Tales from new teachers

24th April 2015 at 01:00
work or relationship?

The problem

All newly qualified teachers have problems with workload, but when it starts causing difficulties in your personal life something has got to change.

I reached a point after Christmas where I was working until 11pm most nights and pretty much all weekend. This meant I was neglecting my partner. And when I was able to spend time with her, I was snappy and irritable. I was also distracted - the work of an NQT is never done and so it was constantly on my mind.

Eventually things came to a head and we decided to have a break. She said she understood the stresses I was under but something had to give: we were not really in a relationship any more.

The options

My first thought was to quit teaching. If this was the life I could expect then why should I continue? My relationship was more important; I could go and do something else.

But talking to family and colleagues helped me to recognise how hard I had worked to become a teacher. They reminded me of all the reasons why I went into the profession in the first place. And they made me realise that the first year of teaching is the hardest because you're starting from a blank slate. In subsequent years, you're always building on what you have done before.

A chat with my mentor also highlighted that I was always taking the hard option. I created all resources from scratch, I wanted every lesson to be outstanding and I tried to help out with as many extracurricular activities as possible.

It was time to use the shortcuts available to me instead of trying to reinvent the wheel for every lesson. I needed to manage my time better and, where appropriate, use pre-existing resources such as those on the TES website.

The result

I took a step back from a lot of the clubs I was involved in and used that time for work. I also attempted to lessen my workload by adapting existing resources rather than making new ones. And I stopped trying to be Mr Perfect - it's not possible and ultimately an awake teacher is better than one with laminated worksheets.

Within weeks I was feeling more like myself - I had more time and was less stressed. My partner gradually came to see that things had changed and I am happy to say we are giving it another go. I'm still working hard, of course, but I'm working smarter rather than longer.

The writer is a newly qualified teacher in the South West of England

Share your experience as a new teacher

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