Teaching is an inspiring and rewarding career where no two days are the same, which is what makes the job so exciting. You need to be adaptable and intuitive since we all know what happens to the best-laid plans of mice and men! As the old adage goes, the number one resource in the classroom is you, the teacher, and you are a resource that needs to protect itself. Our guide offers tips and advice on how to best achieve this, particularly if you are new to teaching in the UK.
The marking and assessment of students’ work is one of the most time-consuming elements of the job, especially for English teachers, but it is a necessary part of helping your students develop. It will take twice as long as you think it will, especially at first, and with each book needing marking every three weeks or so, plus homework, it can soon mount up. Some teachers have been known to write as many as 2,000 words per class while marking. Limit yourself to five spelling corrections per page and keep it succinct. Create a schedule of which classes are going to get marked on which week and when you are going to find the time to do it. Give yourself an hour or so after the students have gone home to break the back of it. There’s nothing more demoralising than having to mark 60 assessments and burning the midnight oil.
2. Plan far, far ahead
So you’ve got your Schemes of Work set out for the term and feel comfortable with what each class will be doing. Now cross-check your whole timetable – three classes being assessed in the same week is going to add up to a lot of marking. Also, keep note of the school’s calendar and plan around report writing, parents’ evenings and meetings that can derail your perfectly laid plans. Build in lessons that will generate less work for you to take home and also require fewer teacher-led activities: the morning after the parent’s evening before can be surprisingly exhausting.
3. Don’t reinvent the wheel
You’ve probably built up a whole host of amazing lessons involving laminated sheets, card sorts and envelopes full of surprises during your training year, but on a full timetable, you don’t have the planning time to be coming up with new lessons and creating new resources every week. In some departments, colleagues can be quite secretive about their resources and lesson plans. Don’t become part of that cycle and don’t believe that you should be expected to be coming up with brand-new techniques all the time either: there’s already a whole host of amazing resources out there. Use TES online and Teachit, use the expertise of the teachers in your department, and share everything you can.
4. Take your own advice: put your hand up
There is always someone to whom you can go and ask if you have a question. There is usually some sort of mentor, who may or may not be a member of your own department. Take your own advice and do ask if you need guidance on something. It can be easy to feel alone. You’re not. Everyone will have a busy timetable and will probably assume that if you’re not vocal about your problems, then you are getting on with it, so speak up. Help is on hand everywhere. The person most likely to take you under their wing is probably not going to be your formal mentor, but possibly the person in the room next door. If you’re teaching the same set or subject as another teacher, then double up on the planning.
5. Consistency is key
Whilst the diverse attitudes and personalities are what makes teaching fun and exciting, every teacher has THAT class at some point in their career. They are the class that test your limits and your patience each week. Consistency is vital for managing pupil behaviour so it's important to know what you want to achieve, and what the consequences will be if you don't get it. To reiterate the previous point, don’t go it alone. Use the support structures that are in place to help you – you have not failed if you need to have a student removed from your room. It’s advantageous to you and the learning of your students to get them out of there as soon as possible.
6. Work to live, don’t live to work
It’s very easy to find yourself working all the hours of the day and night, especially if you take on every extra task that’s offered to you. Expect to work outside of school hours, but give yourself a cut-off point, don’t spread yourself too thin and don’t be scared of saying no to colleagues and managers. Cut yourself some slack. After all, you’re new to teaching and no one is perfect. And remember that everyone deserves a weekend: even teachers.