Last week, saw the end of my two year training to become a teacher – QTS, tick. NQT, tick. Woohoo!
It’s made me think about what is important to thrive as a trainee/NQT, especially as there are lots of trainees out there in the #edutwitter sphere clambering about asking what they need to do to prepare for next year. The simple answer is …. nothing.
During normal times, we don’t know what is going on and how things are going to pan out, let alone in the new socially distanced, COVID-ready world of schools we will come back to in September. The new normal is not normal, and therefore, we can’t plan for anything.
But not getting too deep into the matter, the main thrust of the situation is that as teachers we work damn hard (despite what the media likes to think during their regular “bash the teachers” media storms) and we deserve to switch off, unwind and relax over the holidays. This is especially true for the summer holidays, as usually the others are bit more manic. I don’t know about others but whilst I love the Christmas break, and the chance to go home to see my friends and family, I don’t feel as rested as I do after the summer holidays?
That’s why we should take this time to relax and unwind, remember what it is like to be human again and to not be constantly thinking about how to teach that head wrecking Year 9 class last thing on a Friday (Hangman! Hangman is the answer. Trust).
I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t disclose that, yeah, I am going to be doing work over the summer holidays.
Last year from QTS to NQT, I went into school and gutted my new classroom and set it up how I wanted it. But that was all, nothing major or too teaching focused. This year, I am running a tuition triad for some of my Year 10 students to give them a masterclass in essay writing for their History GCSE next summer, I’m going to help with handing out food parcels every two weeks to families in need within our school community and in the last two weeks of the holidays, I’ll be running a 4 day summer school for Year 10 students and taking part in the Year 6 summer school, too.
Now that all sounds like a lot, and it is. I probably shouldn’t have signed up to do everything and anything, but in the current situation, staying at home more means I need something productive to do. Now, some trainees may want to get stuck in and help with stuff like that, and it is great to do, but also don’t overwork yourself. The first two years are the toughest and you don’t want to burn out before you’ve even got your feet under the table properly. Be selfish so you can be selfless.
During those times when I am not going to be doing school-related stuff, I’ll be doing things that I enjoy. Exercising, cooking, seeing friends (socially distanced, of course), practising my Spanish and Danish and the biggest of all will be reading.
My summer reading drive is a follow on from what I did last summer, which was to rediscover my love of reading, especially children’s and YA fiction ahead of being a Year 7 tutor so I’d have knowledge to help them with books to read. And it is something I am continuing this summer, but with more of a history focus. Reading is a perfect way of doing Continual Professional Development (CPD), its independent, tailored to your individual interests/needs/desires and as one of my teacher friends said to me in a marathon texting catch up when she described reading as a form of CPD: “calming and also you can be sort of strong and silent – improving your knowledge and not working yourself too hard”.
For me that line was just way too powerful. It was totally right. Reading isn’t a strenuous action to take to develop as a teacher. It also gives you the time and chance to reflect, especially when you have classroom experiences to hang the knowledge on to, if you’re reading pedagogy. Reading is a powerful tool which we need to do more of. During term time, we don’t have that luxury, so utilising it during the summer holidays is perfect way to spend your time.
So, read. That’s it. Nothing else.
Don’t plan a Scheme of Work/Learning that you might not even end up using next year. Don’t meticulously plan a lesson that could be done when the term restarts and you have a clearer idea of what you will be teaching and when. Don’t differentiate resources (I don’t think you should do that anyway, another blog post perhaps) especially as you don’t know the students who will be sat in front of you. Just read.
Enjoy that calming, strong and silent act of developing your subject knowledge, ready for September when reaching for a book will be the last thing on your mind with the bazillion other things that will be going on in the hubbub of a school environment. I won’t lie to you, I can’t wait to be back!