Starting out

24th November 2006 at 00:00
What needs the Rolls-Royce of effort and when will a Ford Fiesta suffice? Sara Bubb says it's up to you

Feel like you're drowning in work? If you're to make it to the end of term without running yourself into the ground you need to make this wonderful but all-consuming job manageable. I'm not exaggerating when I say all-consuming. Teaching is an intensive job and you could work 24 hours a day, seven days a week and still find things to do.

It's really important to recognise this because it will make you set boundaries and feel less guilty about all the things you just simply haven't done. The risk of burn-out is very real.

The profession is haemorrhaging people, most leaving within the first five years of getting qualified teacher status - because of workload. As the new generation of teachers, you need to make this job manageable so that you can stick with it and enjoy it.

Do you know how many hours you work? You need to spend time to save time; to give you hard evidence on which to renegotiate workload and empower you to make some changes.

Think back over the past week and work it out, including time spent working at home and while travelling. The average working week for classroom teachers is 52 hours but that disguises a wide variation: nearly a fifth work more than 60 hours and around 5 per cent do under 40 hours. What eats up more time than it should? Planning, assessment and making resources are the usual offenders. But simply adding up the amount of time you spend on tasks tells you nothing about how exhausted or frustrated certain tasks leave you. Set some limits on your working day and specific tasks. Think about the quality of your time as well as the quantity available.

About 20 per cent of a working day is prime time and, used well, should produce the best work. The rest of your time will be nowhere near as productive so it's worth recognising which part of the day is best for you and maximising it to get something demanding done rather than flogging yourself when you're tired. The trick is to prioritise so that essential things get done and what doesn't get done has minimal consequences.

What is the most important thing? What needs a Rolls-Royce effort and what can make do with a Ford Fiesta? Try not to be a perfectionist all the time- "good enough" is actually ok Sara Bubb is an education consultant specialising in induction

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