I Will Survive! Managing the workload as an NQT 1

This is a hand-out from a course I have given to NQTs of which the last session of the day was an approach to managing the workload.  It also goes with the DVD of the same name available here.  The PGCE year feels busy enough, but starting in a new school as an NQT, often at the same time as moving to a new town, means that it can all feel overwhelming at times.  And then someone, rather helpfully, tells you to “pace yourself”.  Very kind, but HOW?! What follows is a way of reducing some of the crises which tend to come up, crises which happened to me or some of the 16 NQTs I mentored over the years.  Whether you fancy having a go at this probably depends on your temperament – this would drive some people absolutely mad, but it worked for me, so I pass it on to whoever finds it useful, NQT or just QT!

The hand-out is a bit long for one post, so here goes with the first bit, and I’ll put the rest up in another post soon.

Some tricks for keeping on top of everything, before it all gets on top of you!

We all have different approaches to managing our time, depending probably more than anything else on our own temperament.  This is an approach which has helped me and which has got quicker the more I have used it.  It need take no longer than 20 minutes if you are decisive!  The aim is to get an overall view of a half-term before it starts so I can recognize all the demands on my time which will put pressure on marking/lesson-planning, so that I can schedule them earlier than normal or deliberately defer them to later in the week and not feel I am behind on what you need to do.  It’s also to try to arrange things so you can make time for other parts of life!  It’s worth trying this for a couple of half-terms – you may feel it doesn’t work for you, but it might help you to identify another approach which achieves the same result.  At the end of the day, we need to find a way of managing our workload in such a way that we have time to see friends, family, and do other things whilst still doing a good job in school.  This often seems like an impossible task, and sometimes it definitely is!  But hopefully, this will help us to see what is important or urgent, or both, and to account for these things in our time-management.

The Plan

  • Draw up a table of the half-term, including a column for the weekend.
  • Plot in everything in the school calendar which will affect you, and which affects how much planning/marking, etc., you can realistically get done, e.g., Parents’ evening, deadline for reports, night out, weekend away, etc., would all have an impact.  Fig. 1
M T W Th F W/e
1 Yr 11 reports due
2 Personal tutoring day 7.30 pm Theatre Sat: Visit D & S in B’ham
3 a.m. INSET p.m. Chelt. INSET Chelt.
4 Yr 7 reports due 3-6 p.m. Yr 11 parents
5 Grammar Day
6 Fr exchange arrives Exchange leaves

Fig.1

  • If you can book in a night off each week, even if you have to work a little later at school on that day, do.  Blank out those nights on your plan.
  • Identify and shade in potential tensions, e.g., you’re away at the weekend, and reports are due in Monday morning; Parents’ evening is on Tuesday, you’re out Wednesday night and you’re on a course on Thursday and will need to sort out cover at some point.  Fig. 2
  • Book in when you will resolve these tensions – is there something you can do the previous weekend?  Can you use a free to get ahead on something?  Make an appointment to get those things done.
  • Write down at the top of each column when each class is set homework, and which days you will take it in.  Be realistic here – you don’t want to take in more than one set on any one day if you can help it.  Some groups may be quicker to mark than others.  It may also help to keep marking to weekdays and keep the weekends free for other things.  Look at how your frees can be used so that you at least break the back of the marking before the end of the school day.
  • Look again at your plan and work out when you simply won’t get any marking done, e.g., after Parents’ evening, you won’t be able to say your own name, let alone mark a set of books!  For those nights, either don’t set any homework at all or set work which you don’t need to mark.  It could be a learning homework, some research, or where a pupil has to teach their parent something from the lesson.  It is not usually a good idea simply to take it in the next lesson – you’ll probably have another set coming in that day!  That’s when problems start!
M11Hwk8Bks T7/8 Hwk10 Bks W9 Bks Th9/11 Hwk7/11 Bks F10Hwk W/e
1 Yr 11 reports due Plan Inset x3
2 Personal tutoring day 7.30 pm Theatre Cover for Tues Sat: Visit D & S in B’ham
3 a.m. INSET Write Yr 7 reports p.m. Chelt. INSET Chelt.
4 Yr 7 reports due 3-6 p.m. Yr 11 parents
5 Grammar Day Prep for next half-term
6 Fr exchange arrives Exchange leaves

Fig 2 – Tensions still to be resolved are: Wk3, Tues & w/e, Wk 5, Mon; resolved tensions are in italics

  • Plan in a weekend away at least once during the half-term where you do no work at all.  You leave at the normal time on Friday, you arrive first thing Monday morning, with no work in between.  Again, this may influence how much homework you set during the preceding week.  Providing you plan to do these things, you can usually find a way of re-jigging work so that it all becomes possible, and you’re less likely to feel guilty about it than if you were going to do work… and then just didn’t do it.  There’s a world out there! Fig 3
  • Plan in an Easy Day! This is a day when you virtually teach your own cover lessons.  It may require you to do 10 minutes at the front at the beginning of the lesson, but after that, pupils work quietly, or in silence, and you don’t take questions after your initial introduction.  You might want to save writing up language you have been using for such a day.  Be careful not to generate a whole load of marking, which would just defeat the object.  You might want to prepare a worksheet which links in with what you have been doing, which pupils can get on with and then you go through with them in the next lesson.  Meanwhile you can have a day with less wear and tear, get through some marking or preparation and survive the term!  This feels very difficult to do indeed if you are usually energetic, but it is good for pupils, and for you.  Pupils do need to be able to work for extended periods before they ever sit in an exam room!  There is no need to feel guilty about running a day like this.  If it means you get to the end of the half-term in one piece, you will be more useful to your classes than if you finish the half-term in a heap!  One day of quiet lessons will not do your classes any harm at all.  In fact as a Head of Department I used to insist that all my teachers had one Easy Day every half-term.
M11Hwk8Bks T7/8 Hwk10 Bks W9 Bks Th9/11 Hwk7/11 Bks F10Hwk W/e
1 Yr 11 reports due Plan Inset x3
2 Personal tutoring day 7.30 pm Theatre Cover for Tues Sat: Visit D & S in B’ham
3 a.m. INSET Write Yr 7 reports p.m. Chelt. INSET Chelt.
4 Yr 7 reports due 3-6 p.m. Yr 11 parents EASY DAY WEEKEND AWAY
5 Grammar Day Prep for next half-term
6 Fr exchange arrives Exchange leaves

Fig 3: Mondays = my night off; Week 2, Wed & Thurs, and Week 4, Wed = busy nights!  Easy Day & Weekend Away added

Now you can start your lesson-planning!

And for that…, you’ll need to wait for the next post!

One thought on “I Will Survive! Managing the workload as an NQT 1

  1. Pingback: Workload management: a few links | Teach and be well

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