The huge workload of teachers is by far the most frequently cited reason why people quit the profession. But now is the moment to act. As part of a new generation of teachers it is up to you to make the job manageable so that you feel comfortable and want to stay in it.
The legal requirements
An NUT survey revealed that most teachers work more than 50 hours per week, but the statutory conditions of service in England and Wales are as follows:
The number of days a full-time teacher has to be available for work in any school year is 195. The number of days on which full-time teachers may not be required to teach pupils is 190 (ie five days non-contact time).
The number of hours that full-time teachers can be directed to undertake teaching or other professional duties is subject to the absolute limit of 1,265.
Teachers have a contractual entitlement to planning, preparation and assessment time set as a minimum of at least 10% of a teacher’s timetabled teaching time. PPA time must be allocated in blocks of no less than 30 minutes.
Teachers on their induction year have a reduced timetable. This means teaching for no more than 90 per cent of the time that another mainscale teacher would be expected to teach at the same school.
Chart your progress
Consider how you spend your time. Keep a log for a week to find out how much time you spend working at school, at home, on travelling, sleeping, doing chores at home. And how long do you spend on yourself? This will tell you whether you have a good work life balance.
Think about the aspects of your life that make you feel good – socialising, exercise, watching your favourite TV programme, or maybe a long soak in the bath.
But also think about what you are doing too little of. Your sleeping pattern is definitely one factor to keep a close eye on – remember that a noisy classroom can be quite unbearable if you have not had enough proper rest.
Can you cut down on travelling time or can you use your travelling time to your advantage – perhaps for marking, planning, or maybe for some ‘me-time’? Travelling may be the only chance you get to have some time to yourself, especially if you have dependants at home.
Work smarter, not harder
Don’t try to keep things in your head – there’s too much to handle. Use Post-it notes, your diary or a school planner to make lists of what needs to be done. It’s too easy to be vague – what you really need are specific tasks that you can tick off with a sense of achievement. When you get overwhelmed by too many demands, ask someone to help you prioritise. Tell people at school and at home how you are feeling and ask them to help you in any way they can.
Possible areas for cutting down your workload include admin, lesson planning, marking, making resources and worksheets and classroom displays. But how, here are some tips:
- Get your priorities right
- Don’t be overly perfectionist – accept that some things are ‘good enough’
- Avoid stressful people and those who waste your time
- Set realistic targets
- When do you work best? Fit work around energy high and lows. What work can be done in your lows?
- Set boundaries to tasks – of quality, quantity and time
- Build in rewards for yourself
Draw on the wisdom of others
Write an action plan that includes all the ways you intend to save time on tasks and how you can make use of your induction time to your best advantage. Take time to chat to your colleagues about these issues and find out how long they spend on their planning, marking and other aspects of their time management. Try to learn the secret of their success.
Look after number one
Your first priority must be your health and well-being. When you’re busy the easiest thing to do is to forget to look after yourself. We all function better with good nutrition and rest and yet these are the first things we neglect when we’re under pressure.
Don’t over-commit yourself or offer to do extra work to gain favour. If you work without decent breaks your effectiveness will be diminished. Keep an eye on typical sings of stress – problems with sleep, headaches or eczema for example – and never ignore these crucial signs from your body. A tired teacher is rarely an effective teacher so take care of yourself – for your pupils’ sake and for yours.