10 Tips for Reducing Teacher Workload
Between lesson planning, marking and assessment, writing reports and all of the other tasks that being a primary teacher encompasses, balancing workload can be a daunting task before we even to take into account time spent teaching in the classroom.
But to ensure that we don’t get stressed out and worn-down by the sheer mountain of work, we need to make sure that we achieve a good work life balance; “it comes down to being efficient with the time you devote to your teaching and making sure you have plenty going on away from work” says Tom Sherrington in The Guardian.
Whilst we all know how to manage our time, sometimes we slip into bad habits or feel completely overwhelmed by our teacher workload, especially in the final term when all of our new school year resolutions seem like a distant memory. So here is a quick run-through of 10 key areas to look at if you’re struggling to fit everything in.
1. Don’t Over-Plan
We all know the temptation to plan every minute of our lessons, including detailed presentations, over-using IT, searching for a multitude of resources and creating activities for all eventualities.
Sherrington says; “It’s really important to build up a bank of readily available shared resources and to develop an agile approach to teaching that enables you to get students working and engaged without relying too heavily on you and your materials […] Collaborate more and keep the planning light-touch.” For a great way to be more efficient and effective, check out Teacher Toolkit’s 5 Minute Lesson Plan.
2. Streamline Your Marking
It might feel great to hand out a freshly marked set of books to your class, but if you’re having to work late into the evening to do it, it may not be worth it. According to TES “A good marking policy ensures that teachers don’t mark everything and should stress the value of effective strategies, like peer- and self-assessment, that can reduce workload and improve learning.” If you’re giving plenty of verbal feedback in class, minutely detailed written marking isn’t required. Read our blog post on how to beat the burden of marking here.
3. Focus on Self and Peer Assessment
By sharing the success criteria for every lesson with your class you can effectively give them the tools that they need to self- or peer-assess their classwork. It empowers pupils to judge and take ownership of their own work, whilst simultaneously reducing your teacher workload. Teacher Toolkit agrees; “Verbal feedback and self-assessment is just as useful if it is meaningful and adds value to the student and learning process”.
4. Create a Routine
Firstly, make sure that your work space is clear of anything that you will not require when doing paperwork. This reduces the possibility of distractions and ensures that you will be able to find the things you do need easily.
Have set times during your working day to complete paperwork and stick to these periods. You may decide to deal with any emails first thing in the morning then leave them for the rest of the day unless you do have any free time. Once you have decided this, do not get distracted by emails during your paperwork time. If you do have any non-contact time during your school day, use it wisely and get ahead or catch-up with preparation, lesson planning and marking.
5. Plan Ahead and Prioritise
When prioritising your work, the most crucial things to consider are deadlines, importance and whether anyone else is relying on you to complete the task. Try putting your tasks into high, medium and low priority categories, then within these categories sort in order of deadline. Don’t just think about that day’s tasks, plan ahead by looking at prioritising your workload for the day, week and term.
6. Don’t Over-Commit
As committed and passionate teachers we often take on more than we can manage including extra-curricular activities and responsibilities at school. As much as we would like to take on every exciting project that comes our way, if we take on too much we risk not doing anything to our full potential. The trick is to know your limits, and if you already have enough work to fill your days, just politely say no.
7. Enjoy Teaching
Don’t let marking and paperwork burdens take over your teaching and make your days never-ending drudge. By making your teaching time enjoyable for yourself, you are more likely to inspire enthusiasm in your pupils. So, share the stories you want to tell your class, do the activities that you enjoy and teach the fun stuff alongside routine classroom tasks.
8. Take a Break
Try to use your break and lunch times for what they are supposed to be used for! We all need a break, a quick refresher away from the classroom can do us a world of good for the following lesson. Talk to other teachers during your breaks, share ideas, ask for opinions on things that have occurred in your classroom or just have a quick chat about last night’s episode of Love Island! Lunch breaks are even more important; “When we haven’t eaten, we’re less effective and more likely to make poor decisions than those who have a break and some healthy food”.
9. Have Fun and Get Lots of Sleep
Activities and interests outside of school are so important for our mental health, allowing us to switch off from the trials of the day and focus on something completely different. And of course, a healthier mind is a more effective mind, meaning you can make the most of the time you set aside for planning, assessment and paperwork.
Similarly, getting a good night’s sleep is equally important for resting and refreshing our brains. So, fight the temptation to stay up late to finish your marking pile – you’ll be much more productive the morning after if you do. Read our blog on how to get a good night’s sleep here.
10. Be Your Own Boss
To a certain extent, marking rules and teacher workload are set by the school’s policies. However, we do have a good amount of autonomy over our own time-management. So use your time wisely, be strict with yourself and don’t forget to give yourself a break!
We’d love to hear your thoughts on the issues surrounding teacher workload. What tips do you have for reducing or streamlining teacher workload? Has your workload increased due to the marking culture at your school? What more do you think the government could do to help? Let us know in the comments section below.
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