One thing that I find is very common amongst hard working teachers is that they find it difficult to have a positive work-life balance. I have spoken to a lot of teachers ready to leave the profession because they cannot switch off. This saddens me because, number one, they are a hard worker, number two, they obviously care about the children, and number three, it doesn’t have to be that way!
One of my strengths is that I do have a good work-life balance and I absolutely love it. Yes they can spill into one another, but overall I am happy in both and I want to share how I do it so that hopefully I can help just a few people to stay in the wonderful world of teaching.
I want to start by saying it wasn’t always this way…
When I first started teaching I carried over the attitude I had whilst on my student placements. I took books home, marked until midnight on a regular basis, I planned on the weekends, I thought about planning whilst driving to and from school, I spoke about my teaching life to everyone that would listen and at first I didn’t even notice. It wasn’t until a very valuable NQT training session, when they asked a fantastic question: ‘How much time do you spend working? Include the time at home you spend on it and thinking time on your journeys’ and I realised I spent 70+ hours a week working. I would arrive at quarter to 8 every day, leave at about ten to 6 (when the caretaker would chuck me out) and ten to 7 on a Thursday, and I would continually work at home… It was a joke. I realised I was being paid about £1 an hour and it dawned on me that this was unsustainable.
I decided from that moment on I would limit my work to 8 until 5:30 only and if I had to take it home, it was obviously too much.
What I did…
When it comes to marking especially, which tasks need immediate feedback? Which tasks need in depth responses? What will make the most impact on your children’s progress?
I began to plan more efficiently, thinking about the fact that if the children were doing a piece of extended writing in English on Wednesday, then the writing piece in History should probably wait until Friday.
I realised that if I saved resources and plans in organised folders, for example, place value rather than week one, I could reuse them the next year.
I realised that marking as I go and giving next steps in the lesson was more effective to the children’s learning and my workload. It enabled a dialogue with the children and an opportunity to see where they can develop and act upon it within a lesson, as well as majorly reducing my marking after school.
I realised that getting to grips with levelling and embedding the criteria within my marking feedback allowed me to easily recognise their levels at the end of each term quickly, as well as helping the children understand their next steps.
During planning I decide on a learning objective and success criteria and then I either print these off or get the children to write them out. Then when marking I use these to mark against. The children can see what they have done well by the tick next to the success criteria and where to develop from the criteria marked with a next step. I also highlight good points in ‘brilliant blue’ and next steps in ‘growing green’. Not only can the child see what was great and what needs to be improved, but after half an hour of marking that piece of work (which it sometimes takes) you can remember what was good and what needs developing, plus it actually looks like you’ve read it – bonus!
Luckily we have a good system called school pupil tracker and I am quite good with computers so I trained myself on how to use it to my benefit. But what I want to pass on is, you should have a system that works out the progress from one term to a next for you, that can instantly show you who is below average and who is above, that can work out your average point scores etc. Gone is the day in which we have to work it out with calculators ourselves and create our own Venn diagrams. Even now our school doesn’t use all the automatic functions of the system that may actually make our lives easier, such as creating pupil lists of under performing children.
As a leader:
Since my NQT year I have taken on different leadership positions and now I manage three subjects and a phase. I think that a big part of managing my time effectively is developing an action plan and sticking to it. Write down the objective you plan to meet in the allocated time out of class, or that evening after school, and use that time to meet it. Keep a record of how you spend your time and evaluate how effective it is. Are you making an impact or are you wasting your time?
Overall, I won’t pretend I don’t research new ideas about implementing the new curriculum and come up with elaborate lesson plans in my spare time. However the difference is, I only look/think/research aspects I am excited about. If I deem it a boring aspect of my job, I will not address it in my personal time.
I hope that this is beneficial to some people and I am sure there are things I have forgotten but if anyone has any questions or queries then just write it down in the comments section and I will try to respond; if you are a person reading a blog on teaching, you obviously should be in teaching and if I can help, I will.