The Creative Teacher Project

An NQT Bringing Creativity to the Classroom


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7 Tips for Returning to Teaching After Maternity Leave

Returning to Teaching After Maternity Leave - The Creative Teacher Project

Hello, dear friends! It has been quite some time since I last posted. You may have guessed by this post’s title, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, but rather I’ve been spending the last seven months raising my beautiful baby boy, Eamon. I have utterly adored my time out of teaching (heck, my career is based about taking care of kids, so having my own is wonderful!), but these precious months together are drawing to a close, and I am now preparing for my return to work.

I was feeling a little burnt out after my last year of teaching, having been through my first OFSTED and spending most of my second year in Primary pregnant. Yet while my responsibilities have never been as great as they are now, I am really feeling excited about getting back in the classroom. Apprehensive, yes, but motivated as well.

In order to allay some of my worries about going back to work, I’ve reached out to a couple of teacher groups I am a part of for some advice – I asked what their top tips would be when returning to work. I thought I’d set out a few of the ones that felt right for me, and then in a few months come back and update you with the ones that really made a difference.

Get Prepared the Night Before

Obvious perhaps, but I have a feeling this will be my saviour. From nursery bags, to clothes and breakfast/lunches, set them all out the night before and then you can whip round in the morning without the mental burden of trying to remember anything.

The 10 Minute Alarm Trick

I love this tip. Set yourself 3 alarms, each ten minutes apart. The first 10 are for dossing about on your phone, checking whether the world has blown up and your favourite Insta stories (or whatever floats your boat!). The second 10 are to get yourself dressed (in the clothes you handily laid out the night before), makeup, brushing your teeth and general getting ready. The final 10 are for changing and dressing your baby. Then you put your breakfast in your bag, check you have your car, house and school keys and off you go! Personally, I’d prefer to get up a bit earlier so that I have a more leisurely start to the day, and let’s be honest, my son rises at 5:50am without fail, so a lie in is a foreign concept to me these days. But the principle is the same. Don’t rely on your innate sense of time in the mornings. Get an alarm to shriek you into submission.

The Slow Cooker is Your Friend

This came up a lot – batch cook and use the slow cooker! Someone also said ‘beans on toast on Wednesdays and fish and chip Fridays’. This is something I can definitely get on board with.

Finish on a Thursday

I’m only going to be working four days a week, but I really like the concept of this tip. Essentially, plan your week so that major tasks are finished before Friday, so that you can minimise marking before the weekend. Use your Fridays to repeat certain concepts, address misconceptions and have short activities that perhaps don’t need onerous recording methods or much marking!

Be Organised – ha ha ha…

If I am entirely honest, I am naturally a planner, but not necessarily a follow-througher. I have the best of intentions to be an organised person, and I usually start out well, but often fade out into disarray before the term is over. But this is no longer really an option for me if I want to stay this side of sane. My favourite class organisation tips were to try and get your planning done a week in advance (with wiggle room to adjust to your class – they may move more slowly or quickly!) so that if you need to take care of a poorly child your lessons can be easily covered. Another tip from an American teacher was to have a couple of standalone absence plans completed, for exactly the same reasons!

Assess as You Go

Mark books in the sessions where you are able to, update targets as you go and use your lunchtime to mark. I am guilty of the lunch time race around the photocopier more often than I would like, so this is going to have to be a bit of a mindset change for me, to ensure my afternoon sessions are set up in the mornings.

Done is Better than Perfect

The workload will always be there. Choose a leaving time and stick to it. Wise words from women who have been here before me. If you’re anything like me, you like things to look good as well as work well, and frankly, it’s something we get asked to work on! But I’m going to relax my standards, and pour my time and energy into getting it done. Then I am out the door to pick up my baby.

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So there you have it, seven tips I’ve had from teachers who have gone back to the classroom after maternity leave. I’ve got a couple of months yet before I cross the threshold again, but I’ll head back here once I’ve got my head in the game and let you know which tips were the most helpful!

Have you returned to teaching after maternity leave? What tips would you like to share?

 

 

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Monday Provocation #13

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This one is not just for inspiring our kids to have a growth mindset….but also for inspiring ourselves!

 

 

 

 

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Summer 2016

Creative Teacher Project on Holiday

The six week break in the middle of the year is a pretty sweet perk of being a teacher. I’ve just spent two weeks in Portugal, several days of which were sitting in the very deckchairs you see pictured here. It was awesome.

It is to the chagrin of many of my fellow teachers that we are constantly teased by non-teaching friends about how easy we have it, and how many holidays we get. To them I say – we just happened to do 12 months of work in 10 months!

Plus, even though I might not be teaching, it’s not as if I haven’t been working. As I’m currently child-free and my husband works full time, and all of my friends are still at work, I found myself twiddling my thumbs on more than one occasion, until I felt the pull of work too strong to resist….

I want this coming year to be an improvement on my last. Every teacher I’ve spoken to assures me that I will never forget my first class, and of that I am certain – I was luckier than most in my very first class, they were truly delightful. But as a new teacher I made many mistakes, and I want to be a better version of myself this year for my new class.

So I am going against my nature and getting organised. I am a typical Virgo (even though I don’t believe in this stuff) but I thrive in an organised environment, and find mess stressful to be around. I have also classic Libra tendencies, and am attracted to balance…..a balance of stacks of paper teetering on the edge of my desk.

To tell you the truth I have been spending a lot of time this summer working on the systems I need to be seamlessly organised and efficient this year. I have told everyone within earshot that I am ‘turning over a new leaf’ in the hopes that the potential shame of not doing so will keep me on the straight and narrow.

I’ve seen many memes over the break about how teachers dread the return of the school year. While I can’t admit that I’m looking forward to the long hours again, I can’t deny that my overriding feelings towards the new school year are ones of excitement!

New year, new me!


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The Creative Teacher Book Club :: Tudors :: Under the Rose by Alan Childs

My cUnder the Rose - The Creative Teacher Projectlass has studied the Tudors for terms 5 and 6 this year, and the text we have used is Under the Rose: A Tudor Spy Story by Alan Childs. This is a descriptive account of the adventures of Crispin, a young baker’s apprentice who gets swept up in an Elizabethan murder plot.

First things first, this is a book from what I believe to be quite a small publishing house. Alan Childs appears to have written a few novels, linking to the old curriculum, as well as many non-fiction historical texts. It’s a little bit old-school, in terms of the setting out of the book, but is accompanied by some excellent illustrations.

The illustrations proved rich fodder for GPAS work, giving my students opportunities to create expanded noun phrases to describe what they saw.

As it is a spy story, the plot is filled with suspense, which I also found useful in developing the class’s prediction skills – they were desperate to know what happened next and had so many ideas!

I found that it was also incredibly useful for vocabulary work. There are many Tudor terms used in the book, and we had a couple of great sessions finding out what they meant, for example a scrivener, doublet and livery. This allowed us to come up with a working wall filled with words to include in our writing, and the class had a sense of ownership, as they’d discovered the meaning themselves, and had immediately seen in used in the context of the story.

My Google detective work has suggested that there may be a teacher’s pack to accompany this book, which I would love to find, however it appears to have been published in the 90s, so my searching so far has proved fruitless. If anyone out there can point me in the direction of it – I would be heartily grateful!

 


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The Creative Teacher Book Club :: Ancient Romans :: Tiger, Tiger by Lynne Reid Banks

Tiger Tiger - Creative Teacher Project

Today’s post comes to you from my sickbed – it seems my body doesn’t even have the decency to wait until I am on holiday before getting ill, and I have a suspected case of tonsillitis. Must be all that talking I do!

We have a creative curriculum at my school, meaning that we use our topic of study across as much of the curriculum as we can. It can, however, be tricky to find a suitable book – one that is both challenging for good readers but accessible for those who are still developing. They also need to be well written, ideally with some of the SPAG/GPAS features that we are learning.

I have actually found it quite difficult to find suitable texts, and so I thought I would create a little blog series addressing this, and recommending texts I have used and found helpful in the past.

A common Year 4 topic is the Romans, and I absolutely loved the text we studied this year-  Tiger, Tiger by Lynne Reid Banks. This book is set in Ancient Rome, and although as a class we were looking at the Romans from a British History standpoint, the text was still suitable, as it often referred to Roman ways of life, for example slavery.

Taken from the blurb:

Two tiger cubs are snatched from their native jungle and shipped to Rome. On arrival at this strange land crowded with noisy “two-legs” they are cruelly separated. One cub becomes the princess’s pampered and adored house pet. The other, fiercer, cub is trained to become the star performer in Caesar’s bloodthirsty circus.

Reid Banks, perhaps more famously known for her work The Indian in the Cupboard, has paced the story well, keeping the language interesting and very descriptive.

I used this as inspiration for some non-fiction writing, in fact, and we spent part of a term looking at non-chronological reports. We all studied tigers, and gathered facts about their appearance, habitat, diet and other interesting facts. My class were really engaged, and some even borrowed the book to reread at home! The mark of a winner, no?

I think this book could also be a good basis for some descriptive writing, the settings are well described, and there are some interesting viewpoints. Princess Aurelia, the Caesar’s daughter, is horrified by the thought of the ‘circus’ at the Colosseum, and so some fruitful diary entries could easily be extracted from the text. I would also suggest some balanced arguments, from perhaps the point of view of the slaves and their masters.

As the front quote by Michael Morpugo states: “Tiger, Tiger burns brightly to the very last page, and long afterwards too”.

 

**Please note this is not a paid or sponsored post in anyway, nor are there any affiliate links. I just like the book!


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So I Guess I’m a Primary Teacher Now?

School Newspaper - The Creative Teacher Project

We’re well and truly in the business end of the school year. Term 6 is well under way and I have but 3 and a half weeks left of this academic year. It seemed as good a time as any to reflect on my first year of Primary Teaching. What a year it has been!

  • I have worked an average of 60 hours a week all year.
  • I have got tendonitis in my elbow from too much marking.
  • I have become, rather sadly, entirely dependent on caffeine.

On the plus side, I have also:

  • Taught, quite literally, the loveliest class on Earth. I could not have made it this far without them.
  • Become far and away a better teacher in the last 6 months than in the previous two years.
  • Discovered a new talent of staple gun wielding.
  • Developed a signature ‘Teacher’ look. You know the one. It’s the ‘I-am-not-impressed-right-now’ look. Easily confused with the ‘I’ll-just-wait-here-until-you’re-all-ready-don’t-mind-me-it’s-your-time-you’re-wasting’ look.

I am going to really admit something. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Drama teaching is challenging, extremely challenging in fact, especially when you’re trying to manage and engage 30-odd 14 year olds. But I really had no idea of the rigour required of Primary teachers. The day in, day out grind of their huge workload.

I am just at the beginning of my career. I by no means have the whole ‘teaching’ thing down pat. But I do know this – I have never felt more engaged, more inspired, or more excited by a job that I am by teaching. No job I have tried yet has a better combination of what interests me, what is expected of me, and what I get paid (I am used to working in the arts, so yes, a teacher’s salary is amazing compared to that!).

But….there is still so far to go. I still sometimes struggle to get in all the feedback I want to. I don’t feel like I’ve yet discovered how to delve deeply enough into a topic in a short space of time. It’s still not perfect – but I’m still learning. I’ll always be learning, and perhaps that’s the best part of it all.

I’ve just signed up for the 12 month productivity course The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. I’ve spoken about Angela Watson before, and honestly, her Monday morning podcasts have been the thing that has got me through the more challenging parts of my first year as a primary teacher. I’m ready to commit to changing the way I work, in order to improve my workload, and student outcomes. It should be really interesting. It should also be fun!

I’m looking forward to it, which probably says it all about how I feel about being a primary teacher! I’ve well and truly gone over to the dark side….


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It’s Not Going to be Easy, It’s Going to be Worth It.

Truth-for-Teachers-LogoThese are the final words that Angela Watson, of the Truth for Teachers podcast, leaves her listeners with each week. A former teacher and now educational consultant, Watson has become widely known for her management ideas for teachers, and especially for her (totally amazing sounding) 40 Hour Work Week Club. Her podcast is fantastic, and that’s why I thought I would share it with you today.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good inspirational podcast as much as the next person, but I do find that many of them are just that – inspirational, and not that practical. Sometimes when you’re looking for advice, or need a kick up the backside to even get in the car to go to work on a Monday morning, you need concrete suggestions on how to make the work week a little easier. Truth for Teachers is just that.

I’ve had episodes that have given me 9 Classroom Organisational Tips for the New Year, and even 5 Ways to Turn a Worksheet into a Collaborative Critical Thinking Activity. If these titles don’t get your teacher-nerd juices flowing, then I’m sorry to say, nothing will! It just happens to be incredibly handy that she posts a new episode each Monday morning, at peak “New week new me” time.

I encourage you all to go and have a listen, and maybe even a trawl through the archives to see if there’s anything that can help your particular situation.

We all know that teaching isn’t easy, but it’s podcasts like Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers that remind us that it’s absolutely worth it.

 

 

*This is an independent post and in no way affiliated with Truth for Teachers. I just love the darn podcast