Teacher burnout seems to be at an all time high, well being is low and expectation pressure is increasing. Teachers leaving the profession is also staggeringly high. Whilst the stats from GOV.UK show a decrease over the past few years, this still works out that 45.5k join the profession yet worryingly 34k leave it. Almost a third of teachers leave the classroom within five years of qualifying (Department for Education).
Now’s the time to take charge and make some changes, regaining the balance between work and life and retaining those teachers who joined the profession with all the right intentions! Here are some of the things I have learnt, over the last thirteen years, to try keep my head above the ‘workload’ water.
- HIGHLIGHTERS! This is my number one tip. When students answer exam questions, before you mark them (and probably write the same feedback multiple times) create a checklist for students to self assess their answers first. Ask your students to highlight where they have met the marks. For example key words, evaluation/analysis or links to the question. This way students identify where they have lost marks (thus a valuable learning process), have the opportunity to redraft or improve and you can focus your marking on the higher level mistakes. For more ways on using highlighters effectively check out Colour Coordination: Highlighting those Skills.
- Organise your emails. Create folders to store important emails such as department/ resources/ students to watch, so that they don’t block up your email box. Delete all that do not need action and keep your main feed just for the emails that need your attention.
- Book plans in advance. As teachers we have the luxury of knowing when our time off will be, so book nights out, coffee meet ups, breaks away in advance so that you do not risk working during these times.
- Students only write part of essays/ exam papers. Rather than students writing a whole essay, instead focus on specific parts such as introductions or first paragraphs. You can spot technical errors early on, without having to mark excessive amounts.
- Priority lists. Normally I have lists for everything but when the workload starts piling up, it is important to go back through your lists to work out what really needs your attention versus what you would just ‘like to do’.
- Use the same resources. Each year I use the same resources because whilst I have done them before the audience in front of me have not. So unless your activity did not work as you had hoped or needs a bit of added ‘sparkle’ do not spend hours planning and creating new resources when your original worked.
- Don’t spend longer making your resources than students completing them. Quite a few years ago I had a conversation with a colleague who said that she spent hours making a resource (some sort of card sort or puzzle) that only took the students a few minutes to complete. I am guilty of this too! Unless you can recycle the activity for future classes design resources that challenge the students more than you.
- FB group support. FB has a wealth of teacher support groups so just search your subject and join the conversation.
- Set times to work/ time off emails/ have lunch – it is so important to establish boundaries and stick to them. Set a cut off point to stop working, make sure you have time off at weekends, avoid reading your emails in the evening and make sure you stop to have a lunchbreak rather than working through.
- Make sure students are working harder than you. When students are completing activities, this is your time to step back. Allow students to work out problems, use their initiative, ask fellow students for ideas and support rather than relying on you as a crutch to complete their work.
Even if you make just one change next year, hopefully it will help 🙂