Don’t bite off more than you can chew!

It’s fantastic to finally have the students back, things are back in full swing and it’s great to have hustle and bustle about the place. Whilst it’s nice to be in at points during the summer to catch up with work and colleagues, I absolutely love the start of a new academic year – welcoming new students and seeing the familiar glow of returning students as the eagerly anticipate what their new course and timetable will be like.

I have to admit, the first week back has been total mayhem – not all in the bad sense either, but one of the challenges that comes with the territory of FE life is the conversion of applications to enrolments and more importantly, giving students a great experience and supporting them during their first few weeks to transition from school and settle into college life. Timetables need tweaking to accommodate larger or smaller groups than anticipated, support can take time to settle down and some students have a change of plan during the first few weeks of starting their new course and decided that perhaps it’s not quite for them.

I’ve heard a fair few staff taking the mark of the new academic year as an opportunity to make other (personal and professional) changes. Already I have been in meetings where a new process or change is presented – this is often based on identification of something which can be improved. This decision to make a change supports a previous post of mine about #teacher5adaydetox and the challenge to make a detox commandment for the new academic year. My previous post provided 10 examples of change ideas which could be adopted as you move into a new academic year.

One of the most common phrases I’ve heard over the past few days is ‘my diet starts on Monday’. This has got me thinking – it’s probably one of the most challenging times of the year to embark on such a commitment (I’d argue that giving up smoking or alcohol could be equally challenging), simply because there are so many variables changing as we move through the first term of the new academic year. We’re getting to grips with learning student names and their individual needs, road testing new resources, schemes of work and often syllabuses whilst getting familiar with a new timetable of classes yourself. In addition, the nights are drawing in as we move towards the end of British summertime (sobs), we’ll lose and hour and the shops are already filling with festive treats and the lure of all things Christmas.

I’ve been reflecting on those embracing a diet at this time of year and I contemplating the impact of this decision on students and their experience. There are so many pressures at this time of year and whilst I’m not advocating throwing in your gym membership in exchange for a takeaway every evening; think about the indirect impact of adding yet another challenge into your life may have on others. Will students end up bearing the brunt of your afternoon short chocolate crave fuse following the inhalation of a few lettuce leaves and some other green delights?

Look after yourself and don’t bite off more than you can chew (pardon the pun!). It’s an important time of year for you, your family, your students and your colleagues. Don’t let others be on the receiving end of any choice you take to make a change.


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