Managing Your Workload During Your Training Year

If you have just started your teacher training, no matter the route, you may be feeling rather swamped with things to do! It is something that I really struggled with throughout the year and no matter what advice you will be given…you will struggle to balance everything. I don’t think it is something people ever master or get the hang of as even very experienced colleagues admit that they find it difficult.

I think I needed to think about this recently as well as I come to the end of my first week as an NQT and face the temptation to work over the weekend…which I’m channelling into this post instead.

1. You’ll never finish your to do list.

It is just going to be a fact. You’ll never finish off everything you want to. What you can do, however, is RAG rate the importance of the tasks you need to do so that you make sure you finish that lesson before you start cutting out display lettering.

2. Use your free periods wisely.

The benefit of your sparse timetable in the first term is that you can get lots of observations done across different year groups/subject areas but it also means that you can get lots of reading done for your assignments. Space out the work you’ll need to put in for your assignments during this first term especially because once your teaching ramps up…you’ll be glad you did it!

3. Remember to say no.

You should not be expected to be the errand girl/boy for the other teachers in your department. Of course, there may be times where you help a colleague out by grabbing their photocopying from reprographics. However, there is a line and you need to learn where you draw yours.

4. Think about how much time you spend planning lessons/activities.

Be smart about it. I once spent 2 hours planning a 20 minute connect activity. It was ridiculous. I tried to account for every minute of the lesson and micro-manage the pupils in anticipation. Well needless to say that some pupils turned up late, didn’t dance to the very specific beat of my specially designed drum, and well…the lesson was a bit pants. Not only did I spend an idiotic amount of time on the 20 minute connect activity but it didn’t do anything for the kids either so nobody won. Try to keep it all in perspective!

5. Get yourself a decent planner & write all of your deadlines in.

There is nothing worse than finding out you have a major essay due in a few days when you haven’t done any of the work and you’ve got a stack of books to mark as well as lessons to plan! Get yourself a decent planner, wall calendar or sit down and input it onto your phone calendar. It’ll save you a heart attack closer to the time.

6. Set aside some time that is all about you.

Keep yourself grounded and set some time aside that it all about you. I set aside Saturdays every week. Arguably, that isn’t nearly enough time but for me, that was good enough. I wouldn’t do any work and would make sure to catch up on some trashy TV whilst in my pyjamas binge eating sweets.

7. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel.

Some departments/schools are more open about sharing resources than others. Regardless of whether colleagues are happy to share, you can access loads of materials and resources online through Twitter (where most people share for free), bloggers, TES or Teachers Pay Teachers. These resources will save you a decent amount of time and if nothing else, give you lots of ideas!

8. Ask for help and support.

You should have a mentor in school as well as a tutor with your training provider…ask them for them! The chances are that they’ve supported other trainees through these issues and been through them themselves. Talk to your friends and your family. Don’t be scared to say if you’re ever struggling.

 

If there is anything else that anyone can think or would like to see on this list then let me know in the comments below or by tweeting me @MissSims4

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Coping with an Invisible Illness

It isn’t something I particularly talk about…mostly because I don’t see the point but after thinking about it; it is important to talk about it. I have a type of arthritis in my lower back called ankylosing spondylitis. It essentially means I’m in a lot of pain…pretty much all of the time. Eventually, my spine will fuse together which may well mean I am immobile or wheelchair bound…hence why I don’t tend to talk about it! Having said that, I am yet to meet any other teachers in a similar position.

 

If you are in a similar position, I would love to hear from you! For now though, I’ve put together a list of things that I have found useful through my very limited experience…

Spoon-theory

Read up on Spoon Theory

Spoon Theory is a great way to think about managing your energy throughout the day or week. The important thing to remember is that everyone differs on the amount of ‘spoons’ they use for each activity. For example, going to work would cost me 6 spoons which doesn’t leave me much for the rest of the day. However, it is a useful little tool to keep in mind!

occupational health

Talk to Occupational Health

Occupational health are there to help…nobody is going to shout at you for asking for help! In your school, it may be called something a little different. For example, I talked to our Health and Safety officer as well as the site team. I reached out to occupational health and got a new desk chair. It may seem quite a small adjustment but it has made such a difference to my pain levels throughout the day.

ASK STUDENTS

Ask Your Students for Help

OK. This might not work with your ‘nightmare’ groups and requires your own judgement but if you’re having a bad day…tell them! I had an almighty pain flare up one day and couldn’t stand for long periods of time. I told my gorgeous Year 7 group and they were so thoughtful and well behaved for the rest of the lesson. Following that afternoon, I would have 2 or 3 of them come up to me, without fail, each lesson and ask how I was feeling or if I needed any help with anything. Even if it just means carrying a box of books or something up/down the stairs, it’s help! Take it! It doesn’t make you weak.

WEEKENDS WISELY

Use your Weekends Wisely

I gave myself Saturdays as my designated ‘Self-Care Saturday’…mostly because I liked to use Sundays to prep myself for Monday. It is, of course, up to you and what works best with your routine. Now, I am aware that there are a number of different factors that might prevent people from doing this. For example, having children or other responsibilities. Yet, I would encourage everyone to designate some time at least for their own self care.

I would treat myself to a LUSH bath bomb (this one is my favourite), read a few chapters of my book, turn off my phone and have one of my favourite meals. It makes a big difference to the rest of your week.

CONVERSATION

Keep the Conversation Going

This is one of the things that I’ve found most difficult over the last year. Keep talking about how you’re finding things. Whether that is to a counsellor, a medical professional, your partner, your friends, your line manager…keep the conversation going. It is so important to talk but not just about work or your illness. It is important to talk about menial things, trashy TV, the latest book you’ve read or the news (scrap that, it’s rather depressing at the moment).

IMPORTANT NUMBERS

Important Numbers/Contacts

If you are struggling, go and speak to your GP/Nurse as a first point of call. However, I hope some of these websites/numbers are helpful too.

NHS Choices

Mind: the Mental Health Charity

Education Support Partnership

A Way with Pain: Chronic Pain Support Charity

Pain UK

Facebook can also be a bit hit and miss with support groups – I’ve found them to be incredibly depressing and offer people a place to moan rather than lift each other up but they can still be a source of support. The best thing to do is search!