Autumn half term is the first time that you, as a teacher, really get to step back from the hustle and bustle of things and have the opportunity to assess just how things have started and how they are progressing in your class.
No matter which year group you teach, you will have been greeted by a new class in September that needed to be run through your own – “induction programme!”
It’s the same for every teacher no matter how long or short they have been teaching….we start afresh every academic year with a whole new group of children.
Of course it’s a little harder…well ok it’s a lot harder if you are an NQT – because those of us who have had quite a few “new academic years” have done it all before and we have built up our own strategies and approaches over the years. But it’s the same things that need to be put in place….and at the Autumn 1/2 term we can now look back and see how things are going and also what we need to do when school returns.
Lets start with the very basics:
There are 2 absolutely essentials that by now should be in place….
- Classroom management strategies
- Behaviour management strategies
Classroom Management Strategies
I will not go into detail here – suffice to say that these cover ALL aspects of how your classroom practically operates on a day to day basis. For a full description of how to put this in place and how it operates in your classroom then please read further in the 2 articles I have written on this topic. The link to the first is below and part 2 can be found through the search bar.
Behaviour Management Strategies
This goes hand in hand with our classroom management strategy and should be implemented right from the start of the term. As with the classroom management approach – your expectations as regards behaviour should have been explained to the children as well as the rules and sanctions that accompany these expectations.
If you would like to read more about behaviour management strategies then a link to the 1st of 2 articles I have written is below…as before, please use the search bar for part 2.
Are these working?
That is the whole purpose of this “look back” over the 1/2 term. Are our approaches to both classroom management and behaviour management actually being effective? Of course there will be times with any approach when you have to remind the children as to what is expected and to inform them when things are not acceptable (never worry about doing this….children like to know) – however in looking back; are you happy with progress in these areas or not?
If NOT then you need to be analysing as to why they have failed to be effective and then proactively “What are you going to do about it?”
Every new academic year starts slowly….everything is new both for the children and yourself. Its a case of settling into the new classroom, getting used to the new teacher, understanding the new expectations and of course the work is harder (and the pace needs to be quicker!)
It doesn’t happen overnight and realistically things will take a while to gel together. As NQTs, it is sometimes difficult to understand that this is the case and it does cause some consternation when they think that things should be further forward than they are actually achieving.
However, I would actually urge school SLT members to consider these aspects carefully and the steep learning curve that the NQTs are going through just by being in a classroom and school environment. These first few weeks are extremely difficult for new colleagues and it is very easy for senior staff to cause unnecessary concern and worry by adding formal observations and critique into the mix.
A new level within the curriculum comes with greater demands both on you as the teacher and also the children. One of these is the actual physical pace that the work needs to be covered. Looking back have you actually got through the amount of work that you had set out in your medium term plans…..have you covered what you thought?
If not, then positively look at just how far behind things have fallen. But do remember that it is in this Autumn half term that the children will be at their slowest. From this point in you can expect them to have got used to the pace of work that is required and you should be covering the work much more efficiently.
The greatest impact of a slower start will show of course in the core subjects and especially in Maths. English lends itself to more curricular reinforcement and development than maths but nonetheless you should be aware if things are getting too far behind.
Again from your analysis look at what is your current position as a result of your approach. What was it that was causing any delay and will this problem raise its head again. What, if anything needs to be done to align things more productively in the next 1/2 term?
As part of any review you need to look at your timetable. Do you think the weeks programme worked effectively for both you and the children. Was there an difficult times between session follow on’s or perhaps some sessions would be better with a little more time or even less time. Consider also the effect on marking workloads – is your timetable actually causing you a marking overload on some days of the week by the very nature of the subjects timetabled on those days. If you find this is happening then look at moving things around.
Work / Life balance
This in itself is a very contentious issue with many colleagues convinced that the system effectively prevents this being possible. However having got the start of the Autumn term up and running you should now be actively looking to get this area back on track. Teaching is NOT a “higher calling” it is a job of work and I can say from my own point of view that It was a professional job of work for me – nothing more. If you wish to get some balance back into the equation then you must actively look for and adjust things to create this time – it won’t appear by itself!
For NQTs I have to tell you that there is no easy route through the overload that you may feel. Your learning curve is steep – almost vertical at times and the workload that you need to do at times will seem at almost impossible levels. But as you experience and work through all the different scenarios and events that occur during this year (and yes into the next) then you will be building up both your experience and also resilience…. It is just a matter of gritting your teeth at times but keep smiling and ploughing forward – even if its small steps.
I am sure you are all ready for the break….take the time to get away from all the planning and marking for a few days and just relax. Half terms are not long….but do take the opportunity during this time to reflect on how things have gone so far and how you could improve things further.
Enjoy your break