CPD General

Preparing for the First Week Back

The big question we often face is – How do we prepare for the First Week Back at school?

This return to work may well be in September, January or of course a return to work after Lockdown in 2021. I think this blog will work for all scenarios as I look at some of the things we need to think about. It can be quite overwhelming to consider all we need to do. I hope that this blog gets you thinking about your situation and helps you work through the process.

Classroom

This is where the real action takes place and getting our classroom ready is crucial. I like to have a nice clean room, empty whiteboard and organised computers/desks. Making sure that we have everything we need is essential, and it is nice to know it is clean and tidy. Getting a classroom ready may involve new displays, a poster or two and even something new to engage students. Is it time to get the guitars mounted on the wall, take down some photos from 25 years ago or create space for something new.

I love my classroom and I can’t wait to be back there teaching. I look after it, take pride in it and ensure it is a lovely working environment. I make sure I always have enough chairs, that computers are all ready to go and that the bins are empty! Cupboards are often the real issue, and recently I have started to go through the music room cupboards to have a clear out. I would find time for that if I were you as once you start it is hard to stop!

The Music Room at The Windsor Boys' School
The Music Room at The Windsor Boys’ School

Lessons

The first week back is always tough, and I think the post-lockdown return in March 2021 will be particularly hard on everyone. Lessons therefore need to be such that students are welcomed back into the whole idea of learning. Engaging Starter Tasks, lots of interaction and in my case – loads of music playing.

  • Think about some Starter or Do It Now tasks that might be great for the first week back.
  • Consider playing music as the students enter so that they get an instant sense of what the lesson is about.
  • Work in time for reflection, discussion and sharing about the break they have had.
  • Allow time for questions about the term ahead and what it might involve.
  • Work in a Retrieval exercise that will help students reflect on past learning.
  • Keep it engaging with lots of great questioning and interactive tasks that get them talking and thinking.

I know it can frustrate people, but lessons in the first week back should be fun and enjoyable, especially after this strange period of lockdown. Engagement is key and students will thank you for it in the end.

Technology

This may or may not apply to you, but I like to get all my technology ready and check it works. Speakers, computers, ables & wires. It is important that we start with the tools that we need and don’t have a shock. I guess if you don’t use much technology then it might be getting instruments ready or replacing stationary. Being prepared for the first week back involves ensuring that we have everything we need and that it is working well!

Rest

It is all too easy to spend the weekend before a return to school frantically working and preparing. I would suggest that this isn’t a great idea as the first week back will be tough. Use the weekend to relax, rest and mentally preparing. Sometimes just thinking through the week is enough and this can be done whilst out walking or running. Taking time to mentally prepare will also involve not thinking about work and just watching telly or reading a book.

Well-being starts with you and it is crucial that you take the time you need to prepare. I love just reading, listening to music or spending time with my family. Walking, running, yoga – all great ways to switch off. It is all too easy to try and do everything. Monday will come and it will be okay!

Lunches

This is all getting very practical now, but I must say it is great to make sure you have lunches ready for the week. In holidays and during lockdown I have been a bit more hit and miss with lunch. But during term time I love nothing more than batch cooking to prepare lunches for the week! Getting sorted out like this means you are healthy, prepared and ready to go. I have also started to drink more water than ever, and I am really seeing the benefits!

Emails

Email is a blessing and a curse! It is a great way to communicate, but there is nothing worse than that feeling that you have you reply. I would suggest using out of office replies as much as possible, but also try and keep on top of emails. Before the return to school make sure your inbox is clear and ready for the new term. You don’t have to write long replies, but just make sure that everything is up to date. I need to take on board my own advice as I have loads of emails that I need to reply to. The other piece of advice is, don’t worry, people will wait, and anything urgent is likely to be followed up anyway!

How do we prepare for the First Week Back

Now I don’t want to get too practical, so I won’t remind you to shine your shoes and iron your clothes! But I hope that these thoughts have been helpful to you. It is always hard to get back into the swing of school life, particularly when you get adjusted to time away from school. But one thing I will say is that teachers do quickly adjust to the school day, and soon you will be back into the swing of it. Weeks fly by and the weekend will soon be upon us.

So I guess one final piece of advice is – try to enjoy it. This is the job you have chosen to do, the job you love – well hopefully anyway! It is nerver perfect or easy, but it is a great vocation. I love teaching music and I can’t wait to be back in my classroom. I know there will be things that are tough and moments that I will struggle with. But fundamentally I love my job and always look forward to a fresh start. I try to remain positive and look at the aspects of my work that I enjoy.

So may the best way to prepare for the first week back is to look forward to it! I know that I will and I hope that you will join me!

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