Hopefully you have not spent your summer working and enjoyed the r and r of the summer holidays but, when the new year in September arrives, it can bring us crashing back from our holidays with a start. There are lessons to plan, seating plans to do and potentially even SOW to write, and that’s before the marking piles up! Here are 5 ideas to help you cruise into September:
- Is there a lesson which can be used with multiple classes and year groups? A Geography or Science in the news set of lessons? Creative writing from your holidays? Calculating how many miles the class has travelled on their holidays (has the class collectively travelled around the world?) Sharing new languages learnt? Recipes from students travels? etc etc. If there is something, a lesson(s) which can be re-used with different classes or year groups could really reduce the pressure those first few days.
- Avoid giving new books out or getting students to do lots of extended writing in their books (which may require written/ individual feedback). We start year 7 with a 6 lesson SOW where they work on flip chart paper in groups.
- Seating plans can be quite time consuming, with lots of thinking time looking at data, student groups, identifying key characters, colour coding, etc and there is often the desire to get the students organised perfectly in their seats from day one. However, especially if you do not know the class, starting the year with a more randomised seating plan is fine. Try register order, by age, or first name for the first few lessons while you get to grips with working out who you want where and the needs of the students.
- If SOW need planning I really can not advocate the benefits of joint planning enough. More thoughts here. Also, if your team uses Powerpoints or something similar to teach with and still has detailed word SOW I would really consider if you need both. We have moved away from word processed, lesson by lesson, activity by activity SOW and moved to a medium term overview (at KS3 this is one A3 page which identifies the main aims of each of our topics, and at KS4 we just use knowledge organisers/ topic checklists which we give to the students) which identify the main points to be covered in the lessons and then just share our PowerPoints for each lesson- significantly reduced workload.
- Get into a routine:
- Spend 10 minutes going through the school calendar and identifying when parents evening, open evenings, and reports are due.
- Decide which evening you are going home early and not doing any work.
- Have your green pen in your hand ever lesson to reduce marking load.
- Write to do lists (and stick to them!)
@teachingcharlie has posed a series of questions to his twitter followers. One of which caught my eye when he asked the question; “if you could offer a piece of advice on how to reduce your workload, what would it be?”
What followed was some fantastic advice from a range of tweachers which showcased how brilliant twitter teacher networks can be. Below is a summary of that advice collated into common themes. A huge thank you to everyone that continues to share, network and advise- without you twitter would be very different!
Evaluate and Prioritise
Lots of the advice focused on deciding what to spend your time on. @Rosieprimrose tweeted “look at things that are taking up most of your time- what is the impact on the pupils and their learning in whatever form it might take? If you are taking up time with jobs that don’t have any impact then change them or ditch them! (That includes laminating displays).” @MsFordEnglish and @robin2reader stressed the importance of making decisions which are child focused and do tasks which are only going to make a difference. @Cherrylkid advised us to prioritise and re-prioritise regularly as often the agenda changes and @ChrsinteCouser encouraged teachers to check that the priorities are in line with the department and schools. There was also a stress on realising that teaching is a profession where you have to “understand that you will never get everything done. Forgive yourself in advance for not doing it all” (@inarcadiaego)
Routines and lifestyle
For many establishing effective routines and time management seems to be the key to balancing teacher workload. Top tips included:
- Start every day by taking a few minutes to write a list (@FloraBarton).
- Chunk up tasks (@flynnjon).
- Set a time limit on tasks (@e_greenacre, @CarlaGotcha81, & @080Belle).
- Set a time to go home (@Mr_R_Ferdy).
- Don’t link your work emails to your phone. Even if you don’t act on them they are a constant reminder (@jw_teach).
- Set up email folders to file emails, and if possive use inboc “rules” to help (@Skippity_doo, @mrsartytextiles).
- Follow #teacher5aday (@FloraBarton).
- Keep energy up through exercise and focus on YOUR health (@pickleholic and @bridportshakesp).
One of the major themes of advice from @zygote23, @Bigkid4, @KristianStill, @MrLeMasurier, @Dukeyjk, and @MrsSingleton referred to getting the confidence to say “no”. When asked to do something you don’t want to (or don’t have to) do, either politely explain why you are unable to do it. It is a very hard skill to master (and I think even harder for us teachers!) @Bigkid4 suggests trying to master saying no without actually saying the word ‘no’. Instead use phrases like “I’ll try to find time for that” or “I might get round to it”.
Marking and feedback.
Not surprisingly lots of the advice focused on marking and feedback. Top tips included:
- Mark during lessons. For example during a written task move round room with highlighter & identify problem e.g. homophones. Then teach skill from the front (@carole_XLIX, @FranNantongwe).
- Mark soecific key tasks and have a clear focus as to why you are marking it (@Beanylass).
- Establish effective self and peer marking (@pickleholic).
- Focus on feedback rather than marking (@ EnserMark). for more info see his blog https://teachreal.wordpress.com/2016/12/06/feedback-beyond-marking/
- Use checklists- get students to “find me an example of….” to help proof read work (@_sarahmc_).
- If you’re lucky to have 1-1 tech devices then Go Formative is great for immediate feedback (@sarahb292).
- Use verbal feedback (@simonpatchett1, @sarahb292).
This blog isn’t designed for telling people how to manage their workload but instead is a place to share ideas which reduce workload… however.. due to twitter I am constantly seeing people tweet about all the work they have to do other the holidays, the piles of books they have taken home, the SOW to plan etc and I believe this is not healthy, efficient or beneficial and creates a culture and pressure for teachers to use their holidays to work. This article by the guardian talks about the need to not work during the holidays to reduce burnout. I fully agree with it.
Someone once said to me that teaching is like having multiple tabs open on your internet browser. It is a never ending to do list and epitomises the idea of spinning plates. We are never done! There is always more to do, lessons to plan, SOW to tweak, books to mark, resources to make, reading to do. I believe, the more we come to terms with this the easier it is to say NO, I won’t do that in the holidays. So here is my top tips to reduce (and ideally not work) in the holidays:
- Ask yourself- what happens if this task isn’t done until you return to school. If the answer is nothing- DO NOT DO IT!
- Remember that there is always something on the to do list, and while twitter and other colleagues may increase the pressure to come back to school with sparkling new resources and lessons, remember that you have probably survived without it before and you will again.
- Take a break from social media, it really can at times make you feel like you need to work.
- If you use your holidays to catch up with marking- again refer to point 1 or if they really have been neglected try a one page feedback sheet.
- If there really are things that must be achieved for the first day back- write a very small to do list (no more than 3 things) and set one day to do it, therefore you have multiple days where you do nothing work related!
Enjoy your holidays- you deserve them!