Five steps to staying on top of your teaching load.
Do you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, and without a life, due to your teaching load. Are you constantly fighting the battle of keeping up with your marking and planning only to realise it's assessment time? It's all too easy to get bogged down into the day to day business of teaching and to lose the ability to streamline your load and cut out unnecessary tasks. It's time to refresh your daily schedule and streamline and start living. Follow my 5 step guide and get rid of that sinking feeling.
Five steps to improve your workload and get back in control
1. What would it take for you to feel you had accomplished all your tasks in one teaching week? For me I would need to mark three sets of books, plan my next weeks lessons, updated my teaching documents, uploaded any required data onto the appropriate spreadsheets, filled in a requisition form (as I am a science teacher), update my mid-term planning and make any communications with parents that are required. For me it is important to get all this done within the days I teach as I have so many other commitments during my weekends. I need to have a tick list to complete as it gives me a visual sign of how much I have done and still need to do and what is really important and what can be scrapped without me feeling I have failed. Begin by writing yourself a list of the tasks you need to complete to free up your weekends. Next, prioritise your list, I use a simple RAG (red, amber, green) rating system, red for the most important or vital tasks, amber for those I really want to complete and green for if all goes well tasks.
2. What time do you have to get your work done each day? Whether you use a journal, digital diary or plain piece of paper with a list of times on the side, you need a 'to do' page that starts from the time you get up to when you go to bed. I'm quite old fashioned and use a journal to record mine; for me there is something powerful about the written word that makes me more committed to my tasks. Whichever format you use you need to block out all your definite commitments including your lessons, meetings, duties and travel times. You will also need to allocate time for communications and checking emails. I suggest 30 minutes per day for this and if you find yourself taking longer may wish to consider other ways of completing these tasks. I find emails much quicker than phone calls and parents seem to prefer them on most occasions. It means they can read them at a time that suits and they can write a considered reply.
3. Calculate the hours available to complete your work. This needs to be realistic, which includes time for eating and relaxing and other essential daily activities. Roughly calculate the percent of red, amber and green tasks and share the time you have available accordingly. For your relaxing time I use a different colour to show this is every bit of your working day. I am a real believer in small bursts of work with short gaps to recharge your batteries. Your weekly to do list may change depending on those tasks that are not weekly such as assessments, parent teacher evenings etc.
4. Consider the tasks you need to complete and the times available in which to complete them. You need to use the time wisely to prevent wastage. For instance, I plan much more efficiently in the mornings and prefer to mark in the evenings. I will always complete tasks that need more concentration in the mornings and leave those that take a little less until later as this is how I work efficiently.
5. Finally you need to focus on one task at a time. If I consider all the tasks at once I can feel overwhelmed and stressed. If I focus on one task, as it is completed I get an instant sense of achievement and am able to tick it off my list. If I have several red tasks and those I'm not really looking forward to completing, I pick the one I favour less - usually marking books, to complete first as once it is completed I get a sense of the monkey is off my back, which motivates me more to complete other tasks.
My final thoughts
If I don't get all my tasks complete but have managed all my red tasks and one or two amber, I don't beat myself up and neither should you. As a perfectionist I always task myself with extra jobs that aren't really necessary and it is these tasks that I don't get around to doing but remember we never complete our teaching load as there is no such thing as completed. There is always something we could add to improve our impact on a students performance or development.