Ways to lighten the load, and how to survive your teaching career: speed writing for PGCE class

Dr Carol Webb: PGCE Reflective Writing Task, Tuesday 20th January 2015

“Ten Ways to Lighten the Load” – after chatting in our groups tonight, we came up with this list:

  1. Put your own well-bring first: invest in hygiene and professional appearance (bathe every day, hair washed and combed – seems obvious but not everyone does!), and get enough sleep.
  2. Invest in your own health to be able to give more back: exercise, massage, etc.
  3. Be assertive with boundaries, roles and responsibilities: focus your energy on essential tasks, choose your battles and don’t waste time and energy on internal politics
  4. Don’t feel guilty for having a life outside work: go out for dinner and enjoy yourself etc.
  5. When planning lessons, re-use material, ‘steal’ and innovate, recycle, adapt; share within a team.
  6. Don’t over prepare (you don’t have to go over the top with proving your knowledge)
  7. Mark in large batches, get into work earlier if possible, lock yourself in a classroom without any distractions and just get it done
  8. Use student self assessment and peer assessment strategies in class. Get them to critique their own work. But not at the expense of omitting quality.
  9. Don’t rush through a lesson. Save any leftover bits for ‘next week’.
  10. Encourage student self-study / research to address lesson aims and objectives. Perhaps base associated tasks on Bloom’s Taxonomy to help ‘deeper engagement and learning with application’ take place.

“How I will survive the start of my teaching career”

In truth I’ve been teaching on and off for the last 19 years, so I don’t feel it’s quite honest to talk about me embarking on a future teacher career as if it’s a new thing. However, the PGCE should offer some demarcation point by which to start afresh maybe. In view of this, and based on reading the case studies already read and discussed in class, in addition to my own experience so far, I propose some rethought survival tips for myself, perhaps by way of a mission statement for how I aim to continue teaching and providing the best experience possible for the learners in my care.

Firstly, my main objective is to put the students’ learning first. But in doing this I believe we have to work smarter, not necessarily harder for the sake of it. The ways we do this means prioritising work, focusing on the important stuff that really homes in on student learning. I only have to manage a workload based on 15-16 hours a week direct teaching time and outside this I have to fit in all the preparation, marking, feedback, administration, personal training requirements, email communication and meetings besides. Some things therefore have to be put on a back burner and lessons and student feedback related to setting learning targets comes first. However, keeping records up to date on registers, eILP systems etc is essential and part of our professional responsibilities, and if this gets neglected the students suffer in the long run too. The support infrastructure isn’t there to help the students if we don’t keep these systems up to date at the same time as teaching them. Making sure student absences are addressed quickly and directly is paramount for the success of my students. I have good support from my Head of Learning who acknowledges this too and really encourages my assertive communication of these issues between relevant staff in order to give the students the help they need. Therefore, some things we perceive as less important administration is actually as important if not more so than some aspects of lesson planning.

Also, it’s great to have a sociable working environment. Last weekend I went away for a leaving do of one of the members of staff from our staffroom and came back totally refreshed and got a million things done because I was so full of energy and productive again after having had a really fun break. But in the working environment we also need to get our heads down sometimes and have undistracted, focussed time, just to bang out the more routine admin and organisational tasks that many people feel as though drag them down and are the bane of their lives. I hate to admit it but I actually like a bit of admin and paperwork. It’s quite therapeutic to do a structured task once in a while and create order out of disorder. But I need some time to do that where other people aren’t chattering away in the background. That means I either have to pick a time when the staffroom is empty to do it, or go somewhere else.

I take the initiative in sharing resources and lesson materials, because I believe that you get back what you give out. This is largely true. But not always. So sometimes you have to ask for what you need as well. Don’t be afraid to ask if you need something. It might not always be there either but it could lead to doing something in another way you hadn’t thought of before.

And, if all else fails… there’s always a good old massage to be had down the gym 🙂

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