An open letter to teachers. You’re in for a tough ride; be smart.

As back to school time looms, teachers everywhere will be dusting off their planners and stocking up on new stationary.

Some will be thoroughly excited to get back to the classroom; some simply out of boredom – six weeks is a long time. Some genuinely raring to set up their new displays, make use of their newly purchased stationary and to start the new academic year with a bang.

Others tread in fear. Fear in keeping up with the wealth of changes; the admin, the cuts, the stress and anxiety. As an ex-teacher, it’s disheartening to admit that the latter is evermore true. Teachers and the education system are at breaking point. I’m sorry to admit to any NQTs, that you’re possibly in for a rough ride. With statistics showing that teachers are leaving the profession within five years of training, it’s time to be smart and set yourself up not only to survive but to thrive.

Be smart. Start as you mean to go on, with a healthy, realistic mindset.

You cannot be a perfectionist.


What jobs must be done? The others can wait. Accept the fact that you cannot do it all – you’re only human.

Take a break.

Suffering from burnout is a real possibility. Don’t ever feel guilty about giving yourself an evening or a weekend off. Students need teachers who are healthy and well.

Mark effectively.
  • Simple but useful. Have a pen on you at all times, marking as and when students ask you to look at their work.
  • When giving written feedback, use a key for common areas of improvement. Share the key with students, and they write it in. This way you’ll know they’ve read your feedback too!
  • Self and peer assessment counts as marking – just make sure the students have useful criteria.
  • Set yourself realistic expectations. You cannot mark a whole set of books in one evening. Take a portion and simply ask for unmarked books back in the next lesson – the students will understand!
  • You have two weeks to hand back assessments, NOT including the holidays!
‘Good’ is good.

No one is suggesting you shouldn’t aim for ‘outstanding’. But ‘good’ IS good. Outstanding is the stuff dreams are made of, but hard to maintain. You know if you do a good job for your students on a day-to-day basis.

Share best practice.

Develop a culture of sharing in your department. If you’ve taught a good lesson, share it and hopefully others will reciprocate. Encourage it in department meetings. Split planning between the department – share the workload and ease the pressure.

Why am I sharing this with you all? Because I was your typical enthusiastic NQT, and quite rightly so, I strove to do the impossible. I tried to be a perfectionist, with everything. The result, I burnt out and I left teaching. I am incredibly lucky to be in a position where I still work with, train and mentor teachers. I want others to set off on the right foot from September so that they feel they can stay in the profession, to continue to inspire pupils and make the difference we always set out to.

Be smart. Start as you mean to go on, with a healthy, realistic mindset.


T: 01277 245840


Jemma, is our Resource and Development leader here at Athona and is also a qualified teacher. During Jemma’s teaching career, she held the responsibility of Teaching and Learning Leader for key stage 3 English and was a mentor to a number of trainee teachers. Jemma spends her time regularly writing topical and latest industry blog posts and is the main point of contact for our international candidates. More recently, Jemma has been coordinating the training we provide to our teachers and schools.