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Feeling strained

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by Bonnie23, Oct 8, 2016.

  1. Bonnie23

    Bonnie23 Occasional commenter


    I've just read through some of the posts on here and even though I'm writing this I now feel a little bit pathetic. We have a 6 lesson day, I teach 25 a week all the way from Year 7-13 but that's it, I don't have any other responsibilities or so I thought. I have no HOD at the moment but very supportive colleagues.

    Down to the point: This week I haven't finished one night before 8.30pm. I start work at 7am, work all day, finish at the earliest of 8.30pm and then go home, I stopped one day to have lunch with a colleague.

    I will admit that this is the first time I've taught a full timetable, I'm in my third year of teaching but I had a relatively light timetable last year.

    I just feel like I can't get through it all. I do my planning on a Friday evening ready for Monday. At the moment I'm having to plan three year groups worth of work, despite doing a lot of planning during the summer. Plus teaching an A-level course I've never taught before. I was told when I had my interview everything was set up ready to go.

    My main issue is marking, especially Year 11, it's a lot of written information and it has to be analysed carefully for obvious reasons. I have a lot of unmotivated students in that class due to previous issues as well.

    I left work tonight at 8pm and I refused to take anything home because I'm so exhausted but even then I ended up feeling guilty for not doing enough. People tell me to plan lessons where you can let the students get on with it, but I feel guility about this too because that means I'm not checking progress and I'm not challenging students; in essence I don't feel like that's teaching.

    The advice: Can anyone tell me how they manage their workload, when do you call it a day? How do you know enough is enough? Am I taking too long on tasks? Anyone got any marking tips? I've been told by colleagues if I don't sort this I will end up burning out and probably end up signed off with stress. But more than anything when I put these hours in, and things don't go right, I end up resenting the students and my job.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. Bonnie23

    Bonnie23 Occasional commenter

    I forgot to mention I also have to do intervention twice a week for an hour after school because students are being taken for maths/science/english and can't just do one night a week. I have also worked every weekend since we started back, on both a saturday and sunday.
  3. snail_friendly

    snail_friendly Occasional commenter

    From reading your post I think you'd appreciate some practical advice - so here are some that I would offer you if you were in my department:

    1. Accept the fact that you will always have items on your to do list that you don't complete at the end of the day / week. To help facilitate this find a prioritising method that works for you - my preference is Covey's 4 quadrant method.
    2. Set yourself working hours and stick to them - for example if you work late Mon-Thurs, leave earlier on Fri & don't work on weekends.
    3. YR13 should be independent learners, so build in more opportunities for them to research and answer big questions - allow them to lead their learning.
    4. There are lots of interesting ways to mark that I've read recently, for example a colleague of mine has experimented with this recently: https://mrthorntonteach.com/tag/assessment/
    I use a system where students receive two positive comments and I provide them with a code for targets and DIRT which they then write in themselves (from the board) before completing the DIRT - this means I can mark a set of YR11 essays in a little over an hour.
    5. Make time to take breaks (lunch / after school) to have a coffee and chat with colleagues
    6. Share ideas with colleagues and use materials they offer you

    Hope that's of some help ...
  4. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Try reading The Lazy Teacher's Handbook for ideas on how to make your work easier without it affecting the quality of your work.

    Try somehow to organise your working week, so you have at least one full day off to yourself to do nothing at all related to school work.
  5. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    It has to come from you, sorry. You know the answer deep down.

    1) you shouldn't be working from 7 until half 8. It isn't sustainable, and I doubt it is even productive. You have to make compromises here.

    2) intervention classes are a sore point. My thoughts are to knock them on the head. I don't know your school though... it shouldn't be an expectation because kids are taken elsewhere. I have no issue with revision classes, I do have an issue with this.

    2) planning. To be working that long you are reinventing the wheel. You must be. Keep it simple. Re use what you have done before. Scrap things that are frilly and not needed. It isn't your job to entertain. I read a guy on here who said that he tried to do one really good lesson per class, per week. The rest were basic. Do this.

    3) marking. Don't know your places policy. You have to cut back. I don't agree that every piece of y11 work requires scrutiny like you suggest. Assessment yes, classwork, no.

    4) don't be a martyr. End of. Sounds blunt, but I am convinced that a lot of workload issues have more to do with personal expectations and failure to apply some objectivity than some people accept.

    5) sixth form is hard. I am teaching anew course and planning the content is time consuming. I agree with everything stated above about individual learners though. You should not be over planning for these
  6. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    I am sorry, I will be blunt. You can't moan when you give this explanation( in bold). It is rubbish. Get rid of ideas like this, if you can't you are destined for problems. It is not true and is a dangerous mindset. Both for you and for expectations in our profession as a whole
    grumpydogwoman likes this.
  7. harsh-but-fair

    harsh-but-fair Star commenter

    If you work until 8.30 pm, who locks up the school?
    DYNAMO67 likes this.
  8. varcolac

    varcolac Occasional commenter

    I only mark exam questions for exam classes. Everything else gets a tick and flick. They're doing exams in June- it's in my best interest and theirs to prioritize exam questions rather than marking in-depth their notes from lessons.

    SLT in my school like to see kids "getting on with it." Some of my best lessons (according to them, and Ofsted, and according to my own ideas) have involved kids doing prep before the lesson, me setting up the task, them getting on with it, assessing and challenging themselves with my guidance, and a few words of praise, encouragement or challenge from myself at the end. I used to think like you - the teacher has to be all-singing, all-dancing, omniscient and omnipresent. Now I know more learning takes place and stresses me out less if I just let the get on with it.

    I love teaching my Year 10s, 11s, 12s and 13s, because I know they'll have done the independent study/prep work so they'll have the appropriate knowledge, I can set up a debate or some other task that gets them to challenge, examine and expand on that knowledge, and while they're talking I can take notes for feedback at the end (or sometimes just listen and check my emails or prepare my next lesson, but don't tell anyone I said that).
  9. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    Do what people tell you. Exhausting yourself to the point of ill health certainly isn't teaching. Letting pupils - especially the older ones - work independently once a week or for a large chunk of a few lessons very much is. They will also learn a lot themselves from marking their own work and exploring mark schemes; plan lessons which focus on this and get them into the habit of self evaluating their own work before you have to look at and it will speed up your marking.

    In essence, you should never be working harder in a lesson than the pupils are. Your work goes into the planning and prep. and the assessment. The lesson is their responsibility.

    I leave the building by 4.30. Except for pressure points in the year (folios, prelims) I don't take marking home. Sometimes I do a bit of planning and reading of exam specs but I don't spend hours making powerpoint and handouts and card sorts and rubbish like that. You're creating your own workload. Stop.
  10. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    Another issue here is that you aren't actually teaching a full timetable..... You have significantly more than the prescribed 10% PPA.

    I wholeheartedly agree with everything @Flere-Imsaho says. Particularly the bit about not working harder than the kids, and the bit about cutting things like card sorts.

    I used to be the same as you and many teachers. I used to think that pointless window dressing- card sorts, colourful handouts, games in lesson, groupwork interactive powerpoints etc. were important. I moved to a new school and saw it was not. It isn't a key component of good teaching. I sometimes think it is actually a barrier. They are distraction activities that actually see less work done. Don't feel bad about not having them in a lesson.
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2016
  11. secretsiren

    secretsiren Star commenter

    Cut back on the stuff that doesn't need to be done.
    - Class notes do not require marking or reading - the kids either do it or they don't. Either way, don't bother - mark assessments only. Use peer marking or self marking for homework etc.
    - Excise 'exciting' lessons for a bit and ruthlessly reuse, recycle and steal. Use websites, schemes of work or textbooks that have everything laid out for you in advance. Most exam courses have suggested schemes for GCSEs and A levels which I would suggest you use until you feel less under the cosh. I bought a 27 lesson scheme of work from this website for an English GCSE course - paid £3.00 and I now don't have to plan, resource or do anything except show up and teach the lessons that some kind soul planned for me. Lots of free, brilliant resources available too.
    - Work out the non-negotiables and do those things first. Sometimes things have to wait - you have to learn to shrug and trust that it will get done in time.
    - Twice a week, go in for 8 instead of 7 and then twice a week, go home at 4.30pm. Give yourself a clear day at the weekends with zero work. There are many, many reasons to make this a priority: firstly, your physical and mental health will be better if you're not constantly working; secondly, you will burn out less quickly and actually be a better teacher in the classroom; thirdly, you won't have a massive breakdown.

    It is tough, especially with unreasonable demands from SLT because of "Ofsted wanting to see it". But your health and sanity must come first.
  12. rachelpaula008

    rachelpaula008 Star commenter

    Good advice above, even the 'blunt' stuff!

    I had nearly three years of teaching all years 7 - 13. It made me ill. It wasn't just the day-to-day teaching, as I had to attend all parents' evenings and that became a complete joke when knowing other teachers 'only' taught a few year groups. So I became ill and resentful of some very decent colleagues. Not good.

    You've got to look after yourself first, @SLouise91 . Good luck.
    thistledoo and emerald52 like this.
  13. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Why can't they get on with things unassisted?

    Do you want them to have the attention span of a particularly unintelligent goldfish? Do you want to make them dependent on your all-singing, all-dancing performance?

    Get them to write solidly for 25 minutes. Swap books with someone else and that someone can give them some feedback. While you mark work from another lesson. That's how you manage a heavy workload when you have lots of exam-classes. One way.

    Take the excellent advice given by all the posters above. Look for shortcuts. The hours you're working are preposterous. Your colleagues are right. Unsustainable.
  14. WJClarkson

    WJClarkson Occasional commenter

    In my school, we have a duty caretaker who comes back at around midnight to lock up and clear out any stragglers.
  15. Bonnie23

    Bonnie23 Occasional commenter

    Thanks all for your advice. The problem is I can't cut back my marking with Year 10, 11, 12 or 13 as the subject I teach is still very heavily coursework based and we are completing the work to the specification. My year 11's are in a mess after last year (new teacher this year)

    Our school offers night classes for adult education and the school is often open until 9.30. I didn't leave until 9.15pm on Monday as they were only just locking up then.

    Although I have a 10% for PPA we have 6 lessons a day and I teach 25 lessons a week, leaving 5 for planning but often one gets taken for cover. I have 12 different classes, most of them for two lessons a week so there's a lot of groups although the planning does double up luckily but it's a lot of groups for marking.

    Our marking policy is giving meaningful feedback at least every 6 lessons or 2 weeks depending on whichever is sooner.

    I don't think it's helped that I've just started at the school so I'm trying to clean up mistakes that happened last year, as well as new observations for new staff, and hopefully in the next month it should settle down but I'm definitely going to start giving myself a maximum working time!

    Thank you for all your advice, it has definitely made me feel a bit less guilty. The first half term is always the hardest and I think I'm just doubting myself a lot at the moment. Sometimes nothing in education feels good enough...
    emerald52 and rachelpaula008 like this.
  16. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    Does peer feedback count? Or self-assessment? Compare your own answer to the model answer? etc
    grumpydogwoman and emerald52 like this.
  17. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    Does 'meaningful HAVE to automatically mean laborious though? Every two weeks to put something 'meaningful needn't mean writing chapter and verse. Especially as it sounds that other colleagues aren't working 70 odd hour weeks.

    You can't. You can only influence now and the future. Especially when it comes to marking etc.
    grumpydogwoman and emerald52 like this.
  18. secretsiren

    secretsiren Star commenter

    I find that Years 10 and 11 (and I imagine 12 and 13, although I don't teach these myself as my school is 11-16) make the same mistakes as one another. Could you type the statements that you know will come up (e.g. more detailed evaluation of evidence or whatever) and then print, photocopy and give the students a copy that applies to them to stick in?
    DYNAMO67 likes this.
  19. harsh-but-fair

    harsh-but-fair Star commenter

    You're joking, right?
  20. emerald52

    emerald52 Star commenter

    A marking sheet like EBI ( even better if) 1 = give an example, 2= link to the question etc would allow you to just write numbers.WWW (what went well) 3 = good knowledge, 4= good analysis. They then have to write a detailed commentary of their proposed improvements. They can even peer mark like this. Teaching is a long haul . See survival tactics as helping the students since you are no use to them signed off sick.
    grumpydogwoman likes this.

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