Preparing the emotional and environmental details of the classroom for the next school year can have a very clear impact on pupil and teacher behaviour

It might seem an untimely reminder to mention the new term, but this issue is intended to gently help you to remain focused on the work ahead – even with the thought of the summer holidays looming very large!

Just as many of the large department stores are now having sales of their summer stock and displaying signs declaring ‘Back to School!’, so the weeks between now and September will race by and you will indeed soon be back to school with all the preparation, organisation and stress it can bring.

That is certainly not to say you should not enjoy the well-earned break which summer brings, but there are some preparatory jobs which can be addressed now, and which will relieve the pressure you will face in September.

Class lists, new schemes of work, timetables and staffing are all part of the end-of-term organisation and changes. Once all the information has been shared, you will at least know where you will be working (classrooms, etc), which groups or classes you will be teaching and which members of staff will be part of the teaching and support teams. With that information clearly in place, it is time to make some individual preparations. You may well find it easier to map out a plan of action rather than trying to squeeze in all your preparation into the final weeks (or days) of the summer term. It is important to develop your own plan rather than try to replicate other colleagues’ plans.

Remember when you were at school and, upon finishing an exam, you made the mistake of looking round the room, only to see all your mates still writing furiously while you were sitting back, supposedly finished? How did that make you feel? Your emotions most probably ranged from panic to doubt and then finally ended with you trying to copy your friends and possibly ruining a perfectly good exam paper simply because you were negatively influenced by those around you!

Obviously, if there is a structure in place in your school making time available for you to prepare for the term ahead, then do try to make the best use of it. But it is far better be aware of how you are feeling and timetable your own preparations for September.

Practical Tips

A clear and informed timetable of preparation means that you can give sufficient consideration not only to the teaching and learning issues, but also the emotional and environmental details that have a very clear impact on pupil and teacher behaviour.

Devise an environmental checklist and apply it to your classrooms or teaching environments. What issues need to be dealt with? Whose role is it to deal with the identified problems?

Consider the following as a baseline for your checklists:

  • repairs to or replacement of furniture, decoration, fittings and electrical items. Give the maintenance team in your school plenty of warning and time to rectify problems
  • appropriateness of resources, equipment
  • old displays from the current year on your walls, which should be taken down unless they will serve clear purpose for the new class
  • the removal of old name tags, and property left behind by this year’s class groups
  • up to date information on any pupils with special educational needs, including effective and essential strategies (simply knowing pupils’ targets is insufficient)

If you are in a specialist area, make sure school rules and classroom rules are clearly displayed and are in both written and pictorial format. Try to phrase rules and guidance in a positive manner, and avoid signs such as ‘No running!’ Instead, use positive phrases such as ‘Thanks for walking!’ Don’t forget to reinforce these signs with some form of self-explanatory picture or illustration.

Once you have completed a critical assessment of your teaching and learning environment, and have informed the appropriate staff to help get things sorted, continue your action plan of preparation – and don’t forget to include a time-frame of when the actions will take place.

For some of us, taking time at the beginning of the holidays is the best time for planning – when issues are fresh in your mind and you are still in ‘work mode’. However, that may not be the ideal for everyone. Don’t be pressured into a planning and preparation stage if you do in fact simply need to get away and have a change of scenery. But keep in mind that you will need to give careful thought to the new term – before it begins.

Timely and thorough preparation will ensure that you are able to provide the most effective environment for the pupils whom you have spent time getting to know, and have included that knowledge in your planning.

Enjoy the break; prepare as much as you can before you leave for your holiday; and set a clear time-frame before term starts in September. It is important that the person to feel most calm and prepared is you!

This e-bulletin issue was first published in July 2009

About the author: Dave Stott has nearly 30 years’ teaching experience including seven years as a headteacher. He has worked in mainstream and special schools and Local Authority Behaviour Support Services, and is now a writer, consultant and trainer.