What is the greatest bugbear for teachers?
We’ve all been there. Whether our students are seven, 17, or 37, there’s something about the end of the weekend that most of us would much prefer to avoid. It’s the marking.
The end of a hard week’s teaching is celebrated on a Friday night. For many teachers, Saturday’s a time for getting jobs done, doing the week’s shopping, perhaps going to a football match or other event, a bit of family time, and then a relaxing night at the end of it all.
Sunday’s a slower start to the day, possibly followed by a long walk with the kids, the dog, or each other if you have someone. Then, in the midst of all this Hobbit-like happiness, as evening awaits, there it is, on the table, in the corner – that gathering shadow of Mordor that is the big pile of books or papers that have to be marked by Monday morning.
Suddenly, it’s time to procrastinate. Look for your pens. Organise the piles. Make a cup of coffee. Check your emails. Read your horoscope. Make another cup of coffee. Start to behave like all the kids in your class when they want to avoid their work. Do anything except confront that dreaded mountain of marking.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve tried everything in the world to avoid that pile of marking. Perhaps reading this blog post is another excuse? Marking is often the last thing teachers think about.
The actual teaching is what teachers live for – being in the moment, having the class spellbound, dealing with the unexpected, seeing the light bulbs turn on. And the planning’s not bad either – imagining what a great lesson might look like, designing adjustments for kids with different backgrounds and levels of understanding, perhaps brainstorming innovative ideas and strategies with a few colleagues.
But the marking! It’s still there. It has to be done.
You can change the colours of your pens. You can develop awesome rubrics. You can create group assignments as well as individual ones. You can do it digitally instead of physically. But in the end, there’s no escaping it. Like death and taxes, marking never goes away. It is very much part of a teacher’s working life. The challenge for all is, given teacher working hours are up for debate, how can it be threaded into our working week?
Here are some ideas and resources to help reduce the burden:
- 13 workload tips for marking
- How to revolutionise your marking
- 8 tips to make marking more manageable
- Marking in red open hinders retrieval
- Marking in aqua coloured-pen: The evidence
- Feedback meetings: The end of marking
- Just Great Marking webinar
- The pros and cons of live marking
- The 5-minute marking plan
- Live feedback in lessons
- Looking inside pupils’ books
- Manageable, meaningful and motivational
- Marking by frequency and coloured pen
- Power from the floor and,
- Verbal feedback research.
If school leaders wish to reduce the workload burden for teaching staff, they must consider the school’s policy and evaluate if it is user-friendly to the teacher who teaches the most students.
Inspired by Professor Andy Hargreaves.