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« Effect on the Brain | Main | Setting up systems (Reader's Query) »
Tuesday
Feb092016

Any special recommendations for teachers? (Reader's query)

Sandy writes:

What do you suggest for teachers with only 1½ hours of “focused” work time during the day?  Yes, we work more than that when we go home.  But the rest of our daily schedule is in class which requires an immediate response time.  And, while we are in class, the todo list is quickly turning from active to backlog.

The 1.5 hours are spent doing tasks that must be done at school or during the day, ie calling parents, making copies, setting up for class, lesson planning.

My schedule is tight and creativity occurs sporadically. But it is so important to find ways to be innovative in the classroom.

In my answer I’ll concentrate on the 1½ hours that Sandy has during the school day. How can she ensure that what needs doing gets done?
The things Sandy mentions in her email that she needs to do in this time are:
  • Calling parents
  • Making copies
  • Setting up for class
  • Lesson planning
  • Creativity

Since I don’t expect she has covered everthing and in any case there will always be unforseeable calls on her time, I’ll add another category - “Miscellaneous Tasks”

That means that she has an average of 15 minutes per category. How can she make the most of this?

This sort of concentrated period of time cries out for a routine to be established. If she does this, it will help her to avoid wasting time or getting distracted. Time is tight and anything wasted will be difficult to catch up with.

The more invariable this routine can be made the better.

So what I would advise is to arrange the tasks in their order of priority, which at a guess I would say is:

  • Setting up for class
  • Making copies
  • Calling parents
  • Lesson planning
  • Creativity
  • Miscellaneous tasks

She gets the preparations for the next class out of the way first so that she doesn’t have them hanging over her.

She probably already knows what needs doing under each heading except “Miscellaneous Tasks”. I suggest she makes a Dynamic List for that. “Creativity” needn’t take long if she uses one of the Questioning techniques I recommend.

Another advantage of a routine is that it gives a good basis for weeding activities if Sandy consistently fails to reach the end of the routine in 90 minutes. It’s all the time she has, so it’s essential that the routine is pared down to the minimum.

Reader Comments (10)

My guess is there is also wanting to go to the bathroom, catching up with colleagues, and just wanting to stop and not think or do.
February 9, 2016 at 9:25 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Jane
Sarah Jane:

Those of course apply to any job and would fall under the heading of "Miscellaneous Tasks" if Sandy hasn't allowed for them already.
February 9, 2016 at 20:20 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
You're right, and my observation of teaching is there is so much to do that getting focused work time is really challenging,. As a result it's usually done at home in the evening, when exhausted from the day's teaching., An example of an impossibly demanding workload, which results in very dedicated people, after desperately trying to find some way to contain or control all the tasks, deciding instead to leave the profession.
February 10, 2016 at 12:57 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Jane
"Deciding instead to leave the profession"

This aligns with Mark's consistent advice to decommit from anything that you don't have time to do properly.

:0(
February 10, 2016 at 13:27 | Unregistered CommenterWill
Sarah Jane:

<< You're right, and my observation of teaching is there is so much to do that getting focused work time is really challenging, >>

This of course also applies to many other professions.

<< As a result it's usually done at home in the evening, when exhausted from the day's teaching. >>

I'm not sure about this. My feeling is that if one is consistently exhausted by a day's teaching (and I mean exhausted, not just tired), then there is something seriously wrong with the way one is going about it.

<< An example of an impossibly demanding workload, which results in very dedicated people, after desperately trying to find some way to contain or control all the tasks, deciding instead to leave the profession. >>

People leave professions all the time - not just teaching - so I don't think the fact that some teachers leave is really indicative of anything in itself. There must be plenty of teachers who succeed in coping with the workload because I believe it's a reasonably stable profession in terms of staff turnover. I'm happy to be proved wrong in saying that!
February 10, 2016 at 16:09 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Will:

<< "Deciding instead to leave the profession". This aligns with Mark's consistent advice to decommit from anything that you don't have time to do properly. >>

No, it doesn't. My advice is to cut down on your commitments until you can do your core work properly, not to give up your core work.

(That's not to say that there may not be many valid reasons for changing career.)
February 10, 2016 at 16:14 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I am not a teacher, but have had a lot to do with teachers. My experience is that they are usually very dedicated and committed, and manage their very demanding role at considerable cost to their personal time, health and wellbeing.
February 10, 2016 at 21:44 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Jane
Sarah Jane:

<< My experience is that [teachers] are usually very dedicated and committed, and manage their very demanding role at considerable cost to their personal time, health and wellbeing. >>

The same could be said about many professions, and even more so about entrepreneurs and small business owners. As for my own original background, the military - well, where do I start...?

I'm not trying to suggest that teachers aren't dedicated and that they don't have a demanding job, but they are not some sort of race apart to whom the normal rules of good time management don't apply.
February 10, 2016 at 22:55 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I agree that whatever the demands of a role, good time management makes a huge difference.
February 11, 2016 at 8:49 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Jane
Thanks for this question and reply. Very useful for me as a teacher. I agree with everything Mark says - teaching is a demanding job, but the workload has to ben managed like every other profession.

In my experience, teachers who are constantly busy and exhausted need to review what they are doing. They are either working inefficiently or doing too much. The problem is that you could mark books all day every day, giving lots of in-depth feedback, but you need to be realistic and set a realistic amount of time that you are willing to spend marking, then stop. If it's a particularly busy week with parents' evenings or lots of reports to write then the marking should take a back seat for that week.

Worn out teachers are no good to anybody - you need to have some relaxation time in the evenings and weekends to recharge the batteries.
February 11, 2016 at 9:47 | Unregistered CommenterDAZ

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