Teaching is full on – everyone knows that. From that first day back, late nights marking, parents’ evenings, to the caffeine fuelled last day of term. Sometimes we all feel overworked, and I suppose that’s normal. We’re very quick to teach our students about the techniques they need to succeed, but do we think about techniques that could help save us time and sanity?
Think about why
Why are you doing that? What is the effect on the students? Is there a way that effect can be achieved in a less intricate way? Does the effect justify the time it will take to achieve? The problem is we all want to do our best for our students – that’s why we do the job we do. But, we can’t do everything – unfortunately there’s only 168 hours a week. Before you redesign that lesson, make that beautiful resource, mark those books for a third time in three weeks – think about why. We teach because we want students to make progress, could they make the same progress in a more effective and efficient way? Your time is your greatest resource – use it carefully.
Develop students’ independence
Developing independence in students is almost as important as teaching the subject itself – they’ll be the ones taking that final exam. Set longer, independent tasks to improve their time management and personal workflow. Not every lesson of course, but completing these tasks teaches more than the task itself. This could also free up time for you to give targeted advice or help those who’ve fallen behind.
When marking an assessment, you’ll always find common mistakes within multiple students’ work. Mark these with numbers or codes (e.g. T1, T2, T3). This will save you time re-writing the same improvements. Then when students are going through their work put these targets up on the board or print a key. Students then write the feedback themselves which encourages engagement and ownership of their targets. This can save hours on marking and allow you to do it just as effectively.
Get to know 2-3 students who you can rely on to tell you whether they’ve understood the lesson or not. This will stop you having to mark the whole set of books each lesson. Just flick through these 3-4 students’ books – if they’ve got it (and you’ve picked them correctly) then the class are on to it.
Use down time
Have a set of books on your desk so that if there’s ten minutes within a lesson that students are working independently you can work through a couple of them. This can mount up to a few hours over the course of a week. Even better, if the students don’t need their books for the task you can mark with them there and call them over for verbal feedback and explanation. This will also mean students who haven’t worked as hard as they could have to justify themselves to you… which they don’t like!
Calendar and pre-plan
If you know something big is coming up, mock exams or a deadline, get all the other marking and admin tasks out the way before. Even if this means doing some assessments before the ideal time – that’s preferable than the unbearable marking pile when things align.
Respect your time
You deserve to have a life outside work. Put social engagements into your calendar and stick to them regardless of what comes up at work. There will be busy weeks when you know you’ll be working more of course, but when it’s quieter – use that. Remember that having an overworked and stressed out teacher will have a much bigger impact on student’s learning than having all their assessments back within a week.