Climbing the paper mountain

23rd December 2005 at 00:00
Sue Cowley offers practical tips on managing your class and delivering your lessons

Is there a pile of paper on your desk the size of Mount Everest? Are you finding it hard to cope with administrative demands on your time? When paperwork gets out of hand, this piles on the stress. Get your admin sorted out before the Christmas break and have a guilt-free rest over the holidays.

* Be ruthless: Schools are full of bits of paper that rarely get used or referred to. Be ruthless about chucking out anything that isn't absolutely essential. Someone else will always have a copy of really important paperwork.

* Apply the once only rule: Some bits of paper endlessly circulate the "to do" pile but never get anything "done" to them. This wastes valuable time so try to deal with each piece of paper the first time you look at it. If a form needs filling out, do it immediately rather than procrastinating and going back to it later.

* Don't be a perfectionist: It is tempting for new teachers to want to do every job perfectly. Fight this impulse. The quicker you deal with many requests, the better. For instance, senior members of staff might want instant feedback on a pupil for a meeting with parents. They'd rather have a few brief thoughts immediately than have to chase you in three weeks'

time for that essay you'd been writing.

* Keep the important things in one place: Use your teacher's planner or mark book as a centralised deposit for really important bits of paper. This will include your timetable, class lists, registers, details of homework set, special needs information, assessments, and so on.

* Watch out for reports: Reports are one type of paperwork that has to be done, done properly, and done on time. At this time of year you might be facing the job of writing your first set. Leave plenty of time for this - it can take a while to get a "feel" for report writing first time around.

Around this time, lighten your teaching and marking load as much as possible, for instance, setting verbal assessment tasks in lessons.

* Sort your teaching materials: You'll probably spend lots of time on lesson planning this year. Keep your detailed plans in well organised folders so that you can save yourself time in the future by reusing them next year.

* Out of sight is out of mind: As you close your classroom door and head off for a well deserved Christmas break, try not to cram "just a few bits of paperwork" in your bag. These will only sit staring at you, making you feel guilty over the entire holidays. Pile them on your desk and then forget about them.

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