For parents looking to support their children, online tuition allows many more options for gaining access to the best tutors, at a time and place that works for them, and for a price they can afford. For those already working as a tutor or those looking to begin working with students, delivering tuition online offers a whole host of possibilities to work with students in a way that suits their experience and expertise, availability for work and aims for their own career.
According to mental health organisation, Mind, 1 in 4 people will experience some sort of mental health illness each year in the UK. With 1 in 6 reporting that they experience a common mental health problem such as anxiety or depression in any given week.
Mathematics is an emotional word. For some people it conjures up images of sitting in rows, trying to find answers to pages of ‘sums’ and an overwhelming sense of failure. For other people it is a thing of beauty, something we use everyday and which we are all amazing at. You might like to ponder which emotion resonates with you, but while you do, let me tell you that everyone is fantastic at mathematics – it’s just that some people don’t’ think they are!
Lesson planning has a bad reputation. Often lumped alongside marking, report writing and the other day-to-day aspects of the job outside the hours spent face to face with students, forming part of role frequently described as the ‘teacher workload’ that members of the profession and those looking to discuss it so hotly debate, lesson planning can sometimes feel like a never-ending task that, at times, is made an unnecessarily arduous process. But the truth is, when done right, planning your lessons can be something simple, exciting and even an aspect of the profession that many learn to love!
Our Top Ten Teacher Tips for the Summer Holidays
It is the final day of the summer term and your learners are excitedly buzzing waiting for the end of the day when they can burst out of the school gates into the arms of the awaiting summer holidays. You are also anticipating the school bell and the hurried excitement that ensues. Just pause to think about how the academic year has flown and how your pupils will be moving on to new classrooms and pastures new.
And then the bell goes, you wish them all a happy summer as they flow out into the corridors. You catch the eye of the teacher next door and you both feel a sense of relief, calm, and satisfaction. The long summer break is ahead of you, and you have had another successful year of teaching. One you have had to work HARD for success and survival. You have become a digital expert overnight, grabbled new mediums of delivery, juggled the latest guidance each week, and navigated and created new assessments to give your learners the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learnt. All whilst focusing on mask-policing!
Acknowledging the pressure you have been under is important, without your willingness and tireless commitment to your learners, who knows where our education system, along with the wellbeing and mental health of our children, would be?
At last, after what has felt like a never-ending year, school holidays are here. The school holidays give all our schools, teachers, teaching assistants, and other school staff a well-needed rest after enthusiastic educating.
Please enjoy a well-deserved break. Have you ever yearned for a break quite as much as this one?! To help ensure that you make the most of your time off, to rest, relax, unwind, here are our ideas of how you can give yourself a little bit of me time this summer.
No more early rises so now is time to catch up on all of those lost Z’s by sleeping in late. Once you are all caught up, take days to yourself for relaxation – read that book that’s been sitting on your bedside table, and work through that boxset. These days are best complemented with a carefully chosen snack collection to keep you going, so get stockpiling. You deserve it!
Take this chance to switch off your work brain. Why not make it your summer goal to get 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night? You never have to feel guilty for resting. Your body will thank you for giving it what it needs, and you will thank yourself for re-charging your batteries. If you struggle sleeping, why not try out some of the fantastic apps that are available out there. Headspace or Calm are a great place to start.
After a full school year of teaching, you probably have a lot to reflect on. The summer break is the perfect time to consider your strengths and weaknesses, think about the parts of your skillset that need developing, and begin to prepare yourself for the next year of teaching. We recommend checking out teaching blogs (there are plenty out there!), including our very own education blog which has articles covering a wide range of topics. Don’t be too strict on yourself, but a little light reading goes a long way!
It is time to catch up with your family and friends. It is hard to keep in touch with extended family and friends when you are working long-days for months at a time so, during the school holidays, reconnect with the people you don’t get to see during term-time. August weather brings with it opportunities for outdoor BBQs, rooftop drinks, and local park visits, and with restrictions lifting carefully make the most of it! This is one of those rare parts of the year where you are freer than your other working friends so it is your turn to bug them to catch up. This is your chance to catch up with those closest to you. Ask your friends how they are feeling and get things off your chest too. Those you love will want to listen and support you in the best way they can. Not only will you feel grateful for their time and conversation, but they will feel the same for yours.
With all the free time on your hands, the summer offers a fantastic opportunity to get in shape. Often throughout the school year, there is not enough time to head to the gym consistently due to the workload. Take hold of your health with regular trips to the gym now that they have reopened, release the burden of stress from the previous year and feel the benefit of endorphins.
Follow that up with delicious, home-made meals which you can spend time preparing. It will not take long before you notice the health benefits and by the time autumn comes along, you will be full of energy and ready to go again.
Staycations are your main options this year. You have been working hard all year; barely coming up for air between marking and teaching. Changing your scenery and experiencing warm weather offers the chance to properly rest and recuperate. Our suggestions for domestic breaks include Edinburgh (where you will find the infamous Fringe Festival), coastal Wales, and Cornwall. Or treat yourself anyway with a trip to your local zoo, theme park, or beach.
Your town or city has an abundance of things to see and do and so does the rest of the UK. Head to our great cities or explore the rolling hills and landscapes of the UK. A road trip can help clear your head and have new and exciting experiences which you don’t normally have the chance to.
6. Practice self-care
Connex Education Partnership would like to encourage you to take some time out for yourself and practice a little bit of self-care. This does not just mean facemasks and hot baths but ensuring that you make doing the things you love a priority. Have you been wanting to bake a new recipe for months but have not got round to it? Now is your time.
It is very easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. To prioritise everything other than yourself and to feel a sense of guilt for doing nothing. Well, we would just like to remind you of how far you have come and what you have achieved. Not only have you survived an entire year of a global pandemic, but you have also supported your learners and their parents through too. This is your time to stop, take a step back and remember how incredible you and the work that you do truly is. Take time out for the things you enjoy, spend time with those you love and remember why you are passionate about teaching. Practice your self-care, there are lots of free support available to help with managing challenges, our Mental Health Webinar for support during this time is free.
The end of term offers the chance to celebrate with your colleagues. Whether you head off for a slap-up meal or a few drinks it is a great opportunity to review how the year went for you and your friends. What’s more, it’ll bring you and your colleagues closer together as you have shared experiences.
In the same way that your learners never stop learning, neither do you as a teacher. Spend some time brushing up on your skills by reading new books and developing your teaching skills further. Don’t forget about Connex’s continued professional development training. We provide a whole range of courses, some of which you can access for free. Click here to find out more.
9. Get outdoors
It may be the only thing you can do is get outdoors for our daily dose of exercise and fresh air. However, as a teacher, we understand that it might not always be possible to get your walking boots on and hike 7 miles before breakfast. We also know that you cannot just pop out on your lunch and run a quick 5k. Therefore, this is your time to enjoy the great outdoors and what it can do for your mental wellbeing. Walking is seriously underrated when it comes to supporting our mental health and therefore, we challenge you to prioritise getting your ten thousand steps in every day during the summer. If, once you have done this, you feel like coming home, curling up on the sofa watching Netflix, with a share-bag of chocolate all to yourself, then we support that too!!! To find walking routes close to you, why not check out ramblers or Healthy Minds
As summer draws to a close and September looms, it is time to start thinking about your first week back in school. Approach the new academic year positively; building on the progress you made in the previous year and taking your teaching to a new level. Planning your first week of lessons is always a good idea and will help your return to the classroom go smoothly.
If you’re ending the term (or just finishing your PGCE or ECT training) with no teaching work lined up for the new academic year, you can also use the school holidays to register with us and find a day-to-day, short-term, or long-term placement that suits your needs. Send us your CV today and one of our consultants will give you a call as soon as possible for a friendly chat!
We have a newfound respect for teachers, the care you give and the patience you show. Summer often feels like it is over before it even began, but these suggestions for the school holidays will help to make sure that you return to the classroom relaxed, re-inspired, and ready to teach! Make sure you let us know when you speak to your consultant what you got up to. Until then, thank you for all your hard work this year. Enjoy your holidays.
And from all of us at Connex, enjoy your well-deserved break!
The why and how of collaborative learning
I can’t think of a single teacher who does not plan collaborative learning opportunities into their lessons. They have many reasons for doing so – from deepening student engagement to the development of social skills and improved learning outcomes. There is a whole body of research into the impact of effective collaborative learning, with benefits including:
- Increasing student engagement and motivation for learning
- More active participation in class
- Improved problem-solving skills
- Diminishing gaps in attainment and improving outcomes for all
It also resonates with our desire to build empathy and interpersonal understanding. As John Dewey puts it:
“In a world that has so largely engaged in a mad and often brutally harsh race for material gain by means of ruthless competition, it behooves the school to make ceaseless and intelligently organised effort to develop above all else the will for co-operation and the spirit which sees in every other individual one who has an equal right to share in the cultural and material fruits of collective human invention, industry, skill and knowledge”
With these high aspirations in mind, how do we make sure our students gain the most out of every collaborative learning opportunity; where we minimise the risks inherent in simply putting children in groups and hoping for the best? If collaborative learning is taken as a specific form of interaction that involves a shared goal, how can we structure our activities to ensure everyone feels equally involved in the task and shares responsibility for its outcome?
Kagan identified four key principles that will help us shape our collaborative activities for maximum impact. His ‘PIES’ acronym stands for:
P = positive interdependence – when students are on the same side, working together to achieve an outcome.
I = individual accountability – when every student has their part to play and can be held responsible for their contribution.
E = equal participation – when all students are equally involved and there is no opportunity to sit back and let others do the work for them.
S = simultaneous interaction – the percentage of students who are taking an active role at any one time.
These are very useful markers to gauge the effectiveness of collaborative activities in a face-to-face lesson. But for the last year our classes have either been remote or socially distanced. How has collaborative learning been facilitated in this ‘new normal’?
Innovation in lockdown
Last March we were all unceremoniously flung into the world of online learning, whether we liked it or not. This meant a rapid upskilling for many of us as we struggled to contemplate the management of remote lessons and the challenge of engaging students who were no longer sitting in front of us. With resilience, imagination and flexibility, we dove into this new world, innovating with new tools and continuing to inspire our children. From live video conferenced lessons we added chat, polls, screen sharing and then braved the ‘breakout room’. We shared and used a host of collaborative apps that were just waiting for us to find them and we prepared ourselves to learn alongside our students. As a result, many classes saw an increase in collaborative opportunities and thrived as more found their voices in the safety of an online space.
However, for some this was not possible – either through a lack of access, a lack of expertise or a lack of support. For these students, lockdown has increased their social isolation and exacerbated gaps in their learning. So, what can we do to re-engage them and overcome any generalised social inertia whilst still building on the lessons we’ve learned in lockdown?
Taking our learning and practice forwards
For many students, the return to school has been an immense relief, giving them back their safe space and friendship groups. Parents I have spoken to state that now they want schools to focus on supporting their children’s social skills and emotional well-being. Which provides us with an exciting challenge ahead – to build back our engaging, challenging and immersive collaborative classrooms, fostering social skills along the way and utilising all the technologies we have got to grips with in lockdown to enrich and extend our practice. What an exciting journey we are on! As we look to the future with optimism, I leave it to Einstein for a closing thought: “The mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size.”
Written by guest author and course writer for our sister company Thirsty Scholars Partnership, Rachel Tilden Walker. Rachel has written our latest course: Awareness of collaborative learning post pandemic course.
At last, after what has felt like a never-ending January, half term is here.
Do you feel like an untrained acrobat?
We have a newfound respect for teachers, the care you give and the patience you show. Parents and the community all over the world take their hat off to you, and rightly so too.