'Tis the season to pace yourself

14th November 2003 at 00:00
Advice for teachers in their early career

Are you TATT - tired all the time? This half-term is a seven-week-long endurance test. The weather gets worse - that means wet breaktimes and grey days. It's dark when you leave home and when you leave school. Schools go into a Christmas frenzy and children don't want to work - they want to have fun with glitter and glue.

You'll find yourself getting more and more tired and increasingly inefficient. You may get ill and ratty, but you have to find time to do all your own Christmas preparations and go to lots of dosI Now I'm depressing myself, let alone you.

To survive, you must set some limits to your working day and then think about the quality of your time as well as the quantity available. About 20 per cent of our time is "prime time". Used well, this should produce about 80 per cent of our most productive work. The rest will be nowhere near as fruitful.

Try to recognise which part of the day is best for you. For most of us this is early in the day, when we're freshest. So use the time before school to get something demanding done, rather than fritter away time by chatting and photocopying. Leave those things till you're too tired to do anything else.

Think about where you work best. One newly qualified teacher on The TES online staffroom forum says: "I work far more efficiently at home, where I am not surrounded by others."

In many schools there is a pressure to stay as late as possible and there is often a competitive element to it. Of course, you could work all the time if you were so inclined and still have more things to do - evenings, weekends, holidays. There's always room for work, but it may not make you a better teacher.

You also need a life, so you need to prioritise. Think about what is most important. What needs a Rolls-Royce effort, and what can make do with a Ford Escort? Don't be a perfectionist. Even as a dedicated teacher, you have to learn to accept that some things are "good enough". Put limits on tasks - in terms of time, quality and quantity. And hold on in there - from the new year it will start to feel like a downhill ride.

More advice from Sara Bubb in 'First Appointments', a free 44-page magazine in 'The TES' this week

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