Teachers are busy. Our days are populated with briefings, meetings, duties, parents’ evenings, extra prep sessions, planning, marking, feedback, child protection issues, emails, logging behaviour sanctions, and some teaching too. Whilst most teachers work on average of 48.2 hours per week, at least 1 in 5 teachers work more than 60 hours a week.
As a teacher, I have found that this work is not particularly hard but there is just so much of it. Usually, the work can be mentally draining and physically exhausted as working with young people, and with especially children in need, is no easy task. Resultantly, teachers end up taking their work home with them and their professional identity quickly engulfs their personal one.
Keeping track of all of these jobs, announcements and tasks can be challenging and, if a proper organisational system is not in place, then the day-to-day tasks of a teacher can quickly become overwhelming and the profession undesirable. In this blog, I wish to share three day-to-day organisational techniques that I use to organise my life. They help me run on “auto pilot” as I know exactly what I need to do and when. This allows me to easily prioritise and quickly adapt to any situation. I have attached copies throughout the blog that can be downloaded so that you can adopt one or more of these strategies from Monday morning!
1. Clear timetable:
Every year, or whenever my timetable changes, I open up an Excel spreadsheet and fill in all of my duties and commitments. As you can see, this timetable sets out what I should be doing from the moment I step into the building, to the curfew that I must observe to achieve a proper work-life balance. This may seem a bit too regimented; however, I follow this timetable to the letter and ensure that my curfew is always met. For example, I like to leave early on a Monday so that I can ease myself into the working week gently, but I don’t mind working later on a Thursday or a Friday. The wonderful thing about this is, if and when your commitments change, you can easily and simply change the timetable. This is how I populate it:
First of all, I put all of my teaching in because teaching must always come first and drives everything that I do. I then decide what I will do every morning. On the timetable, it says that I arrive to school at 8.15 but in reality it is often earlier, say 7.45-8.00. During my “Daily Tasks” time, I get myself a cup of coffee, set up my classroom, get my notebook for staff briefing and do my ablutions before the day. Note that I take the tube into work so check my morning emails before I even get to school, which means I have actioned a few things before I even arrive. I also eat my breakfast on the tube and check Twitter and the news too.
After that, I plug in my after school commitments. As you can see, I do three Y11 Prep sessions after school each week, I make time on a Monday after school to do EAL related tasks (as I am Head of EAL), which currently include policy writing, making departmental-specific support and making Achievement Plans for every EAL student at the school. I also dedicate time on a Thursday to mark student work and set the weekly online quiz. Usually, by Friday afternoon once I have completed my last Prep of the week, I am ready to leave for the weekend.
Lastly, I fill in the “middle bit”. This includes three Line Management meetings. I see an AP every fortnight to discuss all thing EAL strategy and on alternate weeks, I meet with the EAL teachers that I line manage. I then have a History department meeting once a week and a NQT check-in with my NQT mentor once a week. I usually make time for two or three Learning Walk slots on my timetable: these might include learning walks on my form tutees to see how engaged and focussed they are in lesson or Drop-In support to help EAL pupils in other lessons. You will see that I am on duty every single break time, lunch time and at the end of the day. I love speaking with the students outside of lesson time, I love supporting my SLT in making my school the best, and sometimes, I love being outside in the fresh air.
Download my timetable here Timetable MAR 2017-18
2. Daily Tasks Ticklist
There are a series of tasks that teachers do every single day. The non-negotiables, if you will. For me, these are separated into AM and PM tasks. In the morning, I always check my form tutees’ uniform, I sign reports or put a child onto report, I read out who is in an after school detention that day, I check equipment and I do learning walks. After school, I always find time to visit my form tutees in the centralised 1 or 2 hours after school detentions or internal exclusion so that we can reflect on their behaviour and ensure that they do not return. If I have put any students in these detentions, then I make sure that we reflect on their behaviour so that next lesson is a fresh start. I also find time to call home for good/bad students each day and log anything that needs logging on SIMS. I make sure that these are always done, every day. If they’re not, I don’t go home; however, as I said above it quickly becomes such a routine that it’s like you’re in “auto pilot.”
Underneath the tick list, I have a section to write the names of the form tutees in detention that day and any announcements for my form that were said in Staff Briefing. I also have my weekly LM meetings also listed there, along with a set of tasks that simply must be completed each day of the week. For example, we give one child a recognition at the end of the week so I have that on my tick list for Friday.
Lastly, I carry this tick list with me everywhere in a fold-over clipboard. In that clipboard, I also carry spare tutor behaviour and achievement monitor reports, spare photocopies of planner pages (in case one of my form tutees fails to bring their planner to school), along with pieces of paper that I collect during the day that need filing later. At the back of this fold-over clipboard, I keep a copy the end-of-term reports for every child in my form. With this information in my hand, I would frequently go up to them at break and remind them of their reading age, test scores or engagements scores in certain lessons and ask: “What have you done today to make sure you’re reading score will be higher next time?‘”, “Last time, your engagement in Spanish was good. What are you doing today to make sure it’s excellent?“. When I took over my form last year, they were incredibly challenging in many ways, but now they have become responsible learners with a desire to always improve. The more I question them, the more specific their own interventions become to help them improve too!
Download my Daily Tasks tick list here Daily_Tasks.
3. Weekly Lesson Plan
Every Friday afternoon, I print of this weekly lesson overview. It prints directly onto an A3 piece of paper and lists all of my lessons and classes on it, along with my three weekly LM meetings. When my Friday is finished, I spend 15-20 minutes writing down in each box the topic of the lesson along with the page numbers of the booklets. I then highlight each of these a different colour for each year group. Straight away, I can see what year group I am teaching next lesson.
This sheet never leaves my desk and acts a quick reference to see what I am teaching next. It’s another simple tip but it means that none of that information has to be kept in my head and remembered.
Sometimes, at the end of each lesson, I write a quick lesson reflection on a Post-It note and and stick it over the lesson square. Because the sheet is A3, it’s big enough to do so and this automatic self-reflection is some of the best CPD around.
Download my Weekly Lesson Overview here. Weekly Lesson.
Teaching is tough and teachers are busy. In this blog, I discussed three simple, easily adaptable, daily organisation techniques that YOU can use from Monday to make your life easier and your brain less crammed with information.
They may seem simple and there is a lot of overlap but with these techniques, but because of them I meet my deadlines, I have more time to think about teaching, I rarely work late into the evening, and almost never work weekends.
I hope this helps!