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Preparing for the start of the new term – preparing for ‘Strategy You’

As the new school year fast approaches, teachers and leaders across several continents in the northern hemisphere are already feverishly planning for a successful year ahead. Typically, their checklists – and you will recognise this if this is you – include an extensive selection from the smorgasbord of potential pre-term activities available to educators at different stages of their career … have they made sure that they have everything in place for their lessons? Are their departments all set up well? Can they get ahead in their planning? Are all the policies for which they are responsible written or reviewed/tweaked? Are the staff days before the beginning of term all properly planned? Are arrangements in place for any last-minute admissions? Has all the maintenance been completed appropriately? Are all staff contracts properly in place? Has the school budget been fully signed off?

No-one, to my knowledge, has ever attempted to write a comprehensive list of all the tasks that a school community, collectively, needs to achieve before the start of each school year, but it is a fair bet that even in fairly small print, it would stretch several times around the equator. Luckily, it is a shared endeavour rather than an individual one; preparing oneself for the onslaught of practical tasks, however, can often become such a dominant task that it prevents teachers and leaders from recognising the most important task of all, which is to ready themselves, in preparation for an amazing year ahead.

To some extent, of course, many staff do make a conscious effort to prepare themselves for the new term – a great summer, after all, involves rest and relaxation (mental, physical and emotional) which is a pre-requisite for a successful year; in my experience, however, only a very few teachers and leaders plan their personal career/work/life strategy ready for the year ahead. As educators, taking a little time ahead of the new school year to plan your own development strategy for the year – yours, that is, and not just the department’s/school’s – can provide you with an empowering boost and focus which will help you ride through some of the more challenging times of the year, and finish the year with a flourish and clear sense of progress.

So – how do you do this? As a starting point, try these 3 tasks:

•    Review your progress in your own long term strategic goals … and if you don’t have any, write them! Reflect on what you think you would like to be doing in 5-10 years’ time, in life and work, and paint yourself a picture of this – literally, if you want. Think carefully about how close you are to achieving this, and what milestones you will need to pass in order to get there. What did you achieve last year to take you along this path? If you feel a little lost, or are unsure, then use a coaching framework like a Professional Wheel of Life to help you assess where you are, and where you would like to be. Choose what feels important to you – extending your own learning, for example, or working towards a

•    Sit down with a calendar for the academic year ahead and split it into manageable chunks (eg half terms, months) – periods of time which give you enough scope to achieve something, and then reflect on it. Decide then, on how you would like to feel this time next year, and what you would like to have done, and write this down. Work backwards through the chunks of time you have identified, and work out what you will need to have achieved by the end of each of these in order to feel and accomplish what you would like to have done by the end of the year. Does this look realistic, when you have written it all down?

•    Now think about how you are going to turn these into SMART goals – when are you going to give yourself the time, and how are you going to manage to do what you want to do? Decide too who you are going to tell, and who is going to help encourage you, support you, and hold you gently but firmly to account. Who is going to be your cheerleader? Enlist them on to ‘Team You’!

Above all, think positively. Every single human being has so much to give this world, and you are no exception. In fact, no-one at all in the history of humanity has had, has, or will have the unique combination of genes, experience and view on the world that you have, so embrace this. As an educator, you are, after all, pretty invincible … and this next year can and will be your best year ever. Just nudge this along with a bit of planning and commitment.

So – your quest awaits! And the very best of luck to you as you prepare to be robustly ready for the new school year. Enjoy!

Dr Helen Wright is a seasoned coach of school leaders, who challenges school leaders and aspiring leaders through her warm and incisive approach. She can be contacted via LinkedIn -