How to cope with workloads

Getting to grips with the demands of any professional role is a gruelling task but there are techniques that NQTs can learn to manage their workload effectively. Engage , a professional virtual network of NQTs, asked its members to provide some tips:

Start early
As well as providing a calm start to the day, by arriving at school early you will be able to check plans, equipment, and sort out any small issues.

Prioritise tasks

  • Have your own timetable, and write down all the urgent things that you will do during your non-contact time, and make a note of other non-urgent tasks.
  • Avoid planning demanding lessons on busy days, e.g. when you are on break duty.
  • Finish the lesson five minutes early so that children can tidy things away, otherwise you’ll spend break times picking up pencils, paper etc.
  • Organise your paperwork so that you can find things easily.
  • Don’t leave school without sorting out the next day’s lessons.

Get the most out of mentor, colleagues and pupils

  • Make sure you pencil in timetabled meetings with your induction mentor.
  • Team up with colleagues to share the planning tasks
  • Pupils want to be engaged in their learning, so get them involved in the management of their learning space and assessment of each other’s learning.
  • Plan a focused observation of an experienced colleague, and discuss this beforehand you’re your tutor.
  • If you get behind on your marking - and it is very likely you will - talk to your head of department. They will understand that it will take you substantially longer than an experienced teacher to do your marking and will adjust the time accordingly.

Be strict with yourself and colleagues

  • Have a cut off time in the evening and do not work beyond it.
  • Plan your work around social invitations not the other way around. You need a life.
  • Set realistic deadlines for tasks, and learn to say ‘no’ where you have a choice
  • Make a regular non-negotiable time when you answer email and phone calls.
  • Set yourself achievable marking targets, such as six essays or ten books per night and stick to it!
  • Give yourself a time limit. Always have a cut off point when your work will finish. Overwork will not help anyone in the long run.

Source: General Teaching Council

Being prepared and organised at the start of your induction year is vital, says Cynthia Francis, deputy headteacher and induction coordinator at Norbury Manor Business and Enterprise College for Girls, in Norbury, Surrey. Here are her ideas on coping with workloads:

Get organised
It may not be the most riveting read you’ll ever have, but take time to get familiar with the school timetable. Then you can identify any potential problems, such as difficult times of the week, room allocations for class teaching, etc. Plan your schemes of work before the summer holidays if you start your induction in September.

Get to know all staff
Learn first names for everyone you come into contact with, cleaners, support staff and other teaching colleagues. Build a social network of colleagues who you can turn to for advice, a listening ear, support and information.

“On the odd occasion when a lesson hadn’t gone as I anticipated I found it really useful to talk things over with another colleague,” says Anushka Patel, primary school teacher.

Take care of yourself
Teaching is a demanding role and NQTs need to be able to withstand the rigours of the profession. Take planned holidays, eat healthily, get enough sleep, and exercise often. Do something unconnected with teaching that is relaxing and enjoyable each weekend.

Never be afraid to ask for help
Be proactive about problems by asking for help if you need it. Don’t think that this is a sign of weakness; on the contrary, it is a sign of strength and a good way to get the support you need to resolve the problem.

“I was scared of failing my induction,” says Thomas Black, secondary school teacher. “So I didn’t want to show anyone that I was struggling. In the end, things got worse for me because I didn’t seek out support I needed.”

Classroom management
Teaching is nigh on impossible without good class management. Draw up ground rules with the class at the beginning of term, display them, let the children know about repercussions if they don’t follow the rules and, above all, be consistent. Draw up seating plans and pay attention to beginnings and endings of teaching sessions when children can become disordered and unruly.

Reassure yourself that all will be well, after all less than 1% of teachers actually fail their induction. But if it really is getting too much, take a leaf out of newly qualified teacher Lucy Rycroft-Smith’s book. “It’s made all the difference to do my induction on a part-time basis,” she says. “I often think of it as having double the time off because I have fewer lessons to plan, and more time to plan the ones I have left.”

Contact Engage to find out more.

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