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What corners can you cut?

(18 Posts)
tulippa Mon 12-Feb-18 08:22:15

I'm in my RQT year and struggling with workload (primary). I started in a new school at the start of January and expected to work hard to get up to speed with everything over the past half term.

Whilst I have caught up slightly I can't see how I can cut my 70 hour week because there is just so much to do (normal in teaching I know). I can't work this flat out for the rest of my life and it's taking a toll already on my family (DH, 2 DCs 13 and 9).

I often read advice from experienced teachers that things get better after a while because you work out which corners you can cut. Can anyone tell me which corners these are as I need to do something about my workload if possible. From what I can see at the moment certain things need doing before others but everything needs to be done at some point - is there anything I can get away with just not doing?

JourneyWithMe Mon 12-Feb-18 08:26:30

It's about efficiency, not cutting corners.

In secondary you can use some self- and peer-marking to help reduce the marking load - not sure if this is viable in Promary; depends what year group you teach.

There are a lot of resources available online which will save you time with lesson planning - it's MUCH quicker if you have something to start with to differentiate for your class than if you have to start from scratch.

VodkaRevelation Mon 12-Feb-18 08:42:44

Online planning resources from worksheets to full schemes that you can adapt for your class can save a lot of time. I liked Click teaching. Always use as a starting point and adapt for your class though.

If you’re upper primary then peer and self marking can save a lot of time. With lower primary, mark with the group you’re working with whilst working/ at the end of he session. A rotation of activities for maths/ literacy that the children work round through the week can cut down on marking if you have some that don’t require marking. ICT maths games linking to the teaching for example for a different group each day.

Save resources and planning so that next year you can easily find and reuse.

Displays- make sure working walls if you have jen really are used daily so you just end up adding to them as part of the lesson. With Maths and English, that’s two boards taken care off without having to spend a large block of time updating them every half term.

VodkaRevelation Mon 12-Feb-18 08:43:46

*have them, not Jen.

parrotonmyshoulder Mon 12-Feb-18 08:54:02

I think it is more about accepting that it CANNOT BE DONE than about cutting corners. I do think we’ve been doing that for decades, meaning that some of us make it look like it CAN be done, but truly, it can’t.

I now do what needs to be done. By this I mean what I think needs to be done. I fulfil all obligations but to the absolute minimum unless I believe they’re important. I.e I’ll write reports, IEPs and lead a behaviour support meeting very well, but something like a data report for the HT to flash to governors...meh, I’ll do the very basics.

I’m not out to impress anyone, I don’t do anything for effect.

I am very lucky and am in a specialist role that I have worked towards for many years, meaning I probably carry some gravitas and my opinions are counted. I think this is important actually, in enjoyment of any job, to feel like you have control. That’s much of what is eroded in teaching.

Regarding corners, think of all the lessons (most of them for me) where you haven’t quite got everything ready and you’ve had to wing it. They’ve been okay? Then all lessons like that can be. Some lessons each day that don’t require much prep? I have one lesson that is pretty much identical every day (tweaked, obviously, or nobody learns anything but the format, routine, delivery is the same). It gives a half hour breather in the day where everyone knows what they’re doing. I intend to do more of these - each lesson with a familiar pattern that runs itself. I can though, because of how and who I teach.

CraftyGin Mon 12-Feb-18 16:48:39

You have to work smart, which means only doing things that are important. Ditch anything that is not important.

Work out what you spend most of your non-contact time on, and see how you can cut that. I suspect that it is marking, so consider marking in class, with the students writing in their own corrections rather than your doing it 30x.

igotdaboobies Mon 12-Feb-18 16:57:28

What year group are you in? Can you give a bit of information on your school's expectations? Do they look at planning, what is their marking policy, are you single form entry?

I refuse to spend my evenings and weekends working but am lucky that my school is quite easy going and don't expect teachers to hand in planning and jump through hoops etc. I teach year 6, which is full on and stressful at times but also really great because the children can be trained to use systems that make my life easier (this can be done with younger years though!) plus I've been teaching in that year group for a long time so know my subject knowledge like the back of my hand. I do still like to do new things though as I get bored doing exactly the same every year. I'm not one of those teachers who just hash out the same boring planning year after year!

Let me know your situation and I'll see what I can help with.

ILoveMyMonkey Mon 12-Feb-18 17:02:28

Planning - use twinkl (or other teacher resource sites) they save shedloads of time and twinkl is now doing curriculum planning and resources. Accept that lessons that are all singing all dancing should be the minority - noone has the time for that. Make lessons practical and take photos as evidence (if your school require evidence). Do whiteboard work.

Marking - mark as you go, so do a sweep of the classroom at points during the lesson and mark the books you look at. Get kids to self mark (in a coloured pencil so they cant change their answers). Always get your TA to mark the books of kids they work with or if they are supporting whole class then mark the books of children they check on in the lesson.

Are there any particular areas you are finding tricky?

tulippa Mon 12-Feb-18 21:12:16

Thanks for the suggestions so far!

I'm not actually finding planning too onerous day to day - although we do have to do all foundation subjects and science in advance for the whole half term so there goes my time off. We have been given schemes for most subjects to plan from as well but these have to be transferred onto the short term planning document as well as an outline on a medium term plan along with NC link/assessment statements etc - it took me ages at Christmas to do the last lot. We do Singapore Maths which isn't too bad to plan from.

I teach Year 1 which makes it tricky to apply the really good ideas about peer marking/carousel activities. Some children would be able to cope but not all of them.

School are very big on evidence of writing in every lesson so while I would love to do more lessons that are practical and take photos (and would suit Year 1 much more) I have do this quite sparingly or I would get into trouble. We are not allowed to use worksheets under any circumstance.

I do use my working walls but displays are another time vacuum. I would get my TA to do these in my last school but I only have a TA for Maths and English in the morning and I'm on my own for the rest of the time.

The marking policy isn't too bad - next step marking in 3/5 for Maths and English 1/3 for everything else.

I have learnt not to do anything involving paint as it takes ages to set up and ages to clean up. Older children could wash up pots etc themselves but not quite so much Year 1s. Which is a shame because they really enjoy it.

I'm sorry I seem to be putting barriers up to all the helpful suggestions - maybe it's the school's policies causing the extra work?

TuftedLadyGrotto Mon 12-Feb-18 21:15:08

There should be no obligation to hand in your planning. If you are in a local authority school it definitely isn't part of your contract. It's a pointless exercise that just increases workload.

tulippa Mon 12-Feb-18 21:20:47

igot Yes planning gets looked at - we have to upload all foundation subjects and Science for the half term on the first day back and English, Maths and Guided Reading weekly. It's single form entry as well. Marking gets checked regularly. Twice this term we have had to troop up to the HT's office with every single book in our classrooms so that they can all be checked. hmm That exercise in itself takes 20 minutes getting them all there and back again.

ILove I'm not finding any particular area tricky in itself - it's just there seem to so many areas all competing for my time.

TuftedLadyGrotto Mon 12-Feb-18 21:38:56

But you don't have to hand your planning in. There is no contractual duty. And even ofsted say its a waste of time.

DandelionAndBedrock Mon 12-Feb-18 22:28:04

OP, nothing hugely constructive to offer right now, but a tip I got on my PGCE was to use paper plates for painting (bulk buy from £1 shop) then chuck at the end of the art lesson. Not hugely environmentally friendly but means you only have to wash brushes, so saves a bit of time.

igotdaboobies Tue 13-Feb-18 12:52:47

Eugh. I'd hate to work in your school. I cannot understand why management would want teachers to do these time-wasting tasks that actually offer no/very little "evidence" to them.

I would sacrifice displays in your position, even though I know it's a nice part of the job and I love having beautiful displays but would rather have a life outside the school!

Does you TA help you with marking?

One idea that might help you with setting up/clearing away is to enlist the help of some reliable older pupils. My class love nothing more than doing jobs and will gladly stay in at break or lunch sharpening pencils, washing paint pots etc. If you get some who are really on the ball, they could even change your guided reading books for you etc. You'd obviously need to train them first but once you had, I'm sure they'd be a great help!

CraftyGin Tue 13-Feb-18 15:33:35

How much planning do you have to send you have to send up? Would my one word lesson plans pass muster?

tulippa Tue 13-Feb-18 16:02:01

Eugh. I'd hate to work in your school. I'm starting to feel that way a little bit too smile. I know they're trying to raise standards which do need to be improved but there's limit to how much one person can do.

I do plan to get a team of responsible Year 6s on board when we go back to sharpen pencils, stick in homework etc so maybe some things will get a bit easier.

tulippa Tue 13-Feb-18 16:13:01

CraftyGin Ha ha - it's full on starter (with its own LO), main teaching points, plenary, 4 way differentiation for every lesson for the next six weeks. And then we have to precis all this on a MTP form to include cross curricular links, SMSC statements and opportunities for writing at length amongst other things. It makes my brain go confused after a while (and I'm fairly confident with planning) and takes AGES.

So it looks like the school is making extra work for us - it's a shame as the children in this one are lovely and fantastic to teach.

MyEyebrowsAreNatural Tue 13-Feb-18 16:22:31

Isn't it terrible that you (not meaning you specifically, OP, just a general you) are afraid to paint but put up with this.

What will benefit a Y1 child more?! Paint or success criteria. Shocking state of affairs.

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