Our whole existence is all about improvement, we inspire it – and if that doesn’t work – demand it from the people around us. But what do we do to make sure we are improving personally?
Making time for improvement
Improvement takes time, and the problem with teaching is that we’re always busy! Well it’s not a problem it’s a reason to love the job but it does make tracking your own progress difficult. Think about how your school plans for improvement, they calendar time for the senior staff to meet, discuss, talk with teachers, governors and parents about how to improve. You should do the same, but here’s some ideas to maximise it.
Personal improvement plan
Good schools will always have a School Improvement Plan, detailing not just the improvements they want to make, but how they plan to do it and by when. Do the same thing for yourself. When you have a moment of clarity think about what you want to achieve in the next one, two or three years. Write that goal down and list some steps towards it. It doesn’t matter if you’ve not got it all figured out just yet, but basic steps are a start. If you keep doing what you always do, then you’ll always get what you already have – a small change or investment now can dramatically change things in two years’ time.
Personal review day
When you have your plan it’s important that you’re reviewing it, I’d say at least three times a year. Block off an evening in your calendar to sit and go through it. What have you achieved? What do you still need to do? Is the goal realistic in the time you’ve set? It’s okay if it’s not, just modify it so that you’re always realistic with your goals. Some of your targets may be things you need to do every day, others may be less frequent – so it’s really easy to let things slip – this way you can see you’re heading towards the destination you want.
Here’s a few things to think about on a day to day level:
Has a lesson gone well? Or is there something you’d like to do differently next time? Before the class leave and the next one comes in it (and the possible improvement vanishes into whatever you’re teaching next) use the notes on PowerPoint to write down the improvement. Should you have explained that differently? Or tried an activity a different way? With your notes, when you come to look at the PowerPoint in advance of teaching it again, you’ll see your suggestions and be able to make the improvements.
Think about it, at any time in your school there’s 10, 50, or even 100 lessons going on. Do you ever wonder what that teacher is doing? Or how they’re approaching that topic. Ask them if you can pop by for ten minutes when you have a free lesson. I know this takes time out of your day, but it doesn’t have to be for the whole time and it’ll be a great investment of ten minutes.
Share ideas and talk
Continuing from the last point, your colleagues in your school are the closest people to understanding your challenges. Talk and share problems, magpie around the photocopier for great resources and share some of your own. You’re already here – that’s step one done.
Try one new thing each week
Finally, put some of these new ideas into practise. Set a target of doing one per week, that’s achievable! It could be something you’ve seen online, borrowed from a colleague or thought of yourself. Once you’ve used it once it’s part of your teaching arsenal for ever!