Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Managing Workload 5

I recently read The Managing Workload Pocketbook from the brilliant Teachers' Pocketbooks series. The book was written by Will Thomas. This is the final post in a series about my learning from the book. The book includes some really practical advice for how to stay healthy and avoid stress.

Refuel - eat and drink properly for maximum performance
Exercise - take regular exercise for posture, health and stamina
Stop - take stimulus-free time
Time to reflect on your successes and plan your next steps to aid work-life balance

How to minimise stress:
  • Plan ahead for the long, medium and short term
  • Block out planning and relaxation time each week and take it
  • Be realistic with your plans
  • Be flexible towards your plans and build in enough margin for coping with unexepected demands - a teacher will always have them!
    Make lists and tick off things you achieve - praise yourself!
  • Take time out during the day - even a few seconds without stimulus can help psychologically
  • Eat and drink healthily, especially water
  • Create time for exercise and mental space
  • Do something for you each week, something you enjoy and look forward to
  • As a teacher, manage your stress because it affects your students too
  • Seek help from others if you feel you are suffering from too much stress.
I can honestly recommend this book. I think it's rare to find a book about working and productivity which is specifically for teachers. The fact that it's in an easy to digest pocketbook makes it even more impressive. I'd recommend that you take a look!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Week 35: Your ideal summer holiday

On our honeymoon we went to The Maldives. We stayed at Hudhuranfushi Island and we loved it! What a special place.

If I could pick my ideal holiday for the future, it would be to tour America. I'm desperate to see lots of the sites that I've seen on TV and in films over the years. What an experience that would be!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Managing Workload 4

I recently read The Managing Workload Pocketbook from the brilliant Teachers' Pocketbooks series. The book was written by Will Thomas. This is the fourth in a series a posts about my learning from the book. This time I consider his excellent advice for marking, feedback and working with parents.

Until reading this book it hadn't occurred to me that the way you handle your communication with parents, and the way that you mark and give feedback, can make a huge difference to managing a workload. Of course, I knew that they added to your workload; but the way they are managed can reduce the effect on a workload.

Marking and Feedback
Some evidence shows children pay little attention to written feedback where a grade is given. Effective feedback encourages children to reflect and is surprisingly smart in terms of teacher workload. Consider using the following techniques more of the time:
  • Set clear criteria for work - students with focus make fewer mistakes - less to correct.
  • Set some work as concept maps - you can get a good overview of understanding.
  • Use dots to indicate an error, but write nothing else - encourage reflection.
  • Use peer feedback which identifies a 4:1 ratio of strengths:development points.
  • Mark one piece of work in three, and use peer feedback for the others.
  • Students share their work before they submit it and correct their own mistakes.
  • Speed-mark by marking a question at a time rather than a whole test paper at a time.
Working with difficult parents.
When complaints or concerns are dealt with sensitively from the start, satisfaction is maximised and time spent in resolution is minimised.
  1. Listen and acknowledge - allow them to express themselves uninterrupted.
  2. Ask them what they think they need in order to resolve the issue.
  3. Agree to reasonable requests. Consider when and who with action them.
  4. Add any further elements to the solution you feel are necessary.
  5. Give a clear and realistic date when you will contact them and tell them about progress.
  6. Ask them how they are feeling now and allow any further expression - take any further action needed to reassure them.
  7. Thank them and remind them you have their child's best interests at heart.
This is all great advice! The book goes into much more detail to clarify the ideas further.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Week 34: A Facebook page that you have liked

After looking at my Facebook Likes I realised that I haven't actually liked many pages!

But my two music Likes are:


Thursday, 16 August 2012

Managing Workload 3

I recently read The Managing Workload Pocketbook from the brilliant Teachers' Pocketbooks series. The book was written by Will Thomas. This is the third in a series a posts about my learning from the book.

The author goes into good practice with managing your diary.
He writes that, "Setting up your diary properly involves recording in the main body of the diary all dates and commitments including meetings, holidays and special events."

He suggests, "Once a deadline is upon you, carefully break more complex tasks down into steps. 

For example: Setting up end of term exams: (write the steps in your diary)
  • letter to parents by date z, 
  • needs to go to tutors by date y, 
  • therefore needs to go to reprographics by date x, 
  • therefore needs to be written by w, 
  • therefore need information by date v."

For longer term tasks, write in a series of reminders on the days or weeks, before the deadline.

A diary is not just for recording commitments; it forms the basis for your planning as well. You will need to:
  • Keep a written copy of the goals you set for the next 12 months.
  • Keep a rolling record of the key tasks/projects you are working on.
  • Each week, from the goals and projects, plan the priorities for the week into your schedule.
  • Action plan complex goals and tasks into smaller units, breaking them down and giving them interim deadlines, allocating time to work on them in your diary.
Staying organised involves spending some time each week assessing your priorities. Once the new week is upon you it is too late to plan it. So setting your priorities for the following week is best done within the previous week.

You can read more about weekly reviews here:

I urgently need to employ weekly reviews as a way to plan my week. I organise my diary(ies) in a way which works for me. However, I must plan my long term goals much better, using my diary for deadlines, rather than leaving it all for my to do lists. I often leave deadlines for subtasks to memory rather than put them in my diary.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Week 33: Give a great way for children to learn their times tables

I was blown away by this:

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Managing Workload 2

I recently read The Managing Workload Pocketbook from the brilliant Teachers' Pocketbooks series. The book was written by Will Thomas.

The book is full of excellent ideas for how to manage your school workload more efficiently. This is something that I particularly struggle with and so I was keep to find out some ideas. In this second of my posts about this book I will consider the idea of prioritising tasks.

Parkinson's Law: "Work expands to fill the time you make available to it."

Thomas suggests for each task you consider the urgency and the importance. By organising your tasks into the categories in the diagram, you can quickly see which tasks need to be tackled first.

Thomas writes, "Get into the habit of considering the urgency and importance of each task. If it isn't a UI or a NUI, then lower it in your priorities, or strike it out altogether. Tackle first the thing on your task list you most want to avoid."

I think this is a really quick and simple way to examine tasks, and therefore prioritising them is much easier. It is important to review the tasks carefully as, of course, some tasks become more urgent and more important over time. This could be done as part of a weekly review.

I like the look of the Any To Do app for the iPhone which sets task lists out in this way. It will also sync with Evernote which would be very handy.

Some general rules suggested for Paperwork and e-work:

  • Have a tidy desk.
  • 'A place for everything and everything in its place'.
  • Be ruthless with paper.
  • Treat emails as you would paper.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Week 32: Your favourite lesson to teach

I love to teach Maths! Maths was my favourite subject in school (until my GCSEs, after which it became too abstract and I couldn't see the purpose of it). 

My enthusiasm for the subject continues to this day. I tell my children every year that my one aim in Maths is to ensure that every child finishes the year enjoying Maths even more than when they started. 

I want to make the subject real and purposeful. I like my lessons to be fun and exciting and I love it when I witness one of those 'magic moments' when a child finally 'gets it'!

What's your favourite subject to teach?


Thursday, 2 August 2012

Managing Workload 1

I recently read The Managing Workload Pocketbook from the brilliant Teachers' Pocketbooks series. The book was written by Will Thomas.

The book is full of excellent ideas for how to manage your school workload more efficiently. This is something that I particularly struggle with and so I was keep to find out some ideas. Over a series of posts I will share my learning from the book.

There are five key steps to bringing greater balance and managing your workload more effectively:

"Evaluate now - evaluate the current position and plan regular review slots, celebrate your successes, plan your next steps."
I will be building a regular review into a weekly routine. I think this is a major part of managing my workload which I have failed to do.

"Choose your future - identify in detail what kind of balance you would like."
I need to consider what I believe 'balanced' looks like.

"Identify habits - identify the habits which waste time and energy, and replace with winning approaches."
I procrastinate too much at times. Could there be other things that hold me back and cause me to waste time and energy? I'm pretty sure there are.

"Plan your strategy - identify the strategies that will move you towards the future you wish for."
I will come up with a plan for how I can achieve a fairer work/life balance.

"Act now - take action now to start that process of change."
The start of the new school year seems like a good opportunity to get started with this. I've got lots to do at home during the summer but I need to manage this with my family time.

"With their dying breath, a teacher never says, 'I wish I'd spent more time with my school work'."

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Monthly Review: July 2012

This month I've prepared my application form for the NPQH. For anyone who is thinking of applying, you'll need to allow some time to fill this form in. It is challenging. Don't underestimate the value of the application form - I've been told it is essential that it is completed well with the right sort of examples. Thank you to everyone who shared ideas with me on Twitter.

I've been busy organising new planners for the children to use next year. We want to encourage the children to take real pride of these books and use them productively to record reading, homework, notes, targets and anything else that's important. I like the look of these:, but I think we've left it much too late to organise all of the customised pages that we'd like to have. So in the mean time, based on a recommendation, we've gone with who allow is to have 8 customised pages. Do you have planners in your primary school? It was our school council who got us thinking!

In the third year of our Tanzed partnership we welcomed two teachers from our partnership school. They really did touch people's lives when they arrived. Their enthusiasm for life was infectious! We held a fundraising evening and raised a lot of money for the school to contribute towards paying to add electrical power to the school.

Sports Days
Right at the end of the month, school sports days came under scrutiny due to the Olympics. Schools were criticised for not hosting competitive sports. I think we have it right in our school. In the infants we have a non-competitive sports day, but points are still collected for the house teams. In the juniors we have a competitive sports day, with field and track events. The children love it, and it was described by our school council as, "Just right."

The weather this month has been rubbish. Julys are increasingly becoming bad months for weather. Perhaps it's time to start moving some of the sports events to a different time of year?

Chester Zoo
We had a great Year Four visit to Chester Zoo!

End of year
It's the end of a busy year, and my first in Year Four. I've enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to the next one!