Tales from new teachers

Perfectionist planning

The problem

It was my second week as a school-based trainee teacher. The workload was already snowballing and I was anticipating a full-blown avalanche later in the term.

I was, however, excited to have been given the opportunity to teach a small class from Day 1. But the class would be tricky, requiring tailored lesson plans. There was to be no pilfering of existing presentations or ransacking worksheet banks. I had to start from scratch.

I was soon exhausted, having spent hours planning the first lesson. Bogged down in a quagmire of internet-based resources, textbooks and swirling graphics, I felt that I couldn't do any more but would never do enough. Perfecting the plan had taken a terrifyingly long time.

Consequently, my panic over time management had grown, and I knew I needed to nip this in the bud before my workload skyrocketed.

The options

My husband, laid-back as ever, suggested simply removing my hands from the keyboard at a fixed time each night and watching an episode of Game of Thrones. Not ideal.

Another trainee reminded me not to worry about getting the content 100 per cent perfect; after all, lessons often go off-piste. Sage advice, but my second lesson was on the Tuesday and I had a wedding in the diary for that weekend. I could easily have devoted countless hours to achieving 90 per cent perfection. But, alas, I wasn't going to be able to spend Saturday and Sunday in an epic planning frenzy.

I could have worked after school on the Friday but I had returned home and promptly fallen asleep on the sofa at 5pm. So I had only Monday left to plan for the lesson.

The result

It may not work for everyone, but I found it helpful to be pressured into getting the lesson planned within hours rather than days. Without dithering too much, I managed to complete it and get it to another teacher for checking by late afternoon. It was fine and no worse than the one I had spent ages fretting over.

My helpful subject mentor pointed out that although it was important to spend time crafting lessons, taking 45 minutes to find the best map of Germany in 1919 probably counted as procrastination. I have kept this nugget of wisdom in mind. I use this strategy to get on top of future planning - and to get more sleep. And now my planning goes according to plan.

The writer is training to be a teacher through the School Direct programme in London

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