Beyond backpacks: Tips for teachers heading back to school | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Beyond backpacks: Tips for teachers heading back to school

The holidays are ending, and while most of the focus is on the students getting ready for the new school year, across Australia, 300,000+ teachers are also preparing to return to the classroom. It's for these often unsung heroes that we've gathered some 'Back to School' support tips.

Back to school isn’t just about the students

Search ‘back to school’ on Google, and you'll get a Wikipedia result about a 1986 American comedy film of the same name. You'll also be inundated by big retailers exploiting the opportunity of a new school year and pushing their sales of student supplies. Change over to the image search option and it's clear that 'back to school' is completely kid-centric.

But if you flip the focus, it becomes obvious that the story of the more than 300,000 teachers across the nation, who are also returning to school, is massively under-represented if not missing altogether.

So, we decided to address this need and share some back-to-school tips designed specifically for the wonderful educators that impact so many of our lives.

We asked educator, Kirralee Waterhouse, to share her top tips for teachers going back to school.

Kirralee graduated from UniSC's Master of Teaching (Secondary) program in 2019 and works as a science, biology and nutrition teacher.

Q: What have you learned through your time as a teacher, which you find helpful in preparing to go ‘back to school’?

Kirralee Waterhouse: Planning an overview of the school year is key – once I know my timetable I like to map out all the weeks of the year for each subject, where holidays and other school events (like athletics carnivals) fall so I've planned ahead for missed lessons. I also outline a brief (and flexible) overview of which topics I will be teaching each week (I do this per semester for junior and for the whole year for senior classes).

I don't usually do any specific lesson planning before the term starts except for the first week or two back. If I have any other creative ideas for my units of work while I’m doing my overview planning I write them down to come back to later.

It can feel overwhelming when starting to prepare for a new school year... it feels less overwhelming as you start ticking things off the to do list and generate momentum in your planning.
Q:  What’s the most valuable advice you’ve received?

KW: That planning includes making sure you’re well rested and recharged so you can be effective in the new school year (don’t start the new school year tired and drained).

Kids care about how you make them feel, not about whether the font you chose for the PowerPoint was the perfect choice. That's to say, don't waste time on things that aren't important. Make a list of priorities and work on things that are most important.

Print class lists with student photos to help you learn names and also identify students in need of extra support or attention. I recently had a colleague who learnt all his student’s names before classes started, found out what their interests were from previous teachers (where able) and it really made a huge difference in his relationships with the students and behaviour management through the year.

Q: What do you wish you’d known about returning to teaching after holidays, which you can share with others?

KW: It’s normal to feel a little disorientated getting back into the swing of things especially if you haven't done a lot of work over the holidays. I find it most helpful to brain dump everything I need to do and then write out a to do list - put them in list of priority and assign specific slots of time for each so I’m not spending endless amounts of time on things that I shouldn’t be.

It's also normal, regardless of how many years of experience you have, to feel nervous about meeting new classes.
Q: In your experience, how important is it for teachers to be in the right headspace when starting the new school year? Any advice on how to achieve the right headspace?

KW: I think it’s really important to have time to rest and reset on the holidays. I find that I am most creative and able to plan and teach more efficiently after I feel recharged. I set really strong boundaries for when I will complete work before the new school year (ie what days, weeks, how many hours), and am intentional about doing things that make me feel rested and recharged.

It’s also important to remember that a new school year is a chance for a fresh start. You might have had a really tough year the previous year, but this is an opportunity to reset and start fresh as well. Focusing on past highlights and positive experiences can help with getting in the right headspace to start a new year.
Master of Teaching (Secondary)

Explore a Master of Teaching (Secondary) at UniSC. This program is for graduates with non-education bachelor's degrees who want to qualify to teach in secondary schools.

Master of Teaching (Primary)

Work to inspire younger generations to continue making the world a better place. This program is for graduates with non-education bachelor's degrees who want to qualify to teach in primary schools.

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