So by now you’re a few weeks into teaching and you’re probably beginning to realise that having your own class is not at all like being on placement.
Am I right?
No matter how hard or how late you work during the week, the weekends are still a blur of laptops, red pens and apologising to friends and family.
And when you tell your friends that you’re dreading going back to work on Monday, they say, “Yeah, me too… I hate that Sunday feeling!”
And you know that for most of them, it’s not the same at all.
When you’re a teacher, the thought of having to go back and do another week in school can be absolutely overwhelming.
It can make you rude. It can make you angry. It can make you cry.
Because it causes you stress and that can cause you to nosedive into a panic.
The fact is that there’s a LOT of work to get done and almost all of it is time consuming and has to be done conscientiously, so that you don’t disadvantage any child.
Honestly though… I don’t see that changing any time soon.
I genuinely don’t see a time in the next few years when teachers’ workloads will change drastically.
But as much as that’s a shame… moping about it isn’t going to fix the problem.
So how do you move forward?
Well, you’ve got 2 options…
- You can submit to the overwhelming feeling of failure.
- You can start to re-take control.
However, now matter how hard you aim for Option 2, somehow Option 1 is much more inviting when you’re exhausted and overrun with work.
And unfortunately, getting organised takes the one thing you don’t have much of at the moment… time!
But here’s the thing…
Taking time to step back and look at the bigger picture is going to help you conquer the details.
Don’t believe me?
Look at it like this…
Let’s take an average weekend for a teacher.
These are the jobs that have to be done:
– Mark Maths books
– Mark English books
– Plan lessons for Maths, English, Theme, RE, Computing and Science
– Find or make resources for each of these lessons
So let’s say that you take over the dining table all day on Saturday to get all this done.
And you finish all of these jobs and you pack everything away.
And then you remember that you have to have your NQT folder ready for a meeting with your mentor this Thursday.
So everything come out again.
And then you remember that you need to submit your first assessment results for Maths this Wednesday.
And then you remember that you planned a PHSCE lesson for Tuesday but just remembered that you won’t need it as you won’t be having a PHSCE lesson this week because there’s a special assembly.
Don’t worry – you are not alone.
This happens all the time when you are a new teacher.
The key to making efficient use of your time is to keep an eye on the bigger picture, something that is REALLY hard when you are still on that massive learning curve as a new teacher.
So what can you do?
Did you read this article from the BBC…
Using a simple surgical checklist during major operations can cut deaths by more than 40% and complications by more than a third, research has shown.
If you didn’t and if you don’t want to read it now, here’s a summary what it says…
No matter how good a surgeon is or how well they think they can do their job, in high pressure situations, they forget the basics and this costs lives.
Running through a checklist makes sure that surgeons don’t forget anything – from the simple to the advanced.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised that teachers needed a Checklist too.
Trying to keep everything in your head is a major mistake made by teachers – both new and experienced.
And trying to keep it all in your head (and worrying about what you might have forgotten) is what causes the Sunday evening stress!
So I decided to make a Sunday Checklist, where you can check off the basics and think through the more complex problems.
What’s on the Checklist?
Make a note of any marking that still needs to be done. It will make you feel better to make a list so that you can prioritise getting it done before you need to hand the books out again. On the other hand, if you’re all up-to-date, you can tick the YES box and feel really good about yourself.
Note down any plans that still need to be finalised and any resources you need to find, print or get ready. Note beside them the day they need to be ready and you’ve got a weekly plan done!
Do you have any planned assessments this week? If so, make a note of them here. Are you going to focus on a particular child or group of children this week? Mark it down – don’t try to to keep this stuff in your head.
Do you have a special assembly this week? Meeting with your mentor on Wednesday? Need to wear pink on Thursday? Your turn to bring in the milk for the staffroom or empty the dishwasher. Note it down!
What are you looking forward to most this week?
When we’re exhausted and grumpy, sometimes it’s nice to think about the good stuff. What are you most looking forward to? It might be a particular lesson, it could be an outing or a visitor. It could even be that you are looking forward to seeing how many of your children get their spellings right – whatever it is, note it down. NO SKIPPING THIS ONE!
What’s going to be your biggest challenge?
Every week brings challenges in teaching. Take a minute to think about your biggest challenge this week and how you’re going to tackle it. Maybe there’s a child whose behaviour is particularly challenging… what are you going to try this week? Maybe there’s a tricky meeting coming up… what do you need to do to prepare?
Questions to ask
Every teacher, whether new or experienced, is full of questions! Make a note of things you need to find out this week (as well as who you have to ask) so that they don’t fall out of your head when the working week hits.
Things to do
Important things that need to be done this week? Need to write a post for the class blog? Need to find a Guided Reading set about Alcatraz? Place Value cards for Tuesday? Make a note of it here.
Getting all of this information out of your head and onto your Checklist should mean that you can sleep better on Sunday, feeling better prepared for Monday.
So print yourself a copy and get noting stuff down. Keep your completed Checklist with you all week to refer to and you’re well on your way to organisation!