Working as a teacher can be extremely rewarding but you need to ensure that you manage your time effectively to maximise the learning opportunities for children in your class and avoid becoming burdened with too many tasks which can sap your energy and enthusiasm for the job.
There are a number of techniques that you can use to reduce the impact of time consuming tasks so that you concentrate on producing effective lessons to develop the children’s progress. You need to look for opportunities in the school day where you can delegate tasks or combine activities so that your daily timetable is reduced giving you more time to reflect and steady the learning in the classroom. If you try to do too much you risk over-looking important aspects of the children’s learning.
Nobody really enjoys taking home sets of exercise books or topic sheets to mark at home. Some activities will need your full concentration when marking to help identify weaknesses in a pupil’s learning that will need to be addressed in future lessons. However, the work from most lessons can be marked in less time consuming ways.
Get the children to work with a partner to mark some of their own work. Stop a few minutes before the end of the lesson allowing the class time to check and correct each other’s work. For example, if you have set the children a grammar activity to use a specific form of punctuation in the sentences then the children can correct another pupil’s work. You should also allow time for any corrections to be made to the work.
Spend time during the lesson discussing individual children’s work so that there is no need to mark their books at the end of the lesson. You can place a sticker on the children’s work to show that it has been discussed with a teacher during the lesson.
Designate some lessons during the week when the children are working quietly and independently without needing any teacher support. This will enable you to spend time marking children’s work from other lessons. It is also a great opportunity to provide verbal feedback to some pupils about the progress of their learning when you find mistakes in their work.
If you are lucky enough to work in a school with multiple classes in a single year group then the teachers can work together to share planning responsibilities. If you work in a school with only one class in each year group then you could make links with neighbouring schools to share planning ideas and resources. Each teacher can be responsible for producing the schemes of work and teaching resources for a particular subject or topic. The year group can then meet on a weekly basis to disseminate ideas for the following week. It is always easier to adapt a planning model to meet the needs of your class rather than try and do everything yourself. Sharing good practice is an excellent way of saving time but also helps to develop your teaching methods as it will encourage you to try out new ideas.
You can avoid endless hours of planning by making sure that you save any schemes or work and lesson plans from previous years along with the matching teaching resources. This will prevent you spending valuable time when planning a new lesson or topic. You can then review the planning from previous years and make any necessary changes or additions to match the learning needs of your current class. It is also an good idea to save copies of the children’s work from previous lessons and topics which can be used as a planning aid to target specific outcomes. Keep some boxes in your cupboard where you can quickly store children’s work from the current year as aid to teaching in future years.
Delegating some tasks and activities can save you classroom time which can then be used to better support the children’s learning. Invite some parents or guardians to support their children in the classroom during the week. You can then ask the parents or guardians to complete time consuming tasks such as backing display boards or presenting children’s work. Classroom helpers are especially useful for hands on activities that require lots of adult support such as building models in Design Technology.
Select some children to act as classroom monitors to perform simple tasks and activities on a daily basis. This will free up some of your time to able you to concentrate on the more important aspect of the children’s learning. You can select children on each table to be in charge of collecting and handing out resources for each lesson. Some children can also be responsible for ensuring that specific areas of the classroom such as the book corner and sink area are kept clean and tidy. Be careful to choose children who will only complete the tasks when they find a spare few minutes in the day and not pupils who may decide to tidy the books right before a spelling test.