How do you achieve it?

26th May 2006 at 01:00
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* I am too embarrassed to tell you how many hours I spend after school getting things sorted and organised. I seem always to be filling something in, assessing something, arranging an activity, writing a letter, meeting parents. Most of my "spare" out-of-class time is preparing for the best bit... teaching my class! I want to give my children the best I can, but I do feel resentful sometimes that I spend 50 out of 52 Saturday nights in, marking or planning or mounting work. The holidays are my time for catching up with cleaning my house properly, meeting up with non-teacher friends and talking to my family in depth about things that are not connected with school. I do make a point of going to the States at least twice a year, but always end up in a teachers' store in Brooklyn (they know me on first-name terms now). But I honestly do not know what I would do if I didn't teach. I love being relied upon and being needed by the children in my care. My family have accepted that I work hard, and that I would be miserable if I only put 75 per cent in during term-time. suze_sooze

* Having been teaching for 17 years - now in a senior position with a potentially limitless amount of management work - I think the worklife balance does exist, but you have to be determined. I accept that at certain times in the year I will have to work excessive hours, but this is not something I'm prepared to do all the time, and I (almost) never work weekends; I have another life as a mum. You have to accept that you cannot be a perfect teacher, and good enough will do. Be ruthless. What do you really need to do? Plan ahead. If you know you will be busy next week, work hard this week on routine things and clear the decks in advance. If you have to do additional work for the school, try to get some extra time out of class from your senior management team and make sure they know how much you're doing. And keep everything! In organised files. It'll save you hours of preparation time in the future. And to all the newer teachers reading this, don't despair. Schools are full of older teachers like myself who still love their job and have a life outside. phizz

* We are our own worst enemy. This job will take as many hours as you want to give so, as some posters have already said, plan the time and when you reach your finish time - stop. Certainly as an NQT and in the first few years of teaching it does take more time to get into the swing, but this is the time to set habits that will last your career. I think every NQT should be sent on a time management course. Plan your day. For me, I do school work in school. When I am home, that is it, except for some time in the evening on a Sunday. When I go home, I don't carry a heavy bag thinking "Oh I may do a little work tonight", because if you don't do it, you feel guilty.

As for marking, find ways of dealing with this in school, with the children if possible. Find ways of setting work that doesn't need marking. Think creatively. I know I don't have it right all the time, but for me the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Pat Dewar

* Although the planning and preparation of good lessons takes time, most of the ones I do are reusable with practically no extra preparation. So I do make the effort to plan good stuff, and have spent hours cutting cards out for sorting, etc.

Hobbies are good. Better are things with a certain timing. For example, my classical Indian dance class guarantees that between 10.30am and 1pm on a Saturday I do no work. I go to my grandmother's every Sunday for lunch, so that guarantees that Sunday mornings are work-free.

I aim to have one night off a week from everything - work and exercise (I train for half-marathons and have taken on two evening courses this year).

I try to get to bed at a decent hour most nights in term time, including Friday and Saturday (so I don't mess up my body clock). I also think it's ideal to have a day at the weekend when you do no work, although it's rare for that to happen.

One thing I did in September that's helped me this year was to get a cleaner. It costs me pound;80 a month but I feel great every other Monday when I arrive home to a spotless house. curly girl

* Worklife balance is a constant issue with me, but I've been learning recently from lessons that I'd hardly planned due to lack of time. I've walked in and told the class that I didn't really have an agenda, but was there anything they'd like to discuss about the work we were doing? The ensuing discussions or activities have been student-led and therefore much more helpful to them, even though I was winging it a bit.

They have even commented that perhaps I should plan less often. No doubt this is because the spontaneous lessons met their immediate needs and weren't just my idea of what they needed. It's fair to say that the kids I teach are pretty well behaved. But I still believe it's a principle worth remembering, even if just for 10 minutes of a lesson now and again.


* I've been teaching in FE for five years now and I'm also reaching the end of a horrendous PGCFHE course, meaning that for the past few months I've been clocking up around 80 hours every week. A common emotion in this thread seems to be guilt - which sums up my feelings exactly. I don't believe that any area of my life is under control and that has made me feel incredibly guilty.

I have two kids, aged 9 and 11, and I know that they need me, but they regularly say things like "I know you're probably too busy but..." My health (and weight!) are suffering, my marriage is at breaking-point and I was recently mortified when someone called to visit unannounced, because the house was such a tip. Hubby is great and does all the ironing, but that only adds to my guilt.

On top of all this my department is under threat of redundancies due to falling numbers in science, so I can't even utter the word "stress" or it's seen as a sign of inability to cope with the demands of the job. Anyway, enough of the moan. I decided I needed to be positive, so when my employer asked for volunteers for a focus group to examine the "wellbeing" of staff, mainly worklife balance, I put my name forward.

We've had two meetings so far, and although we've identified many problems (mainly to do with work culture andor management styles) we haven't managed to come up with many practical suggestions on how we can change things. Does anyone have any ideas of how we can proceed, or has anyone been through this process themselves? Tara M

* I've made the job fit the time I want to give it. I work like a loon at school - through frees, break and often lunch - and do all my planning a week in advance. What's made the biggest difference to me, though, is rationing my marking so that I only take books in once a fortnight and mark stuff that needs to be assessed.

I am not going to waste time ticking questions we did in class and checked.

I use more peer marking now than I ever did before, which is better learning for the kids anyway. Of course, this system doesn't work when it is reports or, say, at the moment, when I am up to my neck in coursework from Years 11, 12 and 13. But for most of the year it does.

What I think is most exhausting is the emotional element of the job; the fact that I am always on the go. During conversations at school I am always thinking about five other different things and so on. That's what knackers me when I get home; I am always asleep on the sofa by 10 on a Friday night.

All the interaction with students, when the actual learning takes place, is the most challenging and rewarding bit about teaching. So what if you haven't marked your books for three weeks, the fact that the kids are making progress is more important. I think you can be an effective teacher and have a life, but, for me, that means that there is more emphasis on what goes on in the classroom than marking. littlemissile

* One of my main problems was that it didn't matter how often I tried to organise and reorganise my time, the SMT could wreck all my plans by changing goal posts (I nearly wrote gaol posts which would not have been far wrong!).

Among the difficulties were:

* Unreasonable deadlines

* Giving themselves and their favourites generous non-contact time and virtually none to me

* Not being supportive enough when a demanding parent ate up chunks of after-school time desperately needed for other tasks.

My answer has been the drastic step of going part-time. It's probably saved my sanity. stonerose

* This thread has helped me see that I am not alone in feeling useless at not being able to manage my time and achieve any sort of worklife balance.

I love teaching but hate the ever increasing paperwork that goes with it.

It wouldn't be so bad if this extra stuff made me a better teacher or benefited the kids, but instead I just feel more and more deskilled and think the kids do too! It seems as if I am trying to run up an escalator which is going downwards... I have to run like crazy just to stand still.

If I stop running, even for a couple of minutes, I'm back at the bottom.

Sorry I haven't got any advice. I have tried hard to change but think the only way is to give up teaching. My three teenagers all say that they will never become teachers as they have seen me work so hard evenings, weekends, holidays, etc. They all want jobs where they finish when they walk out of the office. I don't know how realistic that is, but it sounds like heaven.

Just wish I could find an alternative job that paid near to what I earn.


* I work above the 1,265 hours because I want to. I enjoy it. I enjoy reading the latest research and information on current education initiatives, spending weekend time finding the best resources for lessons and assemblies, marking students' work and preparing for target setting days by analysing assessment data.

Why should teachers be made to feel a touch crazy or downright odd if they want to devote their life to the job? Teaching at its best is a vocation after all. happywithmylot!

* I'm coming to the last part of my secondary PGCE and have absolutely no life. I compared my experiences to fellow trainees and have reckoned on an average working week of 50 to 60 hours. Not really complaining because we all realised when we got into this job that it was going to be busy - it just seems it takes a while to get any better. Work-life balance? A life would be nice! Killerbees

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