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Managing Your Time!

I thought I would jump in on the #wednesdaywisdom for the final one of September!

I began teaching in 2004 as a Business and ICT teacher.  In 2006 I took on my first subject lead role and was the subject lead for ICT.  In 2011, I then became a Head of Department for Computer Science and since 2019 I have been the Head of Faculty for Business, Computing, and Media Studies.  

I am a Member of the Chartered College of Teachers, I have completed my NPQSL and my MA, and I am passionate about teaching & learning.  I also believe in research-based practice and wherever possible, like to read around a topic to ensure that I have the research evidence to back up what I am saying. 

Alongside these roles, I have had many secondments to SLT.  I have been a lead member of a Teaching & Learning Team, I have led SMSC and Pupil Premium.  At present, I am the ITT professional tutor & training co-ordinator and NQT mentor and training co-ordinator. I am dedicated to ensuring both trainees and NQTs get the best possible experience during their training and induction and hope to share some helpful tips and advice through this site.

Let's talk about time-management! Let's face it, teaching is NOT a 9-5 job... many of us accidentally end up working 70+ hours per week. We focus so much on everyone else - our students, their parents/carers - that we forget about ourselves. This can ultimately lead to burnout (read my post on that here) and this is not a good thing. I am a self-confessed workaholic, I LIVE TO WORK. If I can't go to work and do my job, I feel very uncomfortable and restless. On the outside, I sometimes look like the worst person to look up to as a role model - I appear to be always working. That being said, I do make a conscious effort to take time out from work and take time for me... even if that's just sat by myself listening to the radio. I also make a conscious effort to make time for my family... my husband and my preschool daughter. Family time is so vital and also helps to boost those all-important reserves.

So - how do you manage your time effectively as a trainee, as an NQT, and as a teacher in general? How do you balance your teacher-life with your actual life?

Tip Number 1: WRITE LISTS

I live for a to-do list! If it's not on my list, it's not getting done - it's as simple as that! I am quite particular about my lists... I will write out a rough list, and then from that list, rewrite it in order of urgency. What needs doing first? I then tend to colour code it - pink for urgent, yellow for due soon and green for "you've got time". I will start on a Sunday afternoon by writing out my to-do list for the week. These are jobs outside of my teaching commitments that need to be done. I cross things off when they're done too... this gives me an enormous sense of satisfaction to know that I've finished something. I aim to have a clear list by Friday. Anything that is left goes on the next week's list of jobs - it is not for the weekend.

Tip Number 2: Organise the day by priorities

Teacher time management must start with setting priorities and organising the day around the most important tasks. Setting priorities can help keep you on track throughout the day, even when the unexpected occurs and the workload can seem overwhelming. Effective prioritising is about arranging workload based on both the importance of the tasks as well the resulting impact of the completed tasks.

Tip Number 3: Plan your PPA

Sounds weird to plan your PPA but as a trainee or NQT, your PPA time is PROTECTED! That's what the first P is for! Write out what you can realistically achieve in each PPA and then DO those things. Whether it be to give feedback to a class or go out and observe other colleagues, planning your next lessons or getting your photocopying done - plan it, then DO IT. Try not to deviate from your plan

Tip Number 4: Say "No"

Saying "no" to someone is not a bad thing to do... when you do it right. Rather than a flat out "no", change it to "I can't right now, but I can meet with you at X o'clock to discuss". Offer an alternative time to look at a task that's being thrown your way. It will help you to keep yourself organised. If you're anything like me, having to change what I have planned in the day really puts me all out of sorts! I don't like uncertainty and last-minute plan changes, so try to negotiate when you can speak to that person about this additional task you're being asked to do.

Tip Number 5: Strategically Plan Assessed Work

Both teachers and students may find that assignments that require repetitive practice is better suited for the home environment. Although in-class practice helps when framing and structuring problems, repetitive practice during class may not be the best use of time. Assignments that simply ask students to complete a set number of problems for practice unnecessarily consume valuable class time. Find work that self-assesses, make use of quiz platforms such as Educake, Seneca, Yacapaca, or a self-marking google quiz on Google Classroom! (If you know of any other good examples, please leave them in the comments - sharing is caring!)

Tip Number 6: Plan your marking

Work out when you're asking for assignments/assessed work in... make sure that you've not got all of your Year 10 coursework in on the same day! Plan which day of the week you will mark each year group of work... this will help you to plan out when to ask students to submit too.

Tip Number 7: Be smart about lesson planning - don't reinvent the wheel

A lot of the teachers I meet complain about the amount of time they spend planning their lessons. While it’s good to plan your lessons, spending hours upon hours planning a 30-minute lesson, and then doing that day after day can really sap the life out of any teacher. The fancy PowerPoint presentation that took you three hours to make might be really impressive and that Cluedo-esque card game that took you two hours to create and another hour to print, cut and laminate might be great fun, but how much learning is really taking place as a result of those activities? Ultimately, our students are in class to learn and although it may be difficult to actually measure learning, it is nevertheless important that we consider the time-to-learning ratio: is the time we put into preparing an activity actually going to result in learning that is worthy of that input? Would an impressive PowerPoint actually result in more learning than if that lesson were to be delivered on the whiteboard?

While I will not hesitate to applaud the creativity and originality of creating the Cluedo-esque card game, for the overwhelmed teacher, those two hours might be better spent elsewhere. USE THE INTERNET! There are plenty of lesson materials freely available online for the busy teacher to print out and use, so keep an eye on relevant Facebook groups and Twitter accounts that regularly post links to downloadable teaching materials. Bookmark useful websites and keep an organised folder of printouts/handouts that you’ve used so that you can re-use them again in the future.

Tip Number 8: Eliminate time-wasters

What do you waste time on each day? Is it browsing on eBay for things you don’t need? Is it checking Facebook updates, looking at Instagram photos, or watching cute YouTube videos of cats? Or is it getting involved in unproductive chats and email chains that cause nothing but frustration? Do you find yourself splitting your attention between trying to watch something on television and playing a game on your phone, and then feeling deeply unsettled by the stress levels caused by dissatisfying multi-tasking? It’s important to (a) know what it is you’re wasting your time on each time. Remember that if you’re truly getting rest and relaxation from doing that activity, then it isn’t a time-waster and can be categorized as having ‘me-time’. However, if the activity isn’t really relaxing you, then it’s time to cut it out of your day. Then, (b) proceed to set certain rules that will help you eliminate these distractions. For instance, decide that you will remain off-line when you are marking. Or have a no-multi-tasking rule when you’re meant to be relaxing.

Tip Number 9: Route Plan

It might sound a bit strange but... any tasks that involve leaving your usual workspace should be grouped together and done in one go. Off to reprographics to drop off/collect photocopying? Do that in bulk. Work out who you need to see, where they are in the school, and work out the most efficient route around to get the "jobs" done in the most time-efficient way. If you've got a lot on your to-do list, avoid those distracting areas such as the staffroom where you are liable to get caught up in procrastination or less time-efficient behaviours!

Tip Number 10: Allocate time for yourself

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Allow yourself time to relax, time to exercise, and time to sleep. Keep a check on your work-life balance and engage in activities that nourish your body, your mind, and your soul. And remember that a happy teacher will inspire happy students.

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