There is no getting away from it – teaching is hard work and produces a high workload. Whether it’s the actual classroom time, schemes of work, lesson planning or the associated progression document required for each pupil, being a committed teacher means a great deal of work both at school and when at home.
Whilst there’s no magic bullet to solve the amount required to do such as parent evenings or the creation of school reports, there are certainly techniques which can be utilised to make the workload feel less demanding and to improve the work-life balance.
It’s impossible to review and comment on every single piece of work produced by every pupil every single day. The solution is to create a patter of well-spaced out marking with a regular pattern and absolute focus.
Don’t lose control if you get behind with marking and then try to compensate through back marking just so it’s there for a representational indication, move on and get back into the rhythmic pattern which was previously in place.
Whilst there’s a great feeling of a fully embraced task being achieved when a fully reviewed set of books is handed back to a class, there really are times when having to carry this out at midnight really has no value as you can’t have the mental capacity to keep going at this time of day.
Look to give verbal feedback during a lesson and combine with effective written marking; it’s a much more comprehensive system to put in place and you’ll know that each student is receiving quality feedback both written and orally.
The pressures of planning
Teaching overload can often be traced to over-planning and trying to generate too many resources as an individual. A treasure trove of shared resources is a great tool to build up and it means that pupils can easily start work and become engaged in the task without being solely reliant on your own materials.
Teachers often act – or may feel that they act – as isolated operators and this in turn means that a great amount of time can be wasted reinventing the wheel with resources which already exist. There are some great shared resource sites – don’t feel guilty about using them and add to them yourself with the work you’ve created in the past as it will help a fellow teacher.
There are many schools now that have systems in place which enable teachers to create reports when they are home. This can really affect the work-life balance however, particularly when there are multiple sets of reports due at the same time.
The only solution is planning – mark the calendar with when they will be due and plan ahead to give yourself some clear time to concentrate on them. Don’t cut corners with a straight cut and paste but at the same time intelligently utilise statement banks which are available.
If you’re already busy, there’s every chance you’ll feel you seem to attract even more to do. This could be because you’re finding it hard to say ‘no’ and in turn can end up with extra-curricular activities become part of the daily workload or helping with pastoral care. Whilst being involved is rewarding, having too much commitment means that the juggling of plates can only be effective for so long and soon, one will be dropped.
If it’s hard for you to say no, think about comments such as you would love to help, that you’re already really busy with everything else so can’t help this time but thank them for thinking you’re the best person to ask.
A high workload is a part of teaching life, but if you can make the job full of joy through making lessons just as enjoyable for you as the class and do your work in your own way as much as is possible, you’ll feel in control and will be looking forward to each day rather than the ‘cog in the machine’ sensation. If you already feel this way, it’s time for an audit of what is happening before stress overtakes the opportunity to make positive changes.