Ciara McGuane is the Summer Course Director for Rahoo.ie.
1. Expect the unexpected
One day, when I was an NQT, I experienced a memorable teacher moment.
At the start of a lesson, when I was rushing to get the children in the door, settled and started, a member of support staff came to me with a student I had never met before. She informed me that her name was Amina* and she would be joining the class.
Without any prior knowledge or warning, I was teaching Amina that day.
Us teachers are often put in tricky situations like this – we are well-used to thinking on our feet. However, what I learned next was that Amina had little to no English. As you can imagine, I panicked to myself:
- What am I going to do?
- I wasn’t prepared for this, was I?!
- This wasn’t fair, how can I be expected to do this at such short notice?
Yet, on the surface, I was calm and welcomed Amina and tried to use Google Translate to communicate but it certainly wasn’t perfect.
I wish I had known to expect something like this to happen – that is the thing with being a teacher – anything can happen!
2. Collaboration is key
Instagram is great – the fact that there are thousands of teachers here in Ireland and even more around the world sharing and collaborating positively via social media is wonderful. It’s an unbelievable resource! Still, there is no doubt that if you are working solo in terms of planning and designing lessons, even though you are getting inspiration from accounts on Instagram or Pinterest – it will be very overwhelming and the workload will be hard to manage.
I would strongly advise teachers, at any stage in their career, to put together a group of a maximum of 4 teachers who are teaching the same class group like 2nd class if you are a primary teacher or the same subject like history if you are a secondary teacher.
With this group, map out the year and the topics you will be teaching your respective groups. Agree on a consistent approach in terms of topics and in terms of lesson structure. Then allocate the topics to different teachers and set reasonable deadlines for completion. This means that instead of one teacher planning lots of different lessons and struggling, you have 4 teachers each allocated a topic to plan to a high standard which will be used by the group. With this a PowerPoint and resources should be included. In addition, I would recommend a common lesson format or template like the KISS Planning Framework showcased in Effective Lesson Planning EPV Summer Course.
This is honestly a lifesaver!
I have worked both ways. In my first year in teaching, I worked solo in my planning. I struggled to plan lessons to a decent standard every week, never mind every single day, as well as everything else expected of me. In my second year, there was a change in staffing and we had a lovely team of three of us who agreed on what types of lessons we wanted to teach and we divvied out the planning workload. As a result, we got to learn from each other and had really high-quality lessons to teach. Our students benefitted greatly – as did we!
So, please, find your planning possé pronto!
Psst… In Rahoo’s Work Smarter, Be Happier EPV Course we go into the value of having a structured approach to collaboration in more detail.
3. Mark less but better
This is a huge bug bear of mine and something I come across regularly with teachers I work with. One of the biggest mistakes a teacher makes is thinking that ticking and flicking every page and signing their name is necessary and adequate marking. This is a huge drain on teacher time and resources.
If you are doing this, you need to reflect and ask yourself these questions:
What is the purpose of marking?
Who is it for?
The purpose of marking is for students to learn and improve from constructive feedback. The purpose of marking is also for the teacher to learn about how individual students are doing and if they need to tweak their teaching.
Marking is fundamentally for the students and their progress.
Please don’t fall into the trap of marking for the parents or principals. Many teacher tick and flick in books so that the parents or principals can see that they have looked at the page. Ticking and Flicking is NOT good quality feedback – it is not purposeful and it is a waste of your time.
It is better to choose a piece of work to mark – and mark that to a good standard using a feedback framework like two stars and a wish to provide constructive feedback to students.
There is a whole section on effective marking and feedback in the Work Smarter, Be Happier EPV Summer Course.
*Amina is a name used to ensure anonymity
We think the podcast is an important listen for any teacher who has always wanted to be
part of a real conversation about teacher wellbeing, but especially teachers who have
struggled at any point with their own mental health, maintaining their own wellbeing, burnout,
overwhelm, imposter syndrome or a frustration with working within the modern education
Did you know that 74% of teachers do not feel confident with formative assessment teaching methodologies?
As we approach the new school year, this survey conducted by Rahoo Training in 2020, and its findings, should be at the forefront of a school leader’s mind.