Author: Nicola Jones-Ford
Posted: 28 Sep 2023
Estimated time to read: 4 mins
Expert educator Nicola Jones-Ford discusses the end of the school honeymoon period and how to navigate it.
After the honeymoon period, what next?
You’re a month into the school year, the class in front of you has significantly changed from the one you had at the beginning and turned into the class that you were warned about when you started training as a teacher.
Nothing new here, it happens every year to all classes. You have the honeymoon period first, where the students are mostly keen to get back to school and feeling like bigger fish as they move up a year. The behaviour is nearly perfect and you are thinking to yourself 'this teaching stuff is easy!'. Students are generally well rested from the summer holidays and are ready for what is in store at school.
Two to three weeks in is when it all starts to change. The energy levels of the students are waning, nothing is new anymore and they have begun the drudgery of the next thirty five weeks until they start a new school year again. The students have worked out the structures and routines, seen how the classroom boundaries work and are now trying out the rules to see if they apply, or more importantly what happens when they step outside them. You suddenly feel like you have ‘that class’ overnight.
So, what do you do?
- Take some time to reflect. Recognise that the end of the honeymoon period is happening, you haven’t become a rubbish teacher overnight and that this happens every year to all teachers.
- Lead with consistency. Your students will be looking for ways to get around the rules and structures, some subtle but others very in your face. Consistency is the key to making students understand that the rules are still the same as the day the year started. Senior leadership generally talk a lot at the beginning of the year about behaviour management consistency, but the most crucial time for this is actually once the honeymoon period is over. Yes the start of the school year is tiring for everyone (especially if you're in the first five years of your career) but being consistent with structures, routines and rules at the point of honeymoon period ending will set you up well for the next 35 weeks. If standards drop and students see there is room for flexibility they will keep testing you until the year is out.
- Ask for help if you are struggling. Teachers are awful for saying ‘well they don’t do that with me….’. Honestly, they probably do (but they don’t want to admit it or they haven’t seen it happening)! Try and get past that attitude in a professional dialogue and ask for help when you need it. Teachers are caring professionals and usually want to help you!
- Follow through. This goes hand in hand with consistency and keeping the rules and structures predictable. Students want to feel safe in school and mostly want the adults around them to create that feeling of safety for them. There are exceptions, but not as many as you think. Following through on behaviour consequences is a big part of this, if you say you are going to call home, make sure you do it. Your students will feel safer when they know what to expect.
- Give yourself a break! Teachers are human beings too and are fallible. Things are going to go wrong, mistakes will happen, rules might slip occasionally. The perfect teacher does not exist and you need to give yourself a break because always striving for perfection will negatively impact your wellbeing. Teaching is a career that means learning about and dealing with new people all the time, we are not clones and teaching would be very boring if we were!
For some students, you showing up every day with the same expectations is the only consistency they have in their life. You providing that safety and stability, even though they might reject it sometimes, is always going to be important. So, instead of sitting evaluating your career choices when your class have turned into ‘that class’, recognise the end of the honeymoon period and do what you can to make it easier for yourself.
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