Sunday, 9 July 2017

How to work a 40 hour week as a teacher.

You'll probably have some view on this.  Maybe you think that teachers get really long school holidays and should stop moaning about their workload.  Maybe you know a teacher, and you appreciate how much work they put in over and above the time the children are in school, both during term-time and holidays.  Heavy workload is unmistakably an issue in the teaching profession, which is also comparatively low-paid.  In this article from the Guardian, teachers health and mental-health is said to be at risk from a working week often between 49 and 65 hours per week.
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On a personal level, I am on a 0.55 contract, which means that I have two and a half days teaching, and quarter of a day paid non-contact (PPA) time (a total of 22 hours).  In reality, my week looks like this:  Monday I arrive by 8.15pm and leave at 5.15pm (with a 30min break for lunch in the staffroom), I then work a further 2-3 hours in the evening marking.  Tuesday I work the same hours and do the same amount of marking in the evening.  On a Wednesday I'm usually in work by 11am, and stay until 5.15pm.  I would estimate that I spend AT LEAST two further hours per day on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  This puts my working week at a minimum of 35 hours.  It's hard not to do this, and I'll give my headteacher credit here because she has told me that I shouldn't be in at work as often as I am.  However, when the job needs doing and you want to do it well to give the kids the best experience possible, and also meet all the requirements for evidence required by the school and the lovely OfSted, you just get on with it.

I do think that reducing the working week is something worth doing, and I also think its possible.  I haven't tried this advice yet, but I will be in the coming year.  My part-time contract this coming year is 0.66 which is 26.4 hours.  I'm going to aim not to work at all past 5.30 in the evening, and no more than six hours outside of my three teaching days - a total of 31.5 hours.  For full-time teachers, I think you'd be aiming for your four and a half days contact time, your half a day PPA, leave by 5.30pm and work no more than six hours outside of this time, in your evenings or on your weekend.  Make sure that you get a half-hour for break.  This would be a total of 48.5 hours.  Once we're achieving this, we can aim to shave back those hours of working at home.

Here's my plan:

  1. Make use of the school holidays.  I know, teachers already work during their holidays, particularly the May half term which you almost certainly spend writing reports, and the last week of the Summer holiday which is nearly always spent setting up your classroom.  What I'm suggesting is more structured use of time.  If you want a 40 hour working week like those in a 'regular' job, then you'll need to take only 6 weeks of holiday like those in a 'regular' job.  If you want to chill out all through your 13 weeks school holidays, then accept that those extra weeks (7 weeks x 40 hours = 280 hours) will be added on your your working week during term time (just over 7 hours per week).  So take one week of holiday at Christmas and Easter and two weeks in the Summer, plus extra days to make up the other two weeks during half terms and holidays, and the rest of the time work an eight hour day.  For some people I appreciate that this may involve paying for childcare, as your kids will also be on holiday, but you need to balance this against the likelihood of having more time to see them on weekends during term time.  I'm lucky enough that mine will entertain themselves some of the time, and I will spread my working hours between early morning and evening as much as possible so I can do things with the children in between.  During your holiday: get as much planning done as possible for all areas of teaching; Prepare your schemes of work and your interactive whiteboard flipcharts; prepare your assessment sheets; get displays ready to go up for each topic as you reach it in the school year; prepare templates for PLPs, get classroom ready - drawer labels and labels for books etc.
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  3. Be more organised - folders all ready and prepared with all the resources needed for those schemes of work prepared during the holiday.  Next year I have a pupil with quite complex needs in my class.  In order to provide the best scaffolding for her to develop more independence in her work, the TAs need to be able to adapt the resources or scan them into her computer ahead of time.  This will be much smoother for everybody if they are there and easily accessible.  Also plan ahead for things like assemblies, Christmas craft projects, report writing and parents evening as much as possible.  You know these things are going to crop up, so being prepared for them will save a weekend of panic before each one.
  4. Marking during the working week - Marking is probably your most time-consuming daily activity (apart from teaching!).  Assume that four pieces of work per child require marking every day.  Even a cursory glance and a quick comment will probably take at least one minute per book - that's a minimum of half an hour for a class set of books, multiplied by four.  In reality, when you're marking English books and the children have written a page of text, which you have to read, highlight and comment on errors, and provide positive constructive feedback and next steps, each book will take at least five minutes - a total of 2.5 hours for the set!  I can very easily do four or more hours marking from one teaching day, and I know I'm not alone.  So, plan more thoughtfully to reduce marking load.  Plan more time in to lessons for children to self-assess and peer-assess, and teach them the skills to do this; or plan for you to go through and mark the work with the children.  This isn't a cop-out for the teacher, and it won't lessen the expectations on the children.  According to the Education Endowment Foundation, little research has actually taken place into the effectiveness of written marking, which is bizarre considering that schools place such emphasis on it, and teachers spend so much time on it, but it seems that the most effective marking gives early, specific feedback to the children, with clear targets for next steps, and the opportunity to respond, either extending understanding or clarifying misunderstanding.  If this can be done effectively with the children, then it is worth looking into, and could take hours off your evening.
  5. Labels - If you find yourself writing the same comment over and over again on your marking, or you have several children who you know will require the same constructive feedback / next step, then consider using printed sticky labels.  I will definitely have some labels marked: please underline, DUMTUMS for date and Next Step please, remember to join your handwriting for those basic presentation issues which our OfSted consultant has suggested we need to pick up in our marking as part of having "high expectations".
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  7. Use technology - We have i-pads in the classroom, and I don't use them enough.  There's a useful platform called Google Classrooms - it will take time to set it up for the class and train them to use it, but in the end this will pay dividends.  Rather than printing off and trimming worksheets, I can set them as an 'Assignment' in the app, and they can just read off the i-pad.  If they are working with practical activities, I can set this as an assignment, and they can photograph it with the i-pad and it will upload into a folder in the app.  I can even comment on it (providing feedback) there and then in the app.  To provide evidence for their exercise books, they write the date and objective, and I print them a sticky label with a brief explanation and a QR code linking to the folder.
I look forward to trying out my own advice, and will get back to you with feedback next term on how its going and whether I am restoring some of my work-life balance (if I am you'll probably see more posts on here, and a bit more craft going on!)  I think the basic rules that I'm applying are: less written work for me and the children but higher quality and more effective.  Fewer hours working for me.

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