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Sunday, 18 May 2014

How to Survive Teaching

In my opinion the education system in the UK is in crisis. Experienced teachers are leaving the profession, teacher training courses are undersubscribed and those who remain in education are 'dissatisfied.' In a recent survey conducted by the NASUWT there are many reasons given for this crisis, ranging from excessive workload, inspections and changes to the teacher pension. The survey goes on to say 65% of teachers had considered leaving their job over the past year whilst 54% considered leaving teaching completely. NASUWT Survey.

So if you are an experienced teacher, an NQT or indeed thinking of joining teaching what can you do to make sure you do not become one of the statistics above? 

Teach smarter - With the constant additions to teacher workload, the pressures of targets, lesson observations, inspections, marking, book monitoring and of course the changes to the curriculum it is all to easy to become 'bogged down.' So in order to survive you really have to be realistic. 

  • Do not try to reinvent the wheel, make friends with Hamilton Trust to give you a starting point for planning
  • Plan alongside another member of staff, maybe each taking responsibility for certain subjects
  • Adapt planning that you have used with your year group before
  • Don't overplan - daily planning does not to contain copious notes, remember the planning is for you and should be focussed upon the learning objective of the lesson
  • Ask for help with marking - a fully trained Teaching Assistant will be invaluable in helping you stay on top of marking
  • Remember not every piece of work needs to be marked deeply. Sometimes a tick or 'target met' stamp is enough
  • Mark alongside the pupil using verbal feedback - this is very effective and avoids writing down everything that you could just say directly to the pupil
  • Allow yourself real down time, time when you are not working or thinking about work. Maybe set yourself a 'going home time' target for every weeknight and where possible try not to take work home unless this genuinely works for you 

Prioritise - Try to remember that it is the teaching and learning that matter! If you allow yourself to focus on your pupils the results will come. 
  • Shift to doing the work that matters and delve deeper into the content of what you want your pupils to know and be able to do. Having that focus on the pupils work takes the learning to a different level.
  • Take the time to work with all of your pupils as individuals or within a groups at least once a week. 
  • Allow yourself to become immersed in the teaching and learning and not distracted by the things that are not as important

Keep your friends close - Friends and family are important and can provide a huge amount of support when you are feeling the pressure. But it is the friends in work who are able to give you the immediate support when you are feeling under pressure.

  • Go into the staff room during break and lunch. It is all to easy to say 'Oh i'm just too busy!' they are called break times for a reason. You need a break! 
  • The staff room can also be a place where you can go and have a moan, sound off about that pupil that is driving you crazy today or just to have an opportunity to laugh it all off
  • Have someone at work who you can confide in when things are really getting on top of you. Often they can really help to put things into perspective and can offer empathy because they are going through or have gone through something similar

Avoid the sappers - Whilst the staff room can invaluable, it does at times have to be approached with caution, especially when Miss, Mrs or Mr Sapper are about. We have all met them, the ones that just moan constantly about absolutely everything from the pupils and other members of staff to the mugs in the staffroom. These sappers really should be avoided at all costs as all they do is assist you into a very deep depression.

  • Identify the sappers in your own workplace as soon as possible
  • Avoid them at all costs, especially when you are feeling a bit low because they will make it a thousand times worse
  • If you get cornered by the sapper remember say nothing just smile sweetly and nod occasionally or you will soon find they think you agree with them and they will never leave you alone 

Be Adaptable - In the words of Charles Darwin “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” By its very nature education evolves and changes constantly, it is cyclical with initiatives coming and going and then coming again.

  • Keep up to date with educational changes. This is very easy with the help of twitter and other forms of social media which are used in a professional capacity.
  • Keep your skills and professional development up to date and be prepared to change and adapt to whatever national or local initiative that comes along

Laugh - Laughter really is the best medicine. Have you ever had that exhausted feeling after a good laugh? You know, the one where your side hurts, your eyes water, you can't catch your breath and your body's totally spent. It feels like you've just finished a two-hour session at the gym. Laughter and exercise may share more in common than you think, both can boost your health. You know about the infinite benefits of an active lifestyle, but did you know that laughter can support the immune system, improve blood pressure, stimulate the organs and reduce pain? So ....
  • Laugh with your friends in the staff room taking time to share those 'teaching moments' with each other
  • Laugh with your pupils, it really is nice for the pupils to see you as a little human at least. Provide them with the lots of fun learning opportunities and you will have fun too. Remember the class the laugh together, learn together!
  • Have a Friday song which you play every Friday and dance and sing together. It is always a great way to end the week.
Try to remember why you went into teaching in the first place. It really is, or can be, the best job in the world. Two days are never the same, you really can and do make a difference to people's lives and futures so try to make sure it is a positive one!