This week brings the return to school for lots of us. I’m sure, like me, most people are experiencing the the mix of positivity about getting, lamentation for the end of the holiday and nerves over Covid and what the future will bring. There are people who want to get back to normal, people who don’t feel it’s safe to do so, and then there are people caught in the middle who maybe don’t know what to think.
All of those emotions are absolutely fine. We’ve been through a lot in the last 18 months with many people saying it has been the hardest time of their careers. We’ve been cut adrift by government at times, hung out to dry, left to our own devices and often been publicly shamed for our role in Covid by people who don’t understand the extent of the work we’ve done.
But despite all of that, we have risen. We have adapted, fought back and done what we always do, our best for the children. This coming year will be no different. We’ve learnt a lot about what we can handle as teachers over the last 18 months, a lot about what might work and what might not. A lot about how we can adapt, change and exceed expectations of what is demanded of us. But that way if working was unsustainable.
It will be easy to fall into the trap of trying to get everything done. There is still the spectre of having to teach things that may not yet have been covered. Tutoring and closing gaps may still loom large. With the back to normal direction from the guidance, the back to normal pattern of school life may resume, but even more. There may be the temptation to try to work even more, even longer to deliver on what you haven’t been able to do over the last two years.
This is a time for perspective. That perspective is that you can’t be everything to everyone. You need to pace it this year. We don’t know what’s going to happen, we don’t know how people will be affected. What we do know is that people need to be able to be the best they can be. We need to help the children to be the best they can be and that can only be done when we can be our best selves. Our ability to do that may be governed by the school we work in, but it is vital you use the leeway you have in your systems to give yourself as much slack as possible and make time for yourself and recharging your batteries. There is only so much we can do at any given time. There are always busy times, but prioritise during these moments and look after yourself.
Find some perspective in someone else. Talk to people outside of school and get some objective help. Rant and offload to people. Do want you need to do to not just stay afloat, but swim strongly through this year.
Above all though, be confident. Be confident in everything you achieved last year and the year before. You will not have forgotten how to teach. Everything that made you effective is still there. You know what you’re doing and how to get the best out of the children. Don’t overthink the first week, it’s like muscle memory, it’ll come flooding back. Get yourself set and in a good place for the children’s return. As much as we like a perfect looking classroom, I can guarantee the kids don’t really care if your desk is labelled yet, or that display isn’t quite finished.
Those children will be thrilled to see you. They will have been looking forward to this, despite what they might say. They will want to make a good impression the same way that you do. They want to get to know you, to find out what makes you tick and how they can please you. Give them time to do this, reveal the bits of your myself that make you real to them and someone they can engage with.
A new year is a new adventure. Very few adventures are finished within a few weeks. They take time, perseverance and an acceptance there will be good and bad times. The year ahead will be no different. The ups and downs are normal, they happen all the time, don’t get too carried away by either extreme. Adventures are tough, but worth it. There is great fun to be had along the way, and every school year is exactly the same.
Start this year with the a perspective you can manage all year. What you do is important, what you give to your school and class is amazing, but don’t give so much there is nothing left for later in the year. You’re too important to others, and to yourself for that.