Planning With Wellbeing In Mind

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Tom Davidson

Tom is a newly minted NQT, having just finished his first year of the Teach First (love them or hate them) Leadership Development Programme. In a previous life he was a civil servant, contributing to education policy in the Youth Justice System. Since September 2017...
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How do some teachers make planning, teaching and assessing look so easy?

With the mad rush of the first few days and weeks behind us, there is perhaps, the merest hint of a rhythm emerging within your working week. The veterans among us will have already settled back into the familiar ebb and flow of school, but for us newbies (be it a first placement or the beginning of an NQT year) there looms the daunting prospect of how to manage our time effectively.

Between planning, teaching, assessing and managing additional responsibilities, it’s all too easy to begin feeling a familiar knot of worry growing in your chest.

5 Planning Tips For New Teachers

You will have heard it before, but doing all of this at the expense of your personal wellbeing isn’t a recipe for long-term success. As an alternative then, here are five suggestions for how to manage your time over the first half-term. They won’t solve everything but they’re a solid foundation to build from, and will hopefully prevent your social life slipping to the bottom of the pile in favour of marking ‘just one more set of books’.

1 Set professional boundaries

AKA be selfish! It’s almost a cliché that, during term time, teachers refuse to set clear boundaries between their personal and professional lives. Marking at home? Check. Staying late to put the finishing touch on a ‘life-changing’ lesson plan? You got it.

New teachers aren’t the only culprits of sacrificing their personal wellbeing at the altar of student progress, but we are the main culprits. A happy and well-rested teacher is always preferable to the caffeine-fuelled zombie many of us become during the first half-term. So what can you do? Start saying no to additional asks from other staff, make use of the numerous strategies for reducing time spent marking and be strict with yourself with taking work home. Set clear boundaries for when you are done with work and stick to them!

2 Steal with pride

In China, copying something is seen as a sign of respect. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? With this in mind, if one of your colleagues is doing something brilliantly, don’t be ashamed to incorporate their practice into your own work.

If they have a particular lesson format, marking scheme or approach to data reporting that saves time, don’t be afraid to put your own spin on it and make it your own! Bottom line: if it saves you time without compromising the quality of your teaching, do it.

3 Don’t plan in excruciating detail

The old adage of ‘no plan survives first contact with the enemy’ is as true in education as it is anywhere else. Rather than students being the enemy here, the teacher’s perennial foe is the burden of planning, teaching and assessing to a consistently excellent standard.

Although it may be tempting to plan your entire half-term ahead of time, doing this too far in advance can be counterproductive; who knows where different classes will stumble over a new concept, or how whole-school expectations will shift. Instead, try keeping a detailed plan for your next fortnight (lessons, marking, additional commitments) and remain flexible beyond that.

4 Get into set routines

Consistency is key in all things, and teaching is no exception. With a short-term plan in place, aim to be utterly consistent in your approach to work: get in at the same time every morning, leave at (roughly) the same time every evening and tackle routine/regular tasks on a schedule that you could set a watch by. In Germany, a common sentiment is that if you can’t get your work done within working hours, then you’re doing something wrong – a lesson that many of us could stand to consider!

5 Get your students into set routines

Just as we need to get into regular routines, so to do our students. As mentioned in number 4, consistency is the immovable and immutable foundation of good teaching. There are endless resources for good classroom practice here (two from us here and here), but now is the time to set routines that will allow you to teach, rather than manage your students.

Be it classroom entry, class questioning or expectations for behaviour, there should be no ambiguity around what is expected of your students. Ultimately, if your students understand the boundaries, routines and expectations within your classroom, they will be better able (and feel more comfortable) to engage with the learning.

So there you have it, five more suggestions for how to manage your time over the next month or so. Have any other tips or ideas? We’d love to hear them!

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