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Time to reflect? 5 things to ask yourself at year end

By Paul Matthias, National Director of Hays Education


You’ve been visualising this day repeatedly in your head - that final day of term before the summer holidays. Last bell, books down and walking out of the school gates…

Before you can truly luxuriate in that holiday feeling make sure that you have taken some time to reflect on everything you have achieved this year and determine what you would like to accomplish going forward. Get the next academic year off to the best start rather than promising yourself that you will give this some thought in your holidays – let’s face it, that won’t happen and why should it? Do it now.

Here are five fundamental questions you should ask yourself no matter who you are, what teaching style you have, what your experience is or what you teach.

1. What have you achieved?

Starting with the positives from this academic year, identify what you have achieved and what you are proud of. This will help you recognise your strengths and will in turn highlight what you believe to be your weaker areas. Focus on how you have:

  • Helped pupils with different abilities and educational needs to progress
  • Overcome problematic pupil behaviour
  • Successfully actioned feedback
  • Helped colleagues
  • Contributed to your team’s successes

2. What could you improve?

A dangerous question I know, what teacher doesn’t leave a classroom thinking what could have been done better or whether they could have dealt with something differently? But this is a good thing. Being a ‘reflective practitioner’ is essential to progress professionally and it really is useful to consider what didn’t go so well. Think about what tangible things you can change or test; even small adjustments can make a huge difference. Don’t forget your peer group should be used as a sounding board and idea sharing can lead to your own development.

3. How are your relationships?

You know the one, ‘Billy’ has been playing up (again) and you need to speak to mum, you grab five minutes after school but it’s answer phone, by the time you have done a million other things you remember half way home you haven’t spoken to her and there he is, the following morning, all bright-eyed and bushy tailed knowing he got away with it again…

This is something I hear from many teachers when it comes to their relationship challenges with pupils, parents and colleagues. They often surmise that putting things off (or indeed having the time to deal with these issues) comes at a cost, mostly to themselves, when things don’t change or become worse.

Although time consuming, and often challenging, building good relationships is crucial to anyone working in education. To communicate successfully, it’s vital for teachers to maintain healthy relationships with colleagues, students and their parents. If you can effectively and regularly communicate to all groups, you will feel more prepared for all situations. Upon reflection, it may well be that you feel that prioritising your relationship building is an aspect you want to focus on next year.

4. Do you have a good work-life balance?

A controversial question and for a good reason, after all, what one person considers acceptable another does not. We are all different and have varying parameters of what we consider a good balance. But teaching is an occupation that can become all-consuming if you let it. Remember, you are no good to anyone unless you take care of yourself.

Don’t take on too much and ensure that when you do agree to take on something new that you have the support or guidance you need. It’s impossible to be a successful teacher, mentor and friend along with all the other roles you take on in your school if you do not put your own mental health and wellbeing first. A more harmonious balance will ensure you are more successful in your career.

5. Are you happy?

Perhaps one of the most overlooked questions not just in education but possibly life. As an educator this can be particularly difficult to answer due to many determining factors, so here are some important things to focus on:

  • The school: are you supported by SLT? Do they promote from within?
  • Location: is it time for a change and would you like to relocate?
  • Mental health and wellbeing: do you like who you work with?
  • Level of responsibility: are you struggling or would you like the chance to progress?


Analyse your current situation carefully, is it still right for you? Either way, identifying what you would like to achieve going forward and how you would like to progress will give you a benchmark for this time next year and keep you developing and progressing no matter what career path in teaching you take.

If you are looking for a new challenge or want to discuss your current or future recruitment needs, please contact your local Hays Education recruitment consultant.

About this author

Paul has been with Hays since 1999 and the National Director of Hays Education since 2007. He is responsible for leading experts from 40 offices across the UK who specialise in recruiting for Early Years, Primary, Secondary, SEN, Further Education and Leadership staff on a daily supply, long term supply or permanent basis. His extensive experience is invaluable to ensuring schools, colleges, nurseries, academies and MATs have access to the best possible candidates.

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