You may hear students complain about having to go back to school in September but for teachers too, adapting from holiday-mode to school-mode is never easy. In most professions, returning to work after a two-month hiatus usually involves meetings with HR, a reduced workload and a phased return to the job. For teachers, September is one of the busiest months.
Nevertheless, there are several different things you can do to alleviate the stress of the start of the new term and to approach teaching with a positive attitude.
Set the tone
According to the research conducted by Creemers and Kyriakides (2006), the ‘Dynamic Model’ of teaching relies heavily on the student and teacher having human interactions as a means to establish an effective classroom environment. As the first couple of weeks of school can often set the tone for the entire school year, teachers should seize this opportunity to establish a solid rapport with their students. Writing for the American Psychological Association, Rimm-Kaufman (2010) suggests that teachers can build this sort of positive rapport through:
1 Knowing your students
2 Giving students meaningful feedback
3 Creating a positive classroom climate in terms of community and support
4 Be respectful and sensitive to adolescents
An evaluation of the ‘My Teaching Partner’ approach by Allen et al. (2011) also found that when teachers concentrate on improving the warmth and supportive nature of the classroom environment, this has an impact on student outcomes. If you would like to reflect on the quality of your student-teacher interactions, the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), developed by Robert Pianta, can be an effective measure. The CLASS approach assesses teacher performance in terms of emotional support, classroom organisation and instructional support, and their impact on student engagement. Additional resources and support for this approach can be found here.
How to start afresh
Try to leave preconceptions at the door. Unfortunately, unconscious bias- where we unintentionally favour one person or group of people over another- is inevitable. As we saw in an earlier blog post, there are a number of different ways in which unconscious bias can manifest itself in teaching. However, if one is aware of their own bias and bears in mind that preconceptions are often unhelpful and limiting, this can help to mitigate its effects.
Although basic, forward planning is key: especially if you’re able to identify your workload pinch points over the course of the year ahead. In Workload: Taking Ownership of your Teaching (2020), Julie Greer argues that ‘planning’, alongside assessment, communication, meeting needs, performance management, resourcing and training and development, is a key area that should be considered when trying to reach a professionally acceptable workload in teaching.
This is also supported by the Department for Education’s 2015 report on teachers’ workload (See: Table below).When participants were asked about possible solutions to reducing workload, ‘effective use of time and resources’ was the third most cited strategy. Therefore, it is important to take the time early on to map out deadlines and key dates, then work backwards to see if you can prevent any bunching in your schedule.
Reflect on the Positives: Metacognition
The GCSE and A-level result days may seem like a lifetime ago, but studies on motivation- such as those by Deci and Ryan (2008) and Jansen et al. (2008), suggest that reflecting on past successes can act as a motivational tool. A blog post by Hays cites Zaynab Bharuchi, the Vice Principal of Sixth Form at the Sidney Stringer Academy, who encourages teachers to “celebrate your class results or case studies of pupils who achieved with new classes or pupils. It’s amazing how motivating it can be for pupils to know of someone in the year ahead who overcame challenges and obstacles or simply achieved. It’s pretty good for you too. After all it was you who got them there.”
Applying these metacognitive approaches to our teaching and learning means that are better able to recognise and evaluate the learning processes at play. Once recognised and reflected upon, improvements to these processes can be sought.
Studies such as those by Daniel Pink (2018) on when students are most receptive to learning, suggest that students can often be at their most receptive to new ideas after a break. Teachers are too. Pink claims that after a break, our productivity and creativity levels are much higher. Therefore, if you’re keen to try out a new teaching method in your lessons, doing it sooner rather than later in the term may mean that students engage better.
 B. P. M. Creemers & L. Kyriakides ‘Critical Analysis of the Current Approaches to Modelling Educational Effectiveness: The Importance of Establishing a Dynamic Model’ in School Effectiveness and School Improvement, Vol. 17, Issue 3, pp. 347–366). London: Routledge, 2006.
 S. Rimm-Kaufman, Improving Students’ Relationships with Teachers’, American Psychological Association Online, Available: <http://www.apa.org/education-career/k12/relationships> Accessed: 12 September 2021.
 Rob Coe, C. J. Rauch, Stuart Kime and Dan Singleton, Great Teaching Toolkit: Evidence Review, (Cambridge: Evidence Review, 2020).
 J. P. Allen, R. C. Pianta, A. Gregory, A. Y. Mikami & J. Lun, An Interaction-based Approach to Enhancing Secondary School Instruction and Student Achievement, Science, 2011, Vol. 333, pp. 1034– 1037, Available: https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1207998 Accessed: 16 September 2021.
 K. Betterton, ‘’ CIRL Blog online, Available: <https://cirl.etoncollege.com/unconscious-bias-in-assessment-what-does-the-research-tell-us/> Accessed: 12 September 2021.
 Julie Greer, Workload: Taking Ownership of your Teaching (St Albans, Critical Publishing, 2020), p.11.
 Department for Education, ‘Workload Challenges: An Analysis of Responses’ (2015) Available: <https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/401406/RR445_-_Workload_Challenge_-_Analysis_of_teacher_consultation_responses_FINAL.pdf> Accessed: 11 September 2021.
 E. L. Deci & R. M. Ryan, Self-determination Theory: A Macrotheory of Human Motivation, Development, and Health, Canadian Psychology, 2008, 49(3), pp. 182–185, Available: <https://doi.org/10.1037/ a0012801> Accessed: 16 September 2021.
Fred Janssen, Els de Hullu & Dineke Tigelaar (2008) Positive Experiences as Input for Reflection by Student Teachers, Teachers and Teaching, 2008, 14:2, pp.115-127, Available DOI: 10.1080/13540600801965903, Accessed: 16 September.
 Paul Matthias, ‘Back to School Tips for Teachers’, Hays Blog online, Available: <https://www.hays.co.uk/blog/insights/back-to-school-tips-for-teachers> Accessed: 11 September 2021.
 Matt Bromley, ‘In the Classroom: Metacognition Explained’, SecEd Online, Available: <https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/in-the-classroom-metacognition-explained/> Accessed: 12 September 2021.
 Daniel H Pink, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, (Riverhead Books: New York, 2018).