Job-sharing and caring
You’re about to become part of a job share. That means you are no longer sole ruler over your classroom and instead you must now share your week and your class (and everything that entails) with another teacher.
The parents are anxious, the headteacher has reservations: how can you make it work?
If you want to give yourself the best chance of creating a double act that is less Tom and Jerry and more Morecambe and Wise here are five pointers:
Good communication is a bit of a no-brainer, but it needn’t mean lengthy phone calls and endless emails. To use the current lingo: you have to learn to “work smart”.
A crossover day (when you both work) is a huge help but even without it there are ways to manage a seamless transition. Find methods of communicating that are quick and to the point. Keep a communication book on your desk; write messages on the whiteboard; have an arrangement that you always end your last working day of the week with a round-up email.
The better the job share, the less communication you will need (after a while you find that you suggest the same ideas and even finish each other’s sentences). If something’s not working, though, don’t stew over it – talk about it and get it sorted.
2 Be consistent
No one’s saying you have to be clones of each other in the classroom but the children need to know that if they miss playtime for swinging on their chair on Monday then exactly the same thing will happen if they do it on Friday. The school’s behaviour policy is vital here: know it and stick to it. Similarly, keep rewards at a consistent level: behaviour won’t improve if lining up in a quiet fashion results in a flurry of stickers on Tuesday yet doesn’t even merit a “well done” on Thursday.
3 Play to your strengths
Love teaching art but can’t get fired up by geography? A job share is a brilliant way of drawing on the strengths of two teachers to create one multi-skilled one. A good head knows this and will let you organise your timetable accordingly. It doesn’t mean opting out, either. A job-share partner can double as a dispenser of free CPD: if they excel at teaching something, get them to share the secret.
4 Enjoy safety in numbers
One job-share luxury is being able to discuss the children with another teacher who knows them as well as you do. Having an ally to hand in meetings is a bonus too. Although you may not officially be required to be there, do what it takes to make sure you never miss a parents’ evening. Aside from the fact that, as a parent, you would feel seriously short-changed by meeting only half your child’s teacher, talking to parents is a vital part of your job. And if you get a difficult parent then you have extra protection.
5 Say ‘we’ not ‘I’
This can take a bit of getting used to if you have always been lord and master of your classroom, but giving the children a clear, constant message is important. At the beginning of the year, meet the class together if you can and spell out your joint expectations. Use your job-share partner’s name regularly in class, praise them for any good work they do and get into the habit of saying “our class”.
Finally, pay no heed to the naysayers who dismiss all job shares as being unstable and inferior. When management release time, NQT time, and planning, preparation and assessment time are taken into account, being taught by one teacher for the whole week is increasingly rare for most classes anyway.
If you’re committed to making it work it shouldn’t take long to prove that, with a job-share, what you are getting is more than the sum of its parts.
Jo Brighouse is a primary teacher in the Midlands and one half of a job share. Her columns appear fortnightly in TES