I was all ready for bed the other Saturday when school-related worries got the better of me. I knew I had some lessons to prepare, some worksheets to make and a little bit of marking to do. I also knew that I wouldn't get to sleep for thinking about it.
So, instead of tossing and turning, I put on a jumper and headed for the computer. Task 1: make a worksheet for my top reading group.
There are four ready-made worksheets in the teacher's guide for the Literacy World scheme that I could use, but they don't really explore the children's understanding of this week's story. One contains just four questions and asks the children to find and underline four words. This is not challenging enough for this particular group.
I am also not happy with the ready-made worksheets for my second reading group. So, Task 2: devise something more imaginative for them to do.
Task 3: plan where to go next with my bottom maths group.
They have been working on units of measure but are finding it hard.
Luckily, I have a game about litres and millilitres that I made two years ago as a student teacher. However, I know I won't be able to leave them to play it alone, so I have to make sure my other two groups have plenty to keep them busy.
Task 4: I had an art activity planned for Halloween but I needed a quick-finisher activity too. I decided to make a spooky word-search. This is quite fun, but time consuming.
As I set about tasks 5 and 6, the clock ticks by. Suddenly, it's 2am. I feel tired but pleased that I won't have to spend a big chunk of Sunday preparing for school I It also means that I could do some work on the reports I have to write or read through the professional development folder I've been carrying around since August but haven't looked at yet.
Were these late-night tasks really necessary or am I in danger of letting school take over my life? Like any teacher, I like to be well prepared. But as a new teacher, I don't have a wealth of experience to draw on or a box of previously made resources to delve into. I'm also not good at knowing when to stop. But there are wider issues at play.
The reason I couldn't use the ready-made worksheets available to me was that they were not suited to the needs of my class. So, while the teacher's guide looks like a handy resource full of ready-to-use materials, it doesn't always work that way.
I have found the same is true of topic boxes. I was delighted to find two plastic crates seemingly full of useful materials when I started a Second World War project with my class, but nowhere in the 18-page study guide did it tell me exactly where or how to start.
The notes suggested that I should have "visual materials of Anderson shelters and conditions inside them" plus instructions on how to make a model of a shelter, but these were nowhere to be found. Instead, the boxes seemed to be full of random pieces of paper, old videos and books, which I eventually wove together into a series of lessons.
Going back to my late night on Saturday, the reason I had to deviate from my maths planner was that the children were not ready to move on. Maybe there were already games and worksheets in the school that I could have used to consolidate their learning instead of making my own, but I could have spent just as long hunting for them.
As for the word search, maybe I should have gone on to the internet to look for something, but that is time consuming too.
Eventually, I would hope to have a heap of such materials to hand, but even if I had, would I not have to adapt and update the resources each year anyway? And so the question remains: am I making too much work for myself or am I just doing what is necessary in a demanding job?
I guess only time will tell how long I can keep up the late nights.
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