With the supermarket seasonal aisles stocked up on Back To School products since mid-June, it’s no surprise that many teachers have been thinking about September since before Summer began. Even the most experienced teachers know that heading back into the classroom can be a daunting experience. There is no feeling of solidarity quite like the one shared by all teachers on August 31st; the impending certainty of a sleepless night, the horror of a 6am (or earlier!) alarm and the depressing acceptance that you have once again not been appointed to a position at Hogwarts. Tomorrow you face an Inset Day of GCSE/KS2 results analysis, school priorities, new policies, and last-minute timetable changes. You’re ok with giving up your classroom so it can be turned into an office for the new Strategic Director of WOW (What Ofsted Want), right? 8B can have their lesson in the toilets; if they turn around on the seat, they can use the cistern as a desk!
All of this awaits both old and new teachers once the glorious summer is over. It’s tough sometimes, but there are ways you can try to maintain your sanity over the coming term:
1. If you’re anything like me, you may find all the post-summer ‘How was your holiday?’ small talk a little tiresome, especially from the humble bragger who insists on telling you how it was just SO exhausting having to spend the entire summer on a luxurious Caribbean cruise. My tip is to take control of the conversation with unsettlingly irrelevant and peculiar questions such as ‘Well that sounds wonderful, but tell me, if ghosts can walk through walls, why don’t they fall through the floor?’. People will be so perplexed by your weirdness they will leave you well alone.
2. Invest in some new stationery. You simply cannot have enough new stationery. For some people pure joy is an evening sunset, a day spent with their darling children, or a gourmet meal looking across the table into the eyes of their loving partner. For me it’s a new Lamy fountain pen. Or a pack of pastel shade highlighters. Or a Pukka pad. A new planner from Paperchase. Oh god, I’m getting carried away… Seriously though, when you’re writing down the list of Y9 detentions you’ve needed to issue on Day 1 it feels so much better to do it with a new pen in hand, into a thick, white pad, underlined with a personalised ruler.
3. The return to school coincides with the return of The Great British Bake Off so a department cake rota is an absolute must. If you’re talented enough you can even bake an actual cake on your actual own! Or you can do what I do and get a chocolate, fresh cream filled dream from the shops. For the vegans amongst us, there is bound to be someone in your department that can source a tasty dairy-free cake that doesn’t taste like cigarette ash (they do exist, I promise!).
4. Make social plans. Seriously. The start of the school term does not need to mean the end of you taking care of yourself and having fun. In what is possibly my only serious suggestion, it has taken me many years in teaching to reach a point where I have started to seriously prioritise my wellbeing over my work. Right now, before summer ends, book in some plans with friends for the weekends. Tell them that when the time comes you will need support to not bail on them and spend the weekend marking. They will help you if they know you need it. Also important is to try to keep doing some of the other things that have made you feel good over summer. Going to the cinema with your partner ON A SCHOOL NIGHT will not cause a large-scale disaster the next day. You will tell yourself you are too tired and busy to continue the things you love once term begins whether that be exercising, reading, crafting etc, but half an hour of whatever you do will make you feel so good. We all need that in the run up to Christmas.
Hopefully this advice will help some of my fellow superhero teachers as we prepare to return to school. I will gratefully receive free stationery in the post, should you wish to thank me.