Striving for a Work Life Balance? (Time Saving Tips)

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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’.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. FB group support. FB has a wealth of teacher support groups so just search your subject and join the conversation.
  9. 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.
  10. 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 🙂

Evolution of Padlet

When I first started using Padlet as a social distancing strategy in the classroom, I posted about the benefits of using it for group work (see Social Distance Group Work: Padlet). Since then it has transformed my online remote teaching and enhanced my students learning.

I thought I would do a quick recording on how to use padlet and the different facilities it offers.

I use Padlet for:

Discussion Questions:

Sharing lines of argument:

Image board to comment on:

Sharing revision posters:

Research activities:

What I would like to try:

1. Assessment: students post introductions for feedback, post part of an essay for students to comment on (peer assessment). ​

2. Homework task i.e. watch this video add your thoughts​

3. Try the different boards available (only tried Wall so far).

If you have used Padlet in any other ways please comment and share.

Colour Coordination: Highlighting those Skills

BossI am obsessed with highlighters! I never use to be, I could teach a whole lesson without the words ‘grab a highlighter’ but now this is not the case. Why? Because they are the best thing to help students focus on the task at hand. Now as many of you know I am a huge Inner Drive and Bradley Busch fan and find their research into metacognition extremely interesting OIP (1)(see The Science of Learning if you would like to know more).  However they do not advocate the use of highlighting as part of effective learning. I wish to disagree. Here are some ways that using highlighters can be very effective for learning:

Assessment strategy:


  • Students highlight the key words from the question in their answer. This will guarantee they have focused specifically on the words in the question and have adapted their essay answer to what the examiners have asked. An excellent or top mark essay will use the words in the question throughout an answer. Note: whilst students might think they have answered the question, only by highlighting the key words will they know for sure.
  • Give an essay and remove the question. Can students work out the question by highlighting the key words that are used throughout?
  • Highlight A01 and A02 in different colours.
  • Students use the examiner’s mark scheme to self assess their own essays by highlighting the relevant criteria that applies to their work.(See Improve Your Essays Using Mark Schemes for further help).78637489_2556535761294327_7496363354965934080_o


  • Using  general or whole class feedback given by the teacher, highlight your essay/ work where the comments apply to your answer. Then make the relevant changes.
  • Rather than writing the same thing throughout when marking a piece of work/ essay use highlights to draw attention to different things e.g. spelling in one colour, misunderstandings in another.


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Social Distance Group Work: Padlet

Teaching Criminology has introduced me to a different exam board, assessment strategies and content. For the first time ever I also have a lesson a week in a computer room! Yes, that special room that only a few subjects get to experience, that is always booked out and unavailable, I now have every week. So never one to just do the ‘sit down and research’ task, I decided to pilot a new teaching strategy in my first computer room lesson. Padlet. Padlet is an online resource where students can create interactive notice boards of information. What better for socially distanced group work?  

After 20 minutes of chaos trying to set up the padlets and send the links to the relevant groups of students, we finally settled into a research routine. The results were fantastic! Every group (there were five in total) were able to work together to create an interactive board with links, photos, videos, write ups, articles, research all that represented the topic area assigned to them such as Hate Crime or Domestic Abuse. The boards are immediately updated so everyone in the group can see what is being added in real time. The finished boards were then exported into PDF and shared with the classes to keep in their folders.  

So how do you use it? First of all sign up for Padlet or access through Microsoft (if you use Teams through your school/college you will get immediate access). To set the boards up, go to ‘make’ and then ‘wall’, from here you can go to the top right hand corner with the settings symbol and alter the background and enable name visibility, authorising comments, allowing students to comment on each other’s posts etc. Then share the link with the students and they can start adding materials to it by pressing the plus sign in the pink circle in the bottom right hand corner. Once completed export the documents into PDF and save them. The bonus of using Padlet is that all the hyperlinks to articles etc. that were on the original board, still work on the PDF worksheet. So it really becomes an invaluable resource for future work and revision.  

I highly recommend it! It would also work really well remotely, so could be a group activity that students complete from home.  

Teaching and Learning Reflections 2019-2020

Who would ever have expected last year to turn out the way it did! As we commence into the unknown of teaching amidst Covid precautions, I reflect on what went well, changes made and the lessons learnt.

Last year I aimed to try three new things: Consolidation Packs, half termly quizzes and folders. Two out of three of these were a success – well for the first half of the year they were.

Firstly the Consolidation Packs, a booklet organised with a Blank Sheet Summary and Essay Question for each topic. Each week my students routinely had a Consolidation lesson on the previous week’s topic, allowing them to forget and then re-learn the topic. Every consolidation lesson followed the same structure: revise for ten minutes, from memory write down everything can remember on a blank sheet, using notes fill in any gaps, test then essay writing.  This routine emphasized more testing over revising, key to memory training (see The Science of Learning for more information on memory and recall).

I asked my students what they thought and there were mixed responses, mainly positive but a few, as expected, were not as keen. Some comments included: “I thought they were really helpful, gave time to ask questions and clarify any missing areas from the topics” and “The KKT’s and blank sheet summaries were very useful because they forced me to revise the topics as we completed them” and “The exam questions with a guide for structure were extremely helpful.” For more information on the Consolidation Packs see: Revision Must-Do: Blank Sheet Summary

Secondly the half termly quizzes, whilst only doing three, seemed to work really well. The aim was to test the students on their key words. So after October half term I created a table of all the key philosophical words encountered thus far e.g. A Priori and the students had to write the definition for each word. After Christmas they got the same list of words with new ones added. After February they got the previous two tests with all the further new words added. This is a retrieval strategy, once again designed to train their memory, moving the words from short to long term recall. 

Lastly the folders never happened due to budgeting, however generally my students maintain very organised folders to support their revision. 

Last year also had a few firsts for me. These included: 

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Fountain of Knowledge: MOOCs free online courses

I have been fortunate that lockdown has enabled me to explore those things on my ‘to do list’ that I never quite get chance to do. This includes reading pedagogical books, watching educational live streams (see ResearchED ) and signing up to my first MOOCS (a free online course database).

After enjoying browsing through the vast amount of courses available, in what seems like endless subject areas from institutions all over the world, I decided to choose: Testing Times in the Classroom: Challenges of 21st Century Education, provided by the University of Exeter through Future Learn. This seemed like a good choice in the current climate, I wanted to explore the pedagogy surrounding current education but also hear the thoughts and views of teachers and educators across the world during the crisis. I am currently only in my second week but so far it has lived up to everything I had wanted.

Each course works differently but this is a four week course, which releases tasks, articles, interesting questions to consider, polls and discussion forums each week. There are a number of activities that are easy to work through, manageable, engaging and you can easily stop and start according to busy schedules. It outlines a requirement of four hours each week, however this could go up or down depending on your level of commitment to the discussions, reading and adding to the comments as you go. It also doesn’t matter if you fall a little behind as you can still access the previous week’s activities.

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