Usually this blog offers ideas to help you make the most of resources you have or can easily acquire to create a range of related activities for your students. This edition is a little different.
This time of year, the Autumn Term, is a difficult one. We are coming to terms with a new timetable, staff structure, class/students and setting expectations whilst establishing routines for the new academic year. As the days become shorter and everyone gets tired, it is easy to forget that the most valuable resource in the classroom is you!
So, this blog post is all about… YOU!
You are the keystone of your classroom structure. The room can be perfectly designed and equipped; your resource selection varied and appropriate, but the energy that sets the tone for everyone, staff and students, in the room to effectively engage with teaching and learning emanates from you. So, how can you look after yourself to maintain both your well-being and the outcomes for your students?
We always consider the need for clear expectations when planning for our students; however, if a classroom is to run smoothly, with minimum need for constant direction, all staff, paid and voluntary, must be clear about established routines and ways of working. The support can be managed and reinforced in many ways; for example, do you have an induction process for your classroom? Do you have Communication Passports for those students who need them? Do you have clear labels indicating not only resources but also the core vocabulary that is being used in particular activity areas? What points do you have to prompt/remind other staff about? Can forward planning reduce these?
Work to strengths!
We can’t all be fabulous at the same things. If you are lucky enough to have a staff team, finding their interests and skills may suggest ways to introduce unexpected options into your weekly curriculum. Being recognised in this way often increases staff engagement as they can enjoy sharing their expertise with everyone. Working in collaboration with other classes can also facilitate this and allow for mixing groups in a broader variety of ways, resulting in both communication and cognitive progress in unexpected ways.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is one of our foundation theories used to support understanding, from a holistic point of view, of how humans are motivated. Before the brain can fully engage with higher order activities, the more fundamental needs of humans must be met, so feeling unsafe, tired or hungry is not desirable. For example, if we are upset, anxious, worried, tired, ill or hungry, a portion of our processing brain is engaged; consequently, there is reduced capacity for what we can offer in class. Thus, self-care is crucial, and in the same way other professions, such as athletes, protect and develop their physical and mental health, so must educators. This is important not only for yourself; take time to maintain an active connection with colleagues…education is not a solo profession.
Adapt, don’t re-invent!
All research and reviews cite time as one of the biggest pressures our working practice faces. In this world of social media, there are so many ways to join common interest groups that will offer ideas, share resources and answer questions. There are many routes to shared resources, either created by a person, group or business/charity or curated by people into collections of interest (e.g. Pinterest or YouTube channels). There are websites which require payment for resources and others which are free. You must use due diligence and establish the quality of resources, and don’t be fooled into thinking that just because you have paid for a resource, it is of good quality; many are not. Following the experience/advice of others can help here, but as we frequently have to take an idea and modify it to fit our precise needs, sometimes it is just the idea we need to save time.
Check out Richard’s YouTube channel as an example of good practice.
We are very used to having the airline safety film shown and/or quoted to us – particularly, the notion that you should fit and adjust your oxygen mask before helping those near you. It is such a simple and important message, but how easily we forget in the daily pressure and world of needs, deadlines and unexpected events. Take a moment to reflect on how well-balanced your life is; perhaps recording a week’s events will allow you to consider whether the balance is right? If not, recording will let you to look at what took up your time and assess what activities were not a good use of time or could have been better achieved in a different way. Remember delegation, at home and school, is not a sign of weakness; you don’t have to do everything for everybody, yourself.