A Teacher’s Top 4 Tips For a Stress-Free Term 3

Find ways to minimise your load by taking these tips on board and see how they work for you.

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Teaching has always been an all encompassing career path. Yes, it is so unbelievably rewarding to maintain strong relationships with students and witness those little ‘aha’ moments, but the time and energy that we put into our careers is enormous. And I find the strain even more so during Term 3.

The challenges of term 3

Term 3 is the hardest to keep students engaged. It is different to the others: in Term 1, it’s a novelty to be back at school; in Term 2, students are focussed on all the projects and assessments that are due before reports; in Term 4, the wind down of the school year and smell of summer holidays is building up in the air. Term 3 just seems to be a time where you need to work even harder at entertaining your classes and providing content that resonates with them. 

To be honest, I don’t blame them; I, too, am just going through the motions this term. It feels like I’m just on a hamster wheel trying to just make it to the September holidays. If you’re in a southern state like me, the cold and dreary weather of July and August doesn’t make things easier.

Term 3 also seems to have the most interruptions to class time in my experience. School musicals and the bulk of excursions and incursions all occur now, making it really difficult to ensure continuity in lessons. Often it’s a few students who are constantly busy and I am forever needing to follow up with their work. Honestly, I really enjoy being involved in our school productions and taking my students on interesting excursions. I want them to have the most enjoyable school experience possible. However, it is a catch 22 because, while these school productions and excursions provide a lot of joy for me, they are also my biggest causes of stress.

And if you teach a VCE subject, then forget about having a life this term. Having to cram in all of your content and assessments for Unit 2 and especially Unit 4 is a nightmare for corrections. We basically only have our Year 12 students for the first couple of weeks of Term 4, so that time is only useful for revision and exam preparation. The content, however, must be delivered and assessed in Term 3.

I am lucky to have an ongoing position at my school, though. I remember what it is like to be on contract year after year and always finding out at the end of Term 3 if I had a job the following year or not. If teaching wasn’t hard enough, having to reapply for your job every year and look out for other positions is an added burden.

I, personally, felt the same way year after year. Until last year. 

2020 in Melbourne was a game changer for me because, not only did it force me to teach in a way that was most unnatural for me, I had some time to really reflect on my career and decide what worked for me and what didn’t. I noticed that the high stress but low level of energy were really hitting me hard. I didn’t want to feel that way year after year. So I decided to implement some strategies to ensure 2021 would be a better year.

I can say now that if you feel the same way, it doesn’t have to be this way. Term 3 can have the same energy as the rest of the year. However, I recommend putting strategies in place now in order to have a more peaceful time next year.

Strategies to implement now

  1. Begin a healthy eating and exercise regimen now.
    We all know that maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen improves energy levels and decreases stress. However, the benefits aren’t truly noticeable in the beginning. That is why it is important to set yourself up now. Make a new routine and stick with it. If you fall off the wagon, try to jump straight back on. By this time next year, your new, healthy lifestyle will be second nature and you will reap the rewards of your hard work. If you’re looking for a way to get started with exercise, check out the Couch to 5k app. It’s a great way to kickstart a new exercise habit!
  1. Outsource some of your work.
    I highly recommend researching online resources now so that you can implement them next year. For example, differentiation was the bane of my career. I find it so difficult to cater for all the different abilities in a class of 28 students, on top of all my other professional responsibilities. So last year the Maths team at my school learned about Maths Pathway and we haven’t looked back. Having the Maths Pathway program assessing my students and creating lessons for me to be able to cater for each individual need has taken such a weight off.
  1. Prepare your resume a year ahead.
    If you are on a fixed term contract or if you are ongoing and thinking of applying for another school, I highly recommend updating your resume a year ahead. I used to leave that until I actually needed to apply for jobs, but that is actually a big mistake. Think about it, if you apply for jobs and have interviews over the next couple of months, you will be gaining feedback from your application now. So write down any feedback you receive and implement all of it when you have more time during the summer holidays. That way you are prepared, and it is one less thing you need to worry about. Check out this free teacher resume template to get you started.
  1. Ask your students for feedback and help.
    If you are finding it difficult to keep your students engaged, ask them for feedback on how to improve and implement their tips next year. At the end of our Renaissance unit in Year 8 Humanities last year, I asked my students what would make it more engaging, whilst still going through the content. They suggested more relevant games, so I asked them to gather some together for me. Several students found some existing online quizzes that had questions directly related to the specific content I taught them. Two particularly enthusiastic girls designed a fun and relevant picture game. This year, my Year 8 students have really enjoyed all of those games, and it was so great to have that help. It was another thing that I didn’t need to think about. You can also use a program like Pivot to help collect student feedback, to gather meaningful feedback that will help you to improve your practice.

Final thoughts

Teaching is well known as a high stress career because we have such an important responsibility. But it doesn’t need to be this way. It is definitely all about getting into a routine. Find ways to minimise your load by taking these tips on board and see how they work for you. 

by Catherine Mancini

Lighten the Term 3 load with Maths Pathway

As Catherine says, Term 3 can be a busy one. And teachers know that things won’t slow down any time soon. If you want to take some stress off your teaching load while still having the greatest impact possible with your students, now is a great time to think about how your current maths resource is serving you. 

Does it allow you to target every student at their point of need so they can learn in their Zone of Proximal Development? 

Does it provide you with high-quality and scaffolded personalised learning content and ready to go lesson plans to help save time? 

Does it support you to incorporate more 1:1 time, target explicit teaching and Rich Learning in your lessons?

And most importantly, is it helping students double their growth rates in maths?

Maths Pathway currently supports more than 340 schools, 3,300 teachers and 77,000 students to differentiate learning and improve outcomes in maths.

But don’t just take it from us. Listen to what our teachers and students have to say and read more about the impact that we’re having in Australia schools. If you’d like to chat to us about how we can support you, complete the form below and we will be in touch.

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