Tales from new teachers

3rd July 2015 at 01:00
workload overload

The problem

I came into this year slightly petrified about teaching. I had always wanted to do the job but the amount of negativity surrounding the profession made me apprehensive. Was the workload as bad as everyone said? Was the inspectorate Ofsted really the cruel executioner of free will that it was made out to be?

I am yet to experience an inspection but I can attest to the workload being horrific. I expected it to be a challenge but I don't think there has been a weekend all year where I haven't spent at least a day working. On average, about 60 per cent of my "free" time is taken up with school-related tasks.

I thought things would get easier as the year progressed, that I would stop reinventing the wheel and begin to work out a route through the paperwork. But by Easter, this simply had not happened.

The options

When you're working this hard, you start to wonder whether teaching is for you. I know three people who have dropped out in their newly qualified teacher year because of stress and because they believe the rewards are simply not worth the hassle.

But I felt that having come so far, I should at least try to find a solution before giving up. My mentor had thus far proved useless, so instead I sought the advice of an older colleague who had been supportive throughout the year. He was great. He made me write down everything I was doing on individual Post-it notes, then got out a big sheet of paper and wrote the headings "essential", "needed" and "acceptable casualty". He then allocated the Post-it notes to the three sections.

"Right," he said. "Here's how you prioritise. The first column takes precedence over everything else. The second column you need to find room for. The third column you don't do unless you have time."

We then scheduled my week, building in free time for part of every evening and a large chunk at the weekend.

"Stick to this at all costs," my colleague said. "In the available time, you should be able to do all of column one and column two, and some of column three."

The result

As much as I wanted to believe this strategy would solve all my workload problems, in reality I knew I'd always end up working more hours than I should. That said, this little exercise has helped me to prioritise my time better and I am getting more space in my diary to actually have a life.

And guess what? Squeezing in some time for myself has made me a better teacher: I have more energy, more motivation and I'm less grumpy with the students.

The writer is a teacher in the North East of England

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