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Top Tips for ECTs

Whilst on Twitter the other day I came across an excellent thread by Mr Greenwood (@teachenglish_eg) and with his permission, I have collated his thread into a post.

1. Stay as organised as possible.

It can be really tough balancing lots of classes, but organising your computer, files, books, equipment etc. is a must for me. When I’m really busy, or it feels like a lot, I write notes/reminders on my phone for the day. Ticking off feels good!

I completely echo this statement. As an Induction Lead, one of the first things I discuss with my ECTs is the need for organisation. I highly recommend lists too - whether digital or paper based. My preference is paper based - there’s nothing more satisfying than crossing through something on a bit of paper with a sharpie! BE GONE TASK!

2. Make sure you take time for lunch!

There is very little time in a school day that you get to yourself. But allow yourself time to have lunch away from the pressures of the day. I like to catch up with colleagues - it’s definitely improved my well-being.

This is an absolute must. During the school day within one of the breaks, make a point of going to a staff area, sitting down and eating. Teachers are terrible for “pushing through” and not actually eating or looking after themselves properly. I would also add to this and say that you need to ensure you’re drinking enough water so make sure you have a decent drink whilst you’re sitting down for lunch.

3. Focus on relationships.

This might seem like an obvious one, but for me, positive relationships are the absolute bread and butter of teaching. Positive relationships with staff and students can make work so enjoyable and rewarding.

Mr Greenwood is absolutely spot on here. Not only does building positive relationships make us happier, improve our feelings of security, and provide meaning to our lives, it also affects both mental and physical health. Having meaningful interactions with colleagues adds value to your days above just completing work and means that you are less likely to get burned out during busy periods. Positive work relationships also help to make us feel valued, involved, and secure in our jobs, rather than isolated in the workplace.

4. Don’t spend hours and hours planning.

We’ve all been there - that lesson that you tweak and tweak to get perfect. Try to avoid spending too long planning, as after a while, the limited extra impact on student learning isn’t worth the extra time. Trust your judgment.

He is right here. It’s so easy to get bogged down in making everything perfect and as an old northern phrase goes “don’t over egg the cake” - meaning if you keep trying to “perfect” something, it’ll just end up a mess. If you can, do some collaborative or joint planning to speed up the process - two brains are often better than one.

5. Don’t beat yourself up.

Everyone has (many) ‘bad’ lessons - even extremely experienced teachers. Don’t get bogged down or beat yourself up over it. Learn from it and go again. The good outweigh the bad!

There will be many times where your lessons don’t go to plan and the feedback you receive is not as positive as you would have liked. It happens to everyone - EVERY TEACHER. The key point, as Mr Greenwood says, is to learn from it. Use the feedback to improve your practice and ultimately don’t dwell on the negative. Treat it as a development point, learn from it and go again.

6. Learn to say no.

As an ECT, or a teacher in general, you need to learn to not say yes to everything. Prioritise your goals and workload.

Absolutlely agree with this one and it goes for any teacher at any stage of their career. You can do anything, but you cannot do everything. Sometimes you need to be selfish and prioritise yourself. Limit the times you say yes to those things that will help you.

7. Seek advice from peers.

Teaching for me, is the most supportive profession out there. If you are struggling with anything, or need some advice - seek it. You will find that so many people are willing to help.

Another excellent point here, if you need help, advice or just simply want to bounce an idea around there are people out there. You will have a range of colleagues in school you can go to for in-person advice ans then of course there’s the world of #edutwitter too.

8. Plan for marking

Marking - we all have it! Try to plan time for marking, as there is nothing worse than having piles and piles of it. I like to avoid distractions and get large parts done in a big chunk, but find a way that works for you.

Whether you plan one late evening in the week to get a big chunk of marking done or whether you decide to do a little each day - plan when you are going to mark and stick to it. As Mr Greenwood says, you need to find a way that works for you but you do need to find that way. Use your planner, write lists and stick to them - it will all help.

9. Have some ‘you’ time

If you’re there early, don’t stay late (and vice versa). Try to allow yourself space away from work to be able to fully switch off. I give myself at least one full weekend day that is mine. I don’t even think about work on that day. You are important.

If you go back to one of my early posts about burnout, you can read more about why taking some “you time” is important. You need to block out some time that is just for you. Keep that gym class, stay on that sports team or keep that regular Sunday lunch with your Gran - just make sure there is a time and a place for you to completely switch off from work. You will thank yourself in the long run - especially when it comes to the “school holiday flu” we often get. This creeps in because we’ve finally relaxed after working at maximum capacity for a long number of weeks - which is not healthy. If you maintain that weekly switch off during a term, you’ll reduce the negative impacts of working too hard for too long.

10. Final one - glue sticks.

Protect them at all costs. It’s a vicious world out there. 😂

Not just Glue Sticks… board pens, staplers and hole punchers are also “high ticket items” in schools that will just “disappear” if you haven't got your name all over it! I suggest a locked box… or at least a locked cupboard where you can keep YOUR glue sticks. Never, ever lend those out without some kind of collateral being handed over first!

You can contact Mr Greenwood over on Twitter. He states his DMs are open for anyone who wants any advice!

Have you got any further tips, advice or words of wisdom for the next cohort of ECTs? Let me know!

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