Early Career Teacher blog: a relaxing half-term break and time to reflect

This is the third posting from our busy physics teacher who is now in his second year after qualifying (read his previous post here). He managed to take a break during the half-term holiday and judging by how busy the first half of term was, he certainly deserved it.

It almost seemed as though half-term would never come.  Those last few weeks were particularly difficult – the students were tired, the staff were tired, everyone was tired and counting down the days.  But it finally came and I used it as an opportunity to re-charge my batteries.

It is tempting to spend all of half-term working and getting yourself up to speed and yes, I’ve spent a few like this. But it is equally important to rest otherwise you start the next half of term tired. The wisest words I heard during my training year were, “You are your greatest resource”. These words have stuck with me – if I am tired , how can I get the students engaged and excited, even with the most fantastic lesson planned?

So this half-term, I only came in to school for one day. I did all my marking but then I did no other school work and it felt glorious.  I was able to spend the time catching up on life: doing jobs round the house that I had put off for six weeks, visiting friends and family and generally making up for lost time.

Reflecting back on the first half of term, it has been an interesting one. I’ve got a few good projects on the go, most with a space and astronomy theme. For example, I have been running an astronomy GCSE after school, but now I’m looking at introducing an astronomy option in the school curriculum. This should open astronomy to more students and be another way to promote physics.

And a few weeks ago, I gave a talk at school about being an astronaut. It was part of a series of talks on “What I want to be when I’m older” and it followed my visit to Space Camp in America over the summer.  I wasn’t expecting many students as exams were fast approaching and there were numerous revision classes on.  But 55 people turned up! They ranged from year 7 to sixth form, with some other teachers and parents, and I was quite nervous. Bottom set year 11 on a Friday period 5? No problem. This assorted group? Terrifying. I found myself conscious of trying to pitch it at a level that everyone could appreciate so I was relieved when my talk seemed well received.

Another first this term was finding myself in front of the school governors.  The Head had asked me to do a presentation on the astronomy course and my exploits at Space Camp. As I was preparing, I was amazed by how much we had actually achieved over the last year and when I talked to the governors, I tried to convey my passion for the subject to get them excited too – you never know when you might need more money or a shiny new telescope!

A few days later I received a letter from a parent governor. My initial thought was that I had done something wrong. But the letter thanked me for the presentation and for all the hard work I’ve put in to help the students have a better experience at the school.  From that I think I can deduce that the governors were suitably impressed. Now where did I put that telescope catalogue…?