First things first! Well done!!! You made it through the first half of the Autumn term. You survived, the children all made some progress, you taught them things they didn’t already know. This is all a reason to celebrate. In all likelihood you have done your first Parents’ Evening. You’ve definitely had lots of firsts, and I’m betting that you are really ready for half term. What are you planning for your half term though? The temptation is to think it’s a good time to catch up on marking or assessment or to get ahead with your planning. BUT…really half term needs to be a time for you to relax, refresh yourself and reflect on the previous term. So, in that vein, here are some half term self care tips for NQTs from a Head teacher!
Self Care Tips 1 : Look Back And Celebrate
When you are in the madness of teaching, it can be really difficult to focus on all the successes you are having. So half term is a great time to look back and reflect over the previous weeks. It’s always easier to focus on the things that haven’t gone so well, but make a concerted effort to think about all your successes.
You might have had your first class assembly, or led a staff or year group meeting. You might have found a way to work with a colleague you were struggling to connect with, or you might just feel that you have got on top of your planning or marking.
Whatever it is, look back and congratulate yourself. Teaching is a vertical learning curve. Every day you learn something new or develop new skills, and it’s exhausting – but when you note down all your successes you can be so proud of how much you have developed in only a few short weeks.
Of course we all want to think about what we can do better, and that type of reflection makes for a great teacher. But, don’t spend half term focussing on these areas, instead pick one or two that you want to work on for next half term and come up with a plan as to how to develop your skills further in these areas.
Self Care Tips 2: To Plan Or Not To Plan?
One of the biggest temptations for new teachers is, when half term comes, to use that time to ‘get ahead’. It seems to make sense – especially if you have been burning the candle at both ends during term time. You might feel as though some of your most recent planning has been thrown together – so what would make more sense than getting ahead with your planning to give you some breathing space during the next half term.
Well, the problem with this is, if you over plan and plan too far ahead, you are taking progress for granted. In fact, in both English and Maths, if you plan for more than 2 or 3 days ahead, you are setting yourself up for more planning! We know that the best plans are the ones based on assessment – so you can’t plan for a whole term, or even a whole week, as you don’t know whether the children are going to ‘get’ what you are teaching them.
If you really feel as though you need to get ahead – you could, at a pinch, look at your medium term planning for Maths and English and write the first 2 days for each new topic or area – but no more than that! It’s actually going to waste more time in the long run as you’ll almost definitely have to rewrite your plans once you’ve taught the first lesson!
Also, and I hate to bring this up in October, but you need to bear in mind that Christmas is coming! Planning and timetables very quickly go out of the window towards December – especially if your year group is putting on any sort of production. Rehearsals take over very early on, and then there’s parties, lunches, and general merriment – so if you plan too much now, quite a lot of it will probably not be used!
Self Care Tips 3: And…….breathe!
The biggest thing you need to be doing at half term is……….nothing! Absolutely nothing!
You will have worked so hard during the term that you need a proper break to refresh and relax both your body and mind. The old adage that you can’t fill someone else’s bucket unless yours is full is very much true here. Unless you go back to school refreshed and full of energy, you’ll very quickly find yourself exhausted again – and that’s no good for you or your class.
Make sure that you only put a short period of time aside to do school work and stick with it. The ideal is to only have one or two days where you do work and the rest of the time you sleep, eat, go out with friends and generally recharge those batteries! You have worked hard this term – you deserve to have a break!
So remember these self care tips:
1. Over half term, take lots of time for yourself – sleep in late, eat good food, see friends and get some fresh air!
2. Put aside a maximum of 2 days for work – anything you can’t get done in this time can wait!
3. Only go into school for a maximum of 1 day! Seriously, display boards and the like can be changed when you get back!
Don’t forget to pop over and join the Primary NQT Facebook group if you haven’t already – we are at over 200 members and growing daily so you’ll have lots of other supportive NQT’s and RQT’s to chat to (when you finish your holidays!!) I’d love to hear what you’ve got planned for half term and any other self care tips you think other NQTs could use! Drop me a note in the comments to let me know!