How to approach the summer


SecEd's CPD expert Margaret Adams offers her advice on how new teachers should approach the summer break.

Whether you are an NQT moving into your second year in teaching, or a student teacher about to become an NQT, you will be tempted to think about school quite a bit during the summer holiday. It’s inevitable. 

If you are a student, you will be keen to make a start on your new career. If you have just completed your NQT year, you will want to plan how you are going to make year two in teaching a success.

However, holidays exist for a reason. You need a break from school in order to function at your best during term time. To help you to take a proper break, use the following “dos and don’ts” to guide your actions this August.

Don’t go into school too often

As a newcomer to teaching you are just about to learn that the summer holiday is divided up into different elements just like the school year.

People are always keen to leave school behind as soon possible after the summer term ends. No-one is interested in thinking about next year at the end of July. Take your lead from more experienced teachers. Forget about school once term ends.

However, when the A level results are published, and even more so when the GCSE results come out, you will find increasing numbers of your colleagues in school.

If you think you need to go into school during the summer, save your trips for the second half of the holiday. There will be more people around and they will be thinking about the autumn. You will be more likely to get answers to your questions about the coming term, if you wait until the beginning of the new school year is in sight before you ask them.

Don’t talk about school 

It is so easy when you meet up with fellow teachers, or people who know that you have chosen teaching as your career, to spend all your time talking about school. You talk shop. 

You find yourself reliving your triumphs and your disasters. You talk about your subject and students you have had problems with. You also set the world of education to rights and rehearse what you would like to say to the people who make the policies, if you ever had the chance.

Discipline yourself to take a break from education during the summer holiday. When you get together with other teachers, talk about something else. Change the subject if it keeps coming back to education. Disengage completely from teaching, at least for a few weeks each year.

Don’t try to plan too far ahead

Planning is important. Plans help you to create a framework and structure for what you are doing. However, all plans have their limitations.

As the summer holiday begins, you probably think you know what the autumn will bring and what will be expected of you when you return to school. You might be right, but a lot can happen during that six-week break.

When the new term starts, you could find that you are not teaching the timetable you thought you were going to teach. Someone might have been taken ill during the holiday and is unable to return to school in September.

A newly appointed teacher might decide, at the last minute, not to take up a post. Changes may need to be made because of a range of other developments that you cannot anticipate. These developments could lead to your responsibilities changing and your timetable being reshaped.

Be sensible. Get some planning done, but don’t expect to map out the whole year in July. 

Do confine your preparation

You might feel you should allocate quite a lot of the holiday to preparing to teach the new set texts on your subject’s examination syllabus, or doing lots of in-depth research about topics you will shortly be teaching for the first time. 

If you are not careful, before you know what is happening, the time you are spending on preparation will expand until there is not much left for anything else. It is your job to take control of the situation, so set limits on how much of your holiday you intend to set aside for your preparations for next year. Confine your preparation to specific weeks in the holidays. Set limits to the amount of time you allocate to each of the tasks you have decided you really must work on during the holiday. 

You will get more done this way, because your work will have a focus, a timetable and some deadlines. You will also make sure that you still have time for activities other than those linked to your work.

Do become someone else!

There is a good chance that you usually introduce yourself as a teacher when you meet new people. You probably also define yourself as a teacher when you think about yourself. That’s fine when you are dealing with your professional life. 

What about the rest of your life? How else do you define yourself? You have other existences as well as your teaching persona. 

You are a family member. You are part of a social group that includes people who are not teachers. You might be a keen sports fan, an excellent musician or an enthusiastic gardener. 

This summer give yourself a challenge. Define yourself as someone other than a teacher during the holiday. Doing this will help you to put school out of your mind and put your life as a teacher into a different perspective.

When the end is in sight

When you find that the holiday is coming to an end, work out how successful you have been at taking time off. 

You will know you have really managed to switch off from school if, come the last week of the holiday, you find it difficult to focus on your school work and routines again.

If you struggle to remember some of the things you planned to do before term began, you have done a good job of taking a holiday. 

Remember, you will probably be fine next year – just so long as you can remember where your school is and what it is you are expected to do once you get there.

  • Margaret Adams is a former teacher and the author of Work-Life Balance: A practical guide for teachers (David Fulton publishers).


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