The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

John Dabell

Teachers, here are your professional promises for the new year

A new term can mean a new you if you keep to these pledges for self-improvement throughout the year and beyond.

That’s another term done and dusted and here we are in a new year already. Where does the time go and when is it half term?

When you have been teaching for a few years, it’s easy to slip into automatic and plod along but the new year is the perfect time to take stock.

Survival skills

Experienced teachers the world over will never tell you that they are the finished article. What they will tell you though is that there are three skills that you must continually work on in order to stay fresh, motivated and happy.

What are they?

  1. Resilience: the ability to recover after being knocked, overextended or compressed by an event or a situation.         
  2. Renewal: the process of reinventing yourself again, becoming new and recuperating your physical and mental vitality.
  3. Reflection: careful contemplation of what’s working, what’s not and the directions you can take.

Teaching should be about thriving but so often it is about surviving. Resilience, renewal and reflection are all key survival skills. You name it, teaching will throw it at you and wearing a full suit of medieval armour won’t be enough.

On your first day back you may have had to deal with an angry parent, a safeguarding issue and a meeting that ran over time. You’ve not even looked at the pile of marking yet!

Despite urgent demands on our time and attention, we have to focus on the three R’s so that we can do our jobs with clarity and precision. Some things are out of our control and we have to accept that as being part of a living, breathing and ‘messy’ school where anything can happen.

But there are things within our control that can help us to cope better. Do you recognise the reality of your work day and help yourself?

Promises, promises, promises

 You’ll hear children talking about the importance of never breaking a promise but I’m not sure as teachers we are very good at keeping our own.

Here are 10 promises we need to stick to and not break.

1. I promise to draw the line

When the job takes over then world-weariness and burnout are never far behind. Setting boundaries has to be a priority. All batteries need recharging: teachers simply cannot run on empty and those that try will soon fall flat. Without fail, find time for you and your family and have a life outside of work.

2. I promise to avoid the tyranny of the urgent

Distinguish the important from the urgent. Lots of things look to be urgent but aren’t. Cut through the clutter and really focus on what needs doing now and what can realistically wait for a for days or later.

3. I promise to watch out for battery drainers

There will always be people and situations that run us down and sap our energy. Identify who the battery chargers are in school and identify with them, feed off them and don’t let anyone or anything grind you down.

4. I promise to lighten up

The joy of the job should never leave you. Teaching has always been fun – it’s all the other stuff that gets in the way. Focus on grabbing moments of joy when they happen and put smiling at the top of your daily to-do list.

5. I promise to meet less

Meeting mania is counterproductive. If you don’t need to be there then don’t attend. Share the load – can you take it in turns to attend some meetings and feed back quickly and informally to colleagues?

6. I promise to pause

Lots of teachers suffer from headless chicken syndrome because they don’t make the time to stop and stand back. Close the door at some point in the day, even for just a few minutes, so you can pause to reflect.

7. I promise to keep it simple

The KISS principle ('Keep it simple, stupid') is something we could all do with living by. Why re-invent the wheel when you can KISS instead? If there are resources ‘out there’ that already do the job then use them.

Don’t make work for yourself when someone has already done the donkey work. Time management boils down to time stealing.

Why re-invent the wheel when you can KISS instead? Picture credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

8. I promise to grow

Teacher professional development is given such low priority in some schools (often because of budget cuts) that CPD is virtually non-existent. Even if this is the case for you, make sure your own development doesn’t hit a brick wall. Below are a few suggestions for enhancing your CPD.

  • Join some TeachMeets.
  • Engage with professionals via social media.
  • Contribute to educational debate.
  • Keep abreast with research.
  • Carry out action research.
  • Lead an Inset.
  • Create an online portofilo.
  • Write some blog posts.
  • Create your own professional support group.

9. I promise to thank a colleague

Thanking colleagues regularly is important for developing an effective team. Why not go the extra mile for someone that goes the extra mile themselves and nominate them for a Pearson Teaching Award? Entries must be received by Friday 23 March at 5.00pm. Be prolific with your praise. 

10. I promise to keep a balance

Once the term is fully under way, ask yourself whether you are keeping things in balance. If the scale is tipped too far to one side then consider what you need to do reduce any demands and stresses. Promise yourself that you won’t go it alone but seek the support of your colleagues.

I promise...

Like every year of teaching you’ve ever done, 2018 is going to be challenging, but also rich and rewarding. Just promise to be resolute and keep inspiring those around you.

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