Keeping the ‘Bonkers’ losing the ‘Bonkers’ hours.

Michael Tidd is right. Working hard is not the same as working long hours. However, I would argue that teachers who claim that working 60 or 70 hours of the week is ‘the nature of the job’ or a ‘necessity of doing the job well’ are not completely wrong. I am very much one of those teachers that Mr Tidd calls ‘bonkers’. Until recently, I spent my evenings and weekends searching for the best resources and making beautiful displays. However, I didn’t do it because I felt I would be worse and my job if I didn’t and I’m very lucky to have a management that are very considerate of workload. I did it because I enjoyed it. It is after all what my phase leader calls doing ‘the fun stuff’ and I consider it very much part of my job. In fact, it’s actually the part of my job I enjoy the most. However, it is also the part that I always thought I only had time to do if I added an extra 20 hours to the week. I was without doubt guilty of being a ‘teacher martyr’ and I regularly showed off my weekend wares, waxing lyrical about the hours I had spent perfecting things. I agree that in doing so I perpetuated the myth that I was somehow better at my job. But I was wrong. I wasn’t. I was massively inefficient. However, in condemning those ‘teacher martyrs’ (like myself), what we shouldn’t do is encourage them to stop doing ‘the fun stuff’, just to do it more efficiently. Being creative is one of the real joys of being a primary teacher and I have recently discovered I don’t need to be a ‘teacher martyr’ to do those things. There are strategies for doing all the extra stuff without adding 20 extra hours to my week.

Firstly, if I could uninvent one thing to help with my teacher workload it would be the internet. For me it became like a black hole that I kept being getting sucked back into. I became like a drug addict searching and searching for my next hit, always going that one step further to make sure I had the best stuff (my previous job in a school with very competitive teachers didn’t help with this). You can easily rack up an extra 10 hours of work just searching. Too much great choice can also easily add to curriculum congestion as you try to squeeze your whole topic Pinterest board into the planning, your work load becomes unmanageable. It’s even worse when a great whole school initiative is spotted by an eager middle leader or management. However, to stop searching completely would be to remove the ‘fun stuff.’ What we have to do is manage the internet better.

Secondly, teacher environments have to be less competitive and more collaborative. Humility surrounding workload is a necessity. It is vital that management don’t advocate the ideas or principles of teachers who work too long. Instead they must create an environment where the best stuff, like good resources, are collected and shared regularly, reducing everyone’s workload. Sharing good practice should never be a competitive environment or encourage extra workload. It should always be about reducing it. Here’s my top tips for teachers and management to limit the workload and to stop being a teacher martyr.

  • Limit yourself to the 3/4 websites that you find have the best resources (Subscribing as a school to a couple of one stop shops like Twinkl or Espresso is a great start)
  •  As a school share creativity between teachers, arranging regular times for staff to have a resources ‘swap shop.’ (Make sure this is not a competitive environment but a ‘giving’ one)
  • Organise resources across your school. In particular, making sure that digital resources are regularly edited and carefully filed so that they are easily searchable and accessible so no one is ever reinventing the wheel. (Don’t let the collection get as vast as the internet)
  • Use middle leaders to manage the resources in their subject, narrowing the selection to the very best rather than widening it.
  • Avoid curriculum congestion. If you find a brilliant new idea, replace old stuff. Don’t continue to add more and more. You can’t keep everything going. Be prepared to ‘cut.’
  • Make sure careful choices are made about which initiatives are rolled out across the whole school.
  • Oh yes, and work through X Factor

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s