Science Teacher SOS and working smarter not harder

The ASE Science teacher SOS kit gives lots of useful tips for those who are struggling or considering leaving the profession. One of the most common reasons for teachers leaving is workload. Unfortunately, there is little the ASE can do to influence time-consuming policies at a school level apart from highlight good practice and signpost teachers to resources that can be shared with the leadership of their institution.

Sometimes you can be ruthlessly organised but still be overwhelmed by tasks and expectations – I know because that’s why I left my last post (the school acknowledged my high workload but didn’t know what to do about it)

Firstly if you haven’t seen the ASE’s Science Teacher SOS I’d recommend reading it and then putting a copy in your prep room or work area where other teachers can see it.  Be familiar with its contents – it contains some useful advice and guidance

I’ve posted before about my workflow and I thought it was worth sharing again.

Knowing what you have to do

I found that tasks came in two streams. Those that arrive by email and those that arrive through other means (e.g. face to face, departmental meetings). It’s handy to know what you need to do so you can map it to the time you have available. I have two ways of tracking what I need to do (and they are fairly simple to combine into a single stream) and that’s my inbox and my to-do list. My inbox is synchronised across all my devices and my to-do list is hosted by Todoist, my favourite online to-do list app (I chose Todoist because it links to Amazon’s Echo for those of you who have one of these!). It’s a fairly simple extra step to add emails into Todoist if you want to combine this information into a single stream (their Outlook and Gmail plugins are amazing!) Now you have a list of all your tasks you need to how to organise them into the time you have available…

Being organised

Being organised is about using your time effectively. Plan out your week – put in your calendar all your teaching, planning and marking sessions (you can either use your preferred electronic calendar or a paper-based system such as the one in the appendices of the Science Teacher SOS document) I chose to use an electronic version as I didn’t have to carry a bulky physical diary from one place to another with me. Electronic lesson plans are much easier to share – plan your lessons electronically on your calendar and invite your TA to the meeting, then they get a copy of your lesson plan too.

Some of the most ineffective teachers I’ve supported are disorganised. They have bags of papers (that are all muddled up) and don’t know what they are doing next and so they arrive at lessons unprepared and often late. Unlike other aspects of teaching, learning to be organised is a relatively easy fix – a quick Google will reveal lots of websites that can provide support.

Being realistic

Nobody can survive without the basics of food and sleep. Make sure you stop for lunch and have a break. If you have to work, stick to reading articles on the TES, I know many teachers who have spilt coffee or blobs of mayonnaise on student books, often followed by feelings of remorse.

Some useful phrases to have in your vocabulary include:

  • which would you like me to do first?
  • which one would you rather I complete?
  • I can do but not until….
  • I don’t have capacity/time to do that until…
  • I only have xx time available, what would you suggest?

Be sure to be a member of a union and keep up to date with their guidance on workload. Try not to be negative, if you can think of a simpler or more time efficient way of doing something then feed this back through your line manager. If you haven’t seen the “Reducing teacher workload” poster, read it and share it with your department who may not have seen it either.

If you are struggling, find someone to talk to. If you are an ASE member then you will find support through the ASE. You can also speak to your union who will lend you a sympathetic ear and give you some useful advice.

One thought on “Science Teacher SOS and working smarter not harder”

  1. What a great article for teachers who are feeling overwhelmed by there excessive work load and trying to educate our future generations. It often seems that we need to focus more on the behind the scenes things like paper work instead of making sure our students truly understand the material.

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