Working Smarter; Not Harder.
We are into Term 2 of the school year and it feels like Term 604. I’m already feeling like I need another week off, am tired at the end of every day and am always looking for the sweet tin rather than the fruit bowl. I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon, but what I have been able to change is how I manage some of my jobs. This has really helped to reduce my workload, so I thought I would share what I have done so far. I hope there might be something useful for you!
What is Your Morning Routine?
During Term 1, I tried completing different jobs during my time in the morning before the children arrived. I wanted to build a school routine in the mornings that was worthwhile, as I was finding some mornings were becoming less productive, which meant that I was left with more jobs on my list by the end of the day.
This term, I think I have cracked it. It appears that for me, I mark books much quicker in the morning than I do after school. My morning routine now consists of marking a set of books (or two, depending on the subject and amount of work), tweaking any slides for the day if I didn’t check them the evening before and then any jobs that I have planned for that morning, such as photocopying, sending any emails or tidying my desk!
Use of Lunchtimes
Stop feeling guilty about not marking a set of books at lunchtime. If you feel like doing it, then great. If you need to leave the classroom and have an adult conversation, then do that! For most teachers, lunchtimes are a very important part of the day to complete one or two jobs. I find I can mark a set of books in that time and have part of my lunch break. However, there have been days where I’m just not feeling it. And I am no longer beating myself over that. And neither should you. Us teachers need to look after ourselves just as much as we are expected to look after our class of children. So go and have a longer lunch break. You have earned it!
Reduce Your Marking
Does every piece of work have to be in books? Could the use of drama or debating be used in other subjects? Why not allow the children to use their whiteboard pens directly onto their tables? (Don’t panic – it will clean off easily with anti-bacterial wipes). This term, I have ensured at least one lesson every week is drama based or at least does not require any writing. The children have enjoyed the variety of activities each week and I have found those lessons really useful to observe the children during their discussions for future assessments.
Displays are useful for children to refer to. There used to be a time where I didn’t have time to really think about what was needed on my display, so I would just stick up pictures and vocabulary so that ‘something was up’. (We’ve all been there haven’t we?) This academic year however, I have shifted my perspective on displays and it’s worked wonders for my workload and how my class use them.
For some of my subjects, I write straight onto the backing paper. It’s brave…I know! What if I make a spelling mistake? What if I miss out a number? Actually, it doesn’t matter. Not everything has to be perfect. It shows that you’re human! For maths, I won’t need to back the board again until the next academic year, as I will add things all year round and only update the part of the board that links to the current week’s learning. It’s a working wall after all!
Drawing on the board for the science unit ‘Humans’ was brilliant. We could add to it each lesson and the children enjoyed seeing our ‘human’ (named Geoff…don’t ask!) develop veins, arteries, and organs each week. Just before the October holidays, my TA and I stapled a new layer of backing paper over the top of the science board, ready for the new unit of Electricity. We will of course, re-back the board properly, but unless you looked closely, you could never tell that there’s two layers of paper on the board! This has saved so much time. I’m not spending hours looking up the ‘right wording’ for a display or typing up the key facts needed. The go straight on the board – job done!
At the End of the Day
There are three/four things I always ensure I try to do before I leave at the end of the day.
1.) I write the new date on the whiteboard.
2.) I change the daily timetable.
3.) I tweak any slides for the following day’s lessons.
4.) I photocopy any sheets that children will need for the lessons.
I know many teachers already do this and it does make the world of difference! There’s a satisfying feeling about walking in the following morning to find less jobs to do. And as I’m more productive in the morning, doing certain jobs the day before frees up my mornings for marking and other key things that I need to complete.
What Works for You?
I hope there is something in this blog that might be helpful when it comes to reducing your workload. I think it’s really important to find those tweaks and tricks that work for you. But also, don’t be afraid to try something new when it comes to potentially easing your workload. I have been so surprised by how these 5 things have meant that I am working less at home. It is possible and trust me, I never thought it would be!
My next target in my quest for ‘working smarter; not harder’, is to keep my desk tidy for longer than a couple of days. I am normally a very tidy person and always ensure the children in my class are tidy too but my desk is the one part of the classroom that doesn’t seem to stay tidy. So I know I need to start leading by example. Maybe my next blog post should be able how to keep a teacher’s desk tidy?