January is the month for preparing for the coming calendar year and making resolutions to improve behaviour and practices. In the teaching profession this is even more crucial; concern over high levels of stress and excessive work loads among teachers point towards falling retention and recruitment in education.
The start of the year, then, is the best time for teachers to reflect on what they think went well in the previous year, and what can be improved for the benefit of their pupils and their own health and wellbeing. Here’s ten New Year’s resolutions for teachers:
1. Address work/life balance
Education is never destined to be like other 9-5 jobs; those desperately hoping for minimal work to take home may be in the wrong profession. At the same time, teachers should assess how many hours they can work in a week. Set a realistic and achievable target and try not to go over it. Try hard to allocate designated time to yourself rather than letting school work take over every aspect of your life. Easier said than done? Perhaps 2018 is the year to initiate a teacher wellbeing strategy.
2. Spend more time with individual students
Each learner fits a different profile and each will respond positively and negatively to various teaching methods, particularly in a mixed-ability class. Incorporate more time with each pupil informally, rather than in one-to-one formal assessments or meetings, tasking each on rotation to help with projects or activities. This will help you gauge their readiness to learn.
3. Apply technology to learning and assessment
One of the biggest pressures reported by teachers is the need to perform box-ticking exercises and informal, ad hoc formative assessment. Technology, when used effectively, can significantly streamline administrative tasks and reduce teachers’ assessment burdens. Go out of your way to learn how to use your new edtech; without proper training, any benefits of technology could be wasted. Find out how technology like the ActivPanel can aid assessment.
4. Prepare pupils for the future
Teachers spend a great deal of time teaching children facts, dates and other nuggets of educational information to help them pass exams and provide inspiration for future learning. This, naturally, progresses their academic capacity, contributes towards students’ attainment and boosts overall school performance. At the same time, however, consider the skills that children will need for the future; digital literacy, communication, collaboration, research, data analysis and problem solving skills all help young adults stand out and progress in the professional workplace.
5. Streamline your communication processes
Do you spend too much time responding to emails? Are you always sending files, saving new versions of documents or sending endless attachments? Email as a mode of communication is outdated. Consider collaborative, cloud-based tools such as Google docs or free online software like ClassFlow to streamline work processes and share resources. Utilise more synchronous communication methods; chat, DM or even face-to-face communication. Sending fewer emails will mean fewer to respond to, too.
6. Plan your career development
This year, consider your long-term personal development plans and career goals; what’s required to get there? Today, CPDL funding allocation is minimal within schools; a product of tightening budgets and restrictions in the sector. Take more ownership of your goals and move towards them in 2018. Discuss with SLT, for example, how INSET days could be more productive; without your collaboration and input, changes are less likely to come to fruition. Avoid starting the year in autopilot mode.
7. Focus on health
Teachers shouldn’t always sacrifice their precious personal time for work-related tasks, better physical health gives you more energy to be engaged and inspiring in the classroom. Try, where possible, to make your gym appointments. Refrain from skipping meals to ‘get more done’. Go further; promote movement among your pupils in your classrooms, too. Encourage your pupils to look after their bodies, as well as taking care of your own.
8. Mix up your teaching methods
It’s easy to stick to what you know, but with more modern tools, software and technologies out there to enhance your teaching, now is a great time to consider injecting something new into your classroom. Perhaps try one new technology, application or instructional technique each month to keep things new and challenging for you pupils and yourself. Start with checking the latest trends in edtech for the coming year.
9. Encourage peer-to-peer collaboration
Teachers can learn so much from each other, but often within schools, there is an untapped wealth of knowledge and experience. Encourage more peer-to-peer collaboration in your school with the ‘observe me’ initiative; teachers post a message by their classroom door inviting their colleagues to stop in and observe their class and ask for feedback with 3-4 simple questions.
10. Stay positive!
In a landscape of extremely high expectations and perceived disempowerment, some education professionals lose sight of why they joined teaching in the first place. When asked, teachers cite interacting with their pupils and seeing young children progress as the most meaningful aspects of their career. Continue, then, to recognise and vocalise what you genuinely love about your profession.
Teachers and school leaders should take time to praise themselves, each other and reward individual achievements. Try, this year, to learn new skills and develop your use of genuinely helpful technologies for your own teacher wellbeing.
Good luck with your teacher resolutions and education goals in 2018!