As the summer break draws to a close, we prepare to begin the new academic year next week. As we’ve mentioned before, teaching allows us a unique opportunity to ‘begin again’ each September - new classes, new colleagues, new planners. Fresh starts all round and chances to move onwards and upwards from whatever has come before.
This year’s new term brings extra dimensions - we are navigating many changes in how we teach, where, to whom and with what resources. School leaders and other staff have worked tirelessly during their summer to provide the best possible environments for colleagues and pupils returning to work next week.
With preparations almost complete and everyone getting back into ‘school mode’, it is natural to be contemplating how it may feel to be back in the building and working our ‘usual’ hours, especially for those of us who have not been in school with any regularity for several months. One of the most important elements of the return following the summer is always building relationships with those around us, adults and children alike, and never has this connection been more important than now. The phrase ‘connection before correction’ was mentioned in passing by another teacher as a mantra for a pre-covid year (if one can imagine such a thing!). It has stuck with me for several years as one of the best ways to distill the importance in teaching of building relationships.
We need to return even more ready than usual to be understanding and compassionate; to remember that there is so much under the surface that has happened, is still happening, of which we may be unaware. We need to return even more ready than usual to recognise the worry in the eyes of our colleagues, pupils and parents and walk alongside them in their journey. We need to return even more ready than usual to put aside, just for a moment each day, the real need to build routines and expectations, and simply be in the presence of our remarkable young people and allow them to tell us what it is like to be them. More than ever before, we need to be actively building connections before we leap in with corrections.
In turn, it is what we would hope from our colleagues and pupils for us too. Like many of you, I too am preparing to return to the classroom next week and am so excited to be doing so. But I am also aware that I am entering a school whose room numbering I do not know, whose staff I mainly haven’t met, and whose pupils are completely new to me. I will need those around me to connect before they correct when I inevitably get lost and give year 7 year 10 homework by mistake!
As a profession, we are good at this - we know how to be compassionate, empathetic and patient. We know how to get the best out of the pupils in our care and how to learn what makes them tick. We don’t need to learn any new skills before next week - we just need to up the ante on what we already do.
Good luck to all of you returning to school next week - whether experienced staff, NQTs or trainees. I’m right there with you!
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