What to do with 'borrowed' time
Last night I was on Twitter for the Monday night ASE chat discussing what teachers try to do with the time they gain from losing their Year 11 and Year 13 classes on study leave at this point in the year. There were some great suggestions, but here are my top tips for what do do in the summer term.
1. Build relationships
This point of the year has a lower teaching and marking workload. This means that there is no excuse not to go to the staff coffee area at break times and have some real conversations with colleagues which are not directly focused on problems we are having with particular children. All sorts of good things can come of these chats, a new cross-curricular project, a different perspective on a student's learning, a radical idea for T&L, or just discovering you have something in common with a colleague you didn't know that well. These conversations benefit the students wellbeing (better T&L happening in school) and staff wellbeing (better working atmosphere all around).
2. Plan out how to achieve the big projects
All of the big ideas we have throughout the year often get parked at the time because they are too big to tackle, and then forgotten about. The summer term is the perfect time to sort out a strategy for achieving these ideas next academic year. This might be getting started, it might be delegating different aspects of the project to different members of the department, or it might be planning the deadlines for the various parts spread throughout the next academic year. Then put these into the development plan!
3. Spend some quality time with schemes of work
I actually really enjoy building schemes of work, so this is something I usually have done before the summer, but focused time needs to be spent ensuring that the resources are all in the correct files, the safety information is on the scheme of work, teaching ideas are available and updated every year, etc. In my department different colleagues have responsibility for different year groups so I set different tasks each week during the summer term for them to achieve with their schemes. This can feel like time faffing, but it is time well spent as it saves vast amounts of time searching for resources over the coming academic year.
4. Discuss the schemes of work with colleagues
Tied in to the point above is yet more discussion: over the academic year we all try new things in the classroom, and anything successful needs to be shared with colleagues, and put onto the scheme of work as a teaching idea (an idea, not a demand!). It is also vital that potential changes and shifts are talked about as other members of the department may have ideas about ways in which a scheme of work could be re-ordered or adjusted to remove any misconceptions that you have not thought about. A scheme of work that everyone has had the opportunity to input their ideas, is one which is taught successfully the following year.
5. Take time to think
At my previous school we did a lot of invigilation, which I no longer do, but I still supervise plenty of internal examinations. During invigilation, teachers should not have their heads in their marking, but should be actually watching the kids, so what should we be doing? One of the best pieces of advice I have received was to use that time for thinking. Note down big questions that need reflection over the previous week and before stepping into the re-read the list and start mulling over something productive. We all need more thinking time, yet we often seem to spend these quality opportunities thinking about or weekend plans, or what we are going to do in the summer holidays (or is that just me?), but since I had this advice I have found invigilation a much better use of my time. And the clock seems to move faster too!
6. Trial/video practicals
Science teachers and technicians both have a bit of time freed up at this point, so it is worth making a list of new practicals throughout the year, and trialling them in a wave at this point. Or making videos of practical work for students who have missed lessons or to watch as pre-lab activities. Once again, divide and conquer: give each member of the department one new practical to trial and risk assess, or to make one video, and then a lot of work gets done very efficiently. I've just been sent some ideas from Bob Worley at CLEAPSS which I am super excited to get off the ground!
7. Make plans for staff development
This might be personal development, or for HODs this might be for the members of the department. At this point of the year HODs need to be thinking about what their staff have achieved this year and celebrating these achievements with their staff: letting them know how far they have come, but the HOD also needs to start thinking about what sort of professional development this persons is going to need next year so that a personal development plan can be decided co-operatively early on in the autumn term, leaving enough time to action it properly. For teaching staff, it is sensible to enjoy the successes you have had during the year and not be too critical on yourself (something most teachers suck at!), but also get started thinking about new areas you are keen to work on next: at this point in the year, with a little 'borrowed' time, we tend to have ambitious ideas about our personal development, and this is a good thing! Leaving it until the new year makes our plans less demanding, less exciting, and less revolutionary.
8. And then get more tea/coffee!
Back to number 1: don't let achieving any of these things prevent you from getting to the staffroom at break times. Or having sociable lunches with colleagues. It's really important.