Kelly's a primary school teacher from Wiltshire, and she's here to share her teacher thoughts, stories and tips to our teaching community.
Scroll down to find out what Kelly's talking about this month...
Who else feels the pressure of making new year’s resolutions? Like me, you’ve probably seen hundreds of posts about how amazing 2019 was and what people’s hopes are for 2020.
I’ve decided not to make any new year’s resolutions this year. Here are some reasons why:
To me, it might be a different number at the end of the date, but it is just another day. You can make resolutions and changes any time of year, if you wish to. Why should January 1st be any different?
Granted, there are always things we want to change or tweak: leave work a little earlier, bring less marking home, etc.
From my experience, I’ve started off well, but then the work mounts up, I become stressed and end up either staying even later or bringing more work home. So, I’m not putting that pressure on myself. I will finish when I finish. I will ensure if work is brought home, I put something good on the TV or put on my favourite music to make it seem more ‘enjoyable’.
January can feel like a month to push ourselves and ‘be the best version’ of who we can be. Well, sometimes the best versions of ourselves are the ones where we take it easy and give ourselves time. If I want to push myself, I will. If I want to have a week of getting what I need to done and having quieter evenings at home, then I will.
For the first week back at school, I will be finding my feet again after the Christmas break and getting back into my routine again. That is enough for me. I’ll take on extra stuff during the following week.
Whether us teachers like to admit it or not, there can sometimes be that underlying pressure to be on top of things all of the time or make amazing progress in something. It’s been a real eye opener for me to walk into the staff room after Christmas and see so many colleagues talking about their new healthy routine or changes that they’re making.
I cannot stress enough how important it is not to compare yourself to others.
I shall be walking into the staff room as the same me, with a smile on my face, eating my favourite packet of crisps because I want to! No greens in sight on the first day back for me!
You’re an amazing teacher, so give yourself a break! Who needs extra ‘rules’ to live by when we have enough to follow every day in school!
During the Autumn term, my lovely colleague Linsey and I have been running a science club after school.
The Teachers’ Club website is one of the first places that I look through for ideas and sheets to use. It just so happens that on this occasion, I came across the KS2 Science Bonus Sheet, as part of the Sketching Stars 2019 Amazing Inventions pack. The sheet explains how to make a lemonade fountain (a.k.a. the famous Mentos and fizzy drink experiment).
So… Linsey and I being such keen scientists, took it one step further. We decided to try a whole host of fizzy drinks, including cherryade, various types of colas and different lemonades.
The children went wild when they found out what we were doing. Before we began, we all made predictions, based upon the ingredients of each bottle. Some children considered the sugar content; others considered the fizziness of the drink.
It was such an enjoyable experiment to do. I’m not sure what the children enjoyed the most. The various fizzy fountains that we created, or me running away from the bottles to ensure I wasn’t covered in lemonade!
What we really liked about the Science Bonus Sheet, were the questions and information on the back. It was a great discussion point after the experiment. The children were desperate to take the sheets home and ask their parents if they could practise it in their back gardens!
What science experiments have your class or club completed lately? Have you used any of the Teachers’ Club resources recently? Let us know!
Congratulations! You’ve made it through the first term. Some of us are asking ourselves how did we make it this far? Some of us can’t believe it’s the October break already. We want to make the most of this week off. But how?
I will definitely spend at least 1-2 days working over the holidays. I find blocking out and planning which days will be my ‘working days’ a really useful way to ensure that anything that I need to do gets done. Find what system works for you. I definitely recommend having a good few days ‘off’ where you don’t work at all and certainly do not check those work emails! They can wait!
Us teachers need a break! I only know of one teacher who won’t be working at all over the holidays (lucky them). If you decide to have a complete break from working, that’s fine. This is time in lieu for all the late nights and super early mornings that we have to work. Just ensure you know when you’ll get the work completed that you need to for the first week back.
Read a book that isn’t a children’s book. Watch a film or two with a higher rating than a ‘U’. There is also nothing wrong with watching a whole TV series in a day, whilst still being in your pyjamas or comfy clothes. If you don’t leave the house for a day, so what? Do whatever makes you happy and feel more like a human.
My holidays are usually filled with catching up with friends who I may not see very often during the term. Many of my colleagues will be spending time with their families. Us teachers need to ensure we talk to others about things other than how to punctuate a sentence or using column addition.
You’ve been with a class of 30 children for 5 days a week, for 8 weeks. You are definitely allowed time to not talk to anyone, to chill to some music or just enjoy the silence of the living room!
Whatever works for you over the break, just make sure you get a break. We need to be ready for the madness that is the Christmas term!
For our PSHE sessions during September, we had been thinking about kindness to others, using the ‘Note of kindness’ resources from Teachers’ Club.
It was a very interesting discussion. In the first lesson, we wrote our notes of kindness for our wall. The children loved thinking of different positive things to write, with some children saying who they were writing their quote for:
‘My note is for anyone who has had a bad lunchtime, so that they have something nice to look at.’
‘I’m writing my note for anyone to read as they walk through the classroom. I think it will make them happy.’
We talked about what we wanted our wall to do for others and what we felt about our notes. The children loved reading each other’s kind words and just having some time to do something positive for each other.
The following week, we talked about the effect of our wall of kindness. Many children said they spotted a different quote or positive phrase every day when coming into the classroom in the morning or lining up for assembly.
‘I really liked all of the notes. It is something really positive to have in the classroom that we can all look at.’ Even members of staff commented on the wall and wanted to add their own quotes!
It’s an area of the classroom that the children feel is ‘positive’. And they want to keep all the notes there. We plan to build on the wall over the term and hopefully fill it with more kind words. It will be interesting to find out the children’s views on the notes in a few months time. And if having the positive quotes has helped them in anyway.
It was a great way to start the year with my class: reinforcing a positive mindset towards their learning and each other. I hope that by continuing to encourage this, it can help the children to become more resilient and confident. I think there is too much negativity in the world and sadly, this is what many of us focus on. So just doing one small positive thing can make a big difference.
We all need those 'pick me ups' or funny stories to keep us going throughout the year. I am lucky to work with an amazing, positive bunch of people. One of those superstars is Becky, an intervention teacher who is just brilliant! She was my mentor during my NQT year. She is clever, fabulous and just an all round amazing teacher.
We decided (kind of accidentally I think) that we should have a theme/celebrity of the month. For September, it's Nicolas Cage. 'Why?' might you ask? A random GIF decided that for us. Back at the end of August, we were messaging about the start of the school year. I sent this GIF at the end of my message, with the message, ‘We’ve got this!’.
She replied with an hilarious comment about his hair. To which I replied: ‘Maybe we need a helpful role model or gif to get us through each month. We can start with him haha!’
And the rest as they say, is history.
During September, he has helped us through the troubling times of marking independent writing activities, with the facial expressions we wish we could pull!
On days when we’re running out of energy, he’s reminded us that chocolate is always the answer.
He’s even made Christmas seem not so scary when it’s been discussed in staff meetings. (I cannot claim credit for the cardboard cut out - it was an image that I found...and I just had to send it to Becky!)
We’re going to try and have a theme/person of inspiration for every month this academic year. We think we have October sorted, but would love some suggestions of what/who we could have for future months! Let me know your ideas in the Staedtler Teachers’ Club Facebook group. Have you been doing anything silly to help you smile through September?
What wonders or worries do they hold for us?
Teaching is one of the most rewarding, yet stressful jobs. It takes a special kind of person to teach. And that’s what each and every teacher reading this is. Special. Amazingly so. This should be celebrated! I don’t think we get a chance to celebrate and enjoy the fun side of teaching enough. The positives can fly right by us because we’re too busy sorting out all the negatives.
So, here are some positives for September:
It may be through a sticker, a smile or a look. But someone will feel that little bit better from being in your class. It will come as second nature to us, but something as simple as a thumbs up or a ‘well done’ can be enough to cheer a child up from that back to school feeling.
Many of us need some form of routine. After a long summer break, it will feel like hard work getting back into the swing of things, but there will be those children who will relish in a routine and feel at home straight away. They may say they don’t like school and wish they were still on their summer holidays, but secretly they want to be back at school.
Telling your class that they can do something when they think they can’t can be tough. You can have 30 pairs of critical eyes on you thinking, ‘no way’. But your encouragement goes a long way, even what it feels like it doesn’t. When the children finally figure something out or discover an answer, their reaction of joy and excitement is priceless to watch. And you helped them get there!
You don’t need a snazzy display. You don’t need the best gizmos and gadgets. Just being there is enough. Being you is enough. Because you’re special. Amazingly so!
Science Day has been a bundle of laughs this year. We have been investigating air resistance and water resistance. Of course, I dressed appropriately, with my ‘Stand back! I’m going to try Science!’ t-shirt at the ready!
Our first investigation of the day was to make parachutes and find out which one would be the best. We made parachutes of different sizes, shapes, with different layers of paper and with different weights attached. As it has been such a windy day today, it was only right to take the parachutes outside and see how far they could go! The children loved running around with the parachutes. Who needs technology ey?
Our second investigation involved getting very wet indeed. We made different 3D shapes (throwing in a bit of maths) out of different materials (such as plastecine and paper) and considered what created water resistance, as well as how to make something streamlined.
We had a visit from Professor Bubbleworks, who showed us so many fantastic experiments involving air. We learnt how we could begin to test rockets. The children loved this and it even linked to our maths work on angles!
Then, of course, it was time for one of my favourite investigations…the sinking marshmallow. I did this last year and just had to do it again. To make the marshmallow sink, you need to squeeze the air out. So to do that… we got messy! Squeezing with our hands, squeezing between paper; using with classroom resources (don’t tell the head!). I think more marshmallow ended up on the children’s hands than in the water. But every child managed to get some of their marshmallow to sink. Some children even wanted to try it again when they got home, much to the dismay of their parents!
As you can see by my reactions, I have thoroughly enjoyed the day. I think it’s a great way to show children a different side to science. And the plus side for us teachers? You can hit a number of curriculum objectives, whilst still making it fun!
Friday 8 March
In honour of book day, I’ve summed up how us teachers may be feeling on this super fun day!
You’re about to enter the magical world of Book Day dress up. You’ve entered the wardrobe of make believe, your costume is ready and your activities are like something from Narnia!
Lost and unsure of how to find your way through the day? Looking for a rabbit to follow? Or somewhere to hide amongst all the mad hatters, animals and tea parties?
Keep going! You’ll find the right door eventually!
With a jam packed day ahead of fun book day activities, you need to keep your strength up. Any opportunity to snack on a biscuit, chocolate, fruit, or sweet treat in the cupboard!
The noise level is rising and you just need a moments peace. The usual methods aren’t working as well as normal due to the day being ‘off timetable’.
The creative ideas from the children are amazing. The work they have produced has far exceeded your expectations and you’re just so proud of them all! Today has been worthwhile after all!
3rd December 2018
The temptation is to ‘get ahead of the game’ and start practising those Christmas songs and any Christmas activities. This is probably the one thing in teaching not to get ahead with. You end up with excitable children who suddenly can’t think about anything else but Christmas. Which is lovely…just not when you’re trying to teach long multiplication!
Similar to point number one, if you’re a big Christmas fan (like me) you could easily start anything Christmas related in November. But the hype doesn’t last forever, and you’ll end up with tired children (and a tired teacher).
If in doubt, find some Christmas colouring. There are lots of colouring pages which link well to maths and spellings. It can be a nice calm activity if you want the children to recap on their learning, or just to give you and your TA 5/10 minutes peace!
We’re feeling tired, and so are the children. I try to make the last few learning objectives of the term as active as possible. Take photos and do a little write up for books. Less marking = more time to do other jobs. Win win!
Christmas is manic, but also magical. Children seem to embrace the magic of Christmas: the beliefs, family traditions and I notice my children become more supportive of one another. Of course, there are also times where they all need time apart from each other, hence enjoying the lovely (if small) moments of Christmas joy!
The start of a new week. Everything is prepped and ready to go (almost!). We were writing our first long piece of work (or 'Best Writes') up in best, and only the finest handwriting pens would do!
Time for a bit of colouring, sketches for our science experiments, and some mindfulness.
It’s hump day! We were in need of something fun to keep the spirits going, so my monster friend and I decided to bring in some bright colours in the form of highlighters. My TA was very impressed.
We were highlighting anything possible – to do lists, timetables… you name it, we highlighted it!
A mixed bag... Thursday’s have a bit of everything: the usual English, reading and maths, as well as French PSHE, music and golden time. It like a juggling act trying to keep everything balanced and on time!
‘Funday Friday’ in fact! Everyone was feeling tired. We used whiteboards a lot today. For jottings, paired work and even a little bit of doodling…I know – controversial!
So we’re now in full flow in the world of teaching and I’d bet most of us are feeling a little swamped over by the amount of jobs we suddenly have to do...every...single...week. Summer seems but a distant memory!
Here are my top tips for getting through a heavy to do list!
I think this is probably a given, but from my experience, write everything down. Even down to the teeny tiny jobs like ‘recycle the scrap paper’ or ‘put notebook away’. For one, you’ll feel loads better for being able to cross something off your list really easily and two, your written list will hopefully mean you can clearly see what is left to do.
Sometimes this is easier said than done. You begin to prioritise but then another job is added or a ‘could you just...’ request comes your way.
I always prioritise marking where possible, so that I don’t have to trundle heavy books home every night and can do other jobs in the evening if I need to.
Start the job, and finish the job. You’ll have that sense of achievement at the end of it. It’s so tempting to start a job then realise, ‘Ooo I can just do this...’
Write it down, then finish what you’re currently doing. Guaranteed if you start the new job you’ll forget about the old one!
Now this sadly may not be possible for everyone, but are there any jobs you can ask for help on? Can any children help you with a job, e.g sticking in those worksheets from last week.
If something becomes overwhelming, tell someone.
Notice my theme here? The never ending list of ‘to-dos’ is something that us teachers will always have on our desks.
But don’t panic! Look at them as a useful tool that aid your amazing teaching and organisation skills; not a pesky hindrance :)
What things are on your to-do list this term?
I am terrible at the whole ‘relaxing’ malarkey. I always need to be on the go or doing something, which usually ends up being school related. I’ve made it my mission to try and find different ways to relax and have some ‘me time’.
Here are five things I’m going to make sure I've ticked off the list by the end of the summer break...
Some people can sleep forever, and if you're one of them, make the most of the lie-ins!
But if anyone is like me, you wake up early no matter what. So… enjoy the early starts! Put whatever you want on TV, don’t rush your breakfast and relax in bed for an hour or two. But if you’re feeling a bit more energetic, get some odd jobs done so you can chill for the rest of the day.
Whether it's reading or catching up on a good TV series, do something you enjoy. This could be something you haven’t had time to do during term time. This is the time to make the most of not having to do jobs for others and focus on what you want to do.
Take 5/10 mins each day (if you can) to just sit quietly. I do this before going to bed, as it really helps me switch off and sleep.
There are plenty of apps that can play music or talk through a guided meditation. It’s not for everyone, but it’s worth giving it a go! Or if this isn’t your thing, try a mindful colouring page or a good word search.
Us teachers work to schedules, timetables and planning every day for nearly a year. It’s time to take a break from that. Have a few days, even weeks, where you plan do to nothing, and see what comes up!
Make spur of the moment plans, last minute road trips or even just stay at home in your PJs.
Not everyone will want to exercise, but just being outside will do wonders.
During the summer term, there would have been a many a day where us teachers wouldn’t get to enjoy the wonderful sunny weather due to marking and getting classroom jobs done. So make the most of what has been a pretty hot summer holiday so far!
What do you plan to do this summer? What are your top tips for relaxing and ‘switching off’?
As part of our Christmas activities on the final week of term, we got to have a play with STAEDTLER'S FIMO clay. The children were so excited to try it, as they’d never used anything like it before.
We had a play with the clay first, making various shapes, before deciding on our final models that would be baked! The children loved how colourful the clay was and how easy it was to work with.
Being Christmas, many children decided to make festive models, such as Father Christmas, baubles, Christmas trees, snowmen and a Christmas worm... We even had a couple of Christmas dinosaurs and a Christmasaurus! Some children decided to make a Greek mythical beast, as this has been our topic throughout the term.
The children really enjoyed their clay afternoon. They were amazed by how the models became hardened after baking. If you ever get the chance to use FIMO clay, I would highly recommend it! It makes a nice change to the usual clay work, and the FIMO comes in lots of bright colours (even glittery ones!).