reading of it is, ‘Never do today what you can as well do tomorrow,’ because something may occur to make you regret your premature action.”

Aaron Burr


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