Are you feeling #ThePinch? by @TeacherToolkit

Reading Time: 6 minutes

It’s that time of the year when teachers are tired; tempers are frayed and every minute of the day is precious.

… and with the pressure of appraisal; maintaining good quality teaching and learning in your own classroom; high standards of behaviour and uniform; targets, stipulated by the government upon schools and headteachers; soon you, me and everyone else (even the students!) will be feeling the strain.

In this case, the following list is an endless beast! I could roll out countless expectations; targets and measures for us all to judge: What constitutes progress? What constitutes raising standards? What constitutes sustained and rapid improvement? Am I working hard enough? Are you working hard enough?

(Yes, I bloody am! And the staff / student argument ensues …)

Definition of the pinch:

Pinch

Prior to Easter – in every academic year – and not just 2014, most teachers will be feeling the pinch! What I mean by this, is that you are probably feeling a slight twinge in the back of your neck. A constant sensation in your gut, telling you that you (and possibly others, if you are a line-manager) ‘can still do more’.

Well, ask yourself, is this really true?

I’m sure your timetable is chock-a-block …

sore neck

Tired?

Probably.

Exhausted? I’m not just talking about feeling weary; I’m talking about exhaustion!

Well, occasionally, yes. You will be bloody knackered!

Have no doubts about it. Everyone else will be feeling this too. Even the students who are due to sit their examinations in the summer. They will be feeling the strain at this time of the year. Some may need an early-bath to help re-address their focus.

At this time of the academic year; time is precious. Pressure to get the best out of your students to meet targets; lofty targets set by your appraiser; the school; or targets even set by yourself, play heavily on your mind. Why? Because, this is what education has become over the past 10 years. The ever-reaching goal, to raise standards!

There is nothing wrong with setting our sights high. After-all, (raise your hands) who doesn’t want to raise standards of education?

But, here is a small example of what is going on in my world, over the past few days and weeks:

As a teacher:

  • Lesson planning and resource preparation for my own classes.
  • Coursework catchup. I’m behind on this; but I must catch-up with my GCSE classes as soon as possible! I know, I know. You don’t have to tell me!
  • Marking; marking; marking. All I know is, I need to take my own advice! I want to be a #SmartAss
  • I am conscious that middle leaders and senior leaders are conducting book scrutiny every half-term. I work in 3 departments, so it is equally important that I get to grips with each departmental marking policy. After all, I wrote the whole-school policy! This (marking) is no easy feat! I just need to get on with my marking. It’s an endless slog, but it one of the most benefiting factors for myself (as a teacher) and for all of my students.
  • Revision. Well, it’s started and it’s plodding along. I’m not quite sure if my Year 11s are feeling the heat? I know I am. At the last count, we have 22 school days left before the first public examination. I dread to count up the number of lessons we have left together.
  • Mock exams. For us, they have taken place over the past 2 weeks. Teaching the course; preparing students; setting the examination; preparation behind the scenes; marking and feeding back is all standard protocol.
  • As a teacher, reading emails, double-checking which students are in and out of your class for various intervention; performances in the hall; sporting and educational trips. We also have work-experience this week. Checking who is in and who is not, is a constant task to keep up to date with student-tracking in your own classes. Oh, and we have to get out of school and go visit them. A great opportunity to get out of school during the day; but it’s not just a 30-minute task. No-way!
  • Following up behaviour. Some minor; others requiring a great deal of after-school hours.
  • Completing my own mid-year appraisal reviews for myself; before I meet with the boss.
  • There ‘must’ be something else. In fact, there is… but this blog would go on forever!

As a senior leader:

  • Monitoring the basic fundamentals of lesson planning with 10+ NQTs and Teach First colleagues.
  • Supporting them with their professional development; completing induction requirements to gain QTS.
  • Supporting the two faculties I line-manage, by gathering lists of students falling behind with coursework and escorting them (when and where I can, to coursework catchup).
  • Mapping whole-school CPD action and implementing any unresolved training needs.
  • Signing off invoices. Checking the figures; counting the sums.
  • Planning the next INSET day in 2 weeks.
  • Considering the needs of all our 60 support staff.
  • Updating the school calendar; website; Twitter and Facebook pages.
  • Organising our next @IRIS_Connect training meeting.
  • Continuing with the push on raising standards of teaching and learning; informing staff of recent guidance and planning what our next step may be …
  • Completing book scrutiny for teaching staff (particularly the two faculties I line manage) across the school and scrutinising the data.
  • Our school-shift in marking will be the next blog post I publish… You can read what was reported here in #BookLooks and Mantras: The Ugly Truth
  • Maintaining whole-school records of intervention and revision classes after school; sharing this information with staff; parents and students.
  • We are currently in the midst of our mock exams. Something simple as lining up students; equipment checks; mobile phone collection; checking examination entries and ensuring students are here; and in the right place is a constant monitoring process.
  • The constant onslaught of reading and responding (or not) to emails. 50+ of them everyday! One email may contain a mundane statement; such as “I’ve lost my stapler, please return it” and yet, you must read this information, for fear-of-missing-out. (I’d love to ban meaningless ‘all staff emails!) And another email, may contain confidential information and an enormous safeguarding issue that must be resolved immediately. It’s too much to risk ignoring anything in your inbox!
  • Of course, it goes without saying; that I am responsible for maintaining high standards of behaviour in every classroom across the school and where needed, supporting colleagues in resolving issues where they need it. Again, this is often something that is never planned and should be one of the first areas that is re-addressed each day. Follow up behaviour in all instances.
  • Safeguarding. The vigilance on this matter is always on the radar of any senior teacher. From students left alone in classrooms, to students bringing in home-life issues. Information must be dealt with confidentially and immediately.
  • Staffing issues – attendance; punctuality; behaviour; day-to-day issues with students; curriculum and so forth. These conversations continue throughout the year and are often frayed when the pressure of revision and examinations are upon us. Take time to be sensitive to the needs of colleagues and students (all within context of what is needed to be completed and agreed of course).
  • As the end of the second term draws closer, I need to conduct mid-year appraisal reviews with staff I line-manage. A good healthy discussion is needed here; regarding what support can be provided to alleviate pressure and ensure staff feel they can work to the best of their ability.
  • Oh, and I also continue to guide all staff on what appraisal processes they should be using. A relentless leadership task. Does anyone do this well? I’d love to know.
  • Again, this list is exhaustive and entirely personal.

As a colleague:

  • Taking time to meet with staff. To have conversations about teaching and learning.
  • To have conversations with other staff – not just classroom dialogue – but ensure that ‘you’ are also taking time out of the pinch, to look after your own staff well-being and catch up with staff.
  • It sounds absolutely daft, but I have ordered 150 sausage rolls for staff briefing this Friday morning. Every little helps!
  • Knowing when to spot signs in other colleagues. That ‘frayed look’ on their face. Drooping eyelids; lack of colour in the face and so forth. All tell-tale signs of exhaustion and stress.
  • Feeling low? Share this blogpost.
Photo Credit: Reverend Aviator via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Reverend Aviator via Compfight cc

As a parent:

  • Knowing when enough is enough. Stepping away from the computer at home.
  • Knowing what night of the week, I need to get home early – not just for childcare duties – but time to spend quality time with family.

As a husband:

  • Taking time out for immediate loved ones; family and friends included.
  • Spending that extra minute (or more) of thought; beyond the busy life of school and home, for that one special person in your life. What can you do that breaks the norm and shows someone that you care?

Summary:

There are no solutions here. Just an awareness blog to help you realise, you are not alone. It’s a bloody hard job teaching! I am feeling the pinch. I am knackered (constantly); and I know you are too …

But I love it and so you do you; so let’s do our best to get through the next few weeks and look out for each other! Talk to each other. Share problems with colleagues. Ask for help. Go home early. Do not feel guilty if you need to stay at home. I have to stay home tomorrow!

Am I busy? Yes I bloody am!

Do use the above as a suggestion and not as a definitive list.
Click to respond
Click to respond

@TeacherToolkit

In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account in which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated for '500 Most Influential People in Britain' in The Sunday Times as one of the most influential in the field of education - he remains the only classroom teacher to feature to this day ... Sharing online as @TeacherToolkit, he rebuilt this website (c2008) into what you are now reading, as one of the 'most influential blogs on education in the UK', winning the number one spot at the UK Blog Awards (2018). Today, he is currently a PGCE tutor and is researching 'social media and its influence on education policy' for his EdD at Cambridge University. In 1993, he started teaching and is an experienced school leader working in some of the toughest schools in London. He is also a former Teaching Awards winner for 'Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School, London' (2004) and has written several books on teaching (2013-2018). Read more...

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