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A teacher's journal

Work-life balance

balance

Photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash

The third half-term has been very positive on my teaching journey. I am finally getting used to this job: its demands, workload and expectations. I am also a more confident and positive teacher who does not stress out as much as before.

I am glad of having left behind the days when I worked late either at school or at home. Part of this improvement has been due to the normal course of life: the more one does something, the easier it gets. However, there are a few things people told me but I had to try myself in order to take them in. For example:

Good enough is good enough:

I stopped spending a significant amount of time (outside my working hours) trying to adapt a lesson that was ready. I know that students will need some scaffolding or challenge, so I add these elements. Although this is ideal, it can be detrimental for a teacher because it increases the workload significantly. Ultimately, a teacher who has rested properly and can deliver the content with confidence and high quality is invaluable; a beautiful PPT presentation cannot compete with that!

One day after a parents’ evening, I got home at almost 21:00 and did not have time to adapt a Year 9 lesson about the Perfect Tense in Spanish. I was worried because the students had been learning other tenses and I thought they would struggle. I contemplated doing some revision on those tenses instead but… I would need to plan a revision lesson and this was not happening that evening.

With some resignation and frustration I said to myself “just use that lesson and let it be”. What a surprise when I saw that students were very interested in this new tense (I am not lying!), they took it in immediately and were very productive. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I was definitely underestimating my students and slowing down based on false assumptions. The lesson was good enough, actually it was better than it looked at first. Additionally, I had rested and could give them the best of me that day. This was a win-win situation that helped me to realise that I need to be more humble in a way and use what I am being given.  Whenever possible I can add my own touch but I must accept that I will not always have time and that there are other duties to fulfil. I could use any spare time to create new resources using authentic texts for example, which is a target that our department needs to meet and some input would be appreciated.

A task that I need to do more than 3 times needs a system

I had heard this one but I did not pay attention to it just as I did with other pieces of great advice that would save me time…

This happened a lot when marking student work and giving feedback. I used to write lots of notes on the first papers and customised feedback but then I realised I had more than 200 things to mark. Would I ever finish that monumental task? No. Ironically, most students only looked at their total marks while my many comments are suggestions were not as relevant. There is a minority who pays attention to this and asks further questions… although this is not a complete waste of time, it is not worth it either.

In order to last in this job and to go home at some point, I needed to refrain from my super feedback. I began following the advice I got at the beginning, this consisted of using some literacy codes, making notes of the trends, common mistakes or misconceptions. Then, providing a general feedback where I covered what I had decided to prioritise and that provided elements for students to reflect on their work and improve it.

I also made a list of students whose work could be praised and presented as a model. I made a separate list  of the students who were struggling so that I could support them in the future.

Doing this saved me time and made the dreadful marking process bearable and useful. Students benefited much more with this type of feedback and were happy when they received some praise for their good effort and work.

The same is true for setting homework, printing, reading emails, answering emails… Doing things in bulk is much better than jumping from task to task.

Final thoughts

This was the “I told you so” half-term but I think it is only natural to try to be a perfectionist at first. After all, people’s eyes are on you as an Early Career Teacher and you want to show some competence and good performance.

I hope you had a happy and restful half-term. I did my best to rest and to keep my mind away from work although I did some marking for 5-6 hours. This would allow me to have a better start next week and I didn’t mind it too much. The good ideas (literature, revision booklets, challenges etc) are written down in my journal and will resume next Monday at 8:00 and not a minute before. In the mean time, I need to make sure the other aspects of my life are taken care of, I have had some health setbacks and this week was a blessing, I was able to get some medical advice and I will surely be recharged and smiley next week.

This post is day 11 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Visit 100daystooffload.com to get more info, or to get involved.