Ronan, who is a member of the Rahoo Summer Course Team on our ‘Work Smarter’ EPV Course, has been teaching for over 10 years and currently holds an AP role in his school. Prior to becoming a teacher, he enjoyed exploring the outdoors with children and young adults in his role as a youth worker. Now, as a parent of 3 wonderful girls, he still enjoys escaping to the outdoors when in need of a break.
Here are 3 ways he works smarter every day:
Find the right time and space for you
I tried relentlessly for years to be one of those teachers that could get all of my planning and correcting done before leaving school. I dreamed of floating out the door, leaving a stack of corrected copies in my wake, whistling my favourite tune as I planned my evening’s activities.
Unfortunately, that dream never became a reality for me. The reality was that I’d end up staying till 5.30pm and somehow I’d still have a stack of copies weighing me down as I trudged out the door, dreading the tired evening ahead of trying to stay awake as I read “Lá brea brothallach a bhí ann” for the twentieth time.
Once the bell rings at 3pm and the children leave, my classroom just becomes a very unproductive place for me. I’ve too many colleagues that I enjoy chatting to and lots of odd jobs that I end up doing instead of prioritising appropriately. “Sure, can’t I plan for the science experiment when I get home, I can sort the library while I’m still in school!”
Trying to correct copies as soon as I got home was a disaster too. Trying to keep my comments on the line of the children’s copies as my 4 year old used me as a climbing frame was beyond my capabilities. I’ve also found that having to apologise to 6th class students because my daughter spilled her broccoli on their copy does not go down well.
So, although it might sound crazy, the time that suits me to attack school work is approximately 8pm to 9pm. It might sound mad, but it works for me. It’s a super productive time, my mind is sharp and there’s no distractions. It probably wouldn’t work for most people but it’s perfect for me.
Accepting that my routine is different to others has been a game changer for me. I get to spend loads of fun time with my family and fit in my own quality me-time safe in the knowledge that I have my planning and corrections scheduled for later.
My time is 8pm and my space is my cosy lounger by the fire. What’s yours?
Empower the Children with responsibility
“He’s too lazy to correct this himself!” was one of the first comments I heard when I started to increase my use of peer and self-assessment. However, I was confident that I wasn’t just fobbing the work off on the children. I was using specific Assessment for Learning (AfL) techniques to increase the children’s opportunities to critically-assess the task at hand. It’s very difficult to passively correct a friend’s copy and children love getting a chance to be the teacher. It gives the children another opportunity to think about the objectives that they are working towards.
Regularly mixing up the type of correcting and assessment strategies that I use keeps the children on their toes. They love using the various techniques such as rubrics, traffic lights, ‘Be A Gossip’ and group KWL charts.
I can see the improvements that AfL has made to my classes learning and I can feel the reduction it has had on my workload. What’s not to love about that combination? Thank you Dylan William!
Set realistic expectations
For years, I was trying to get through far too much every day. I’d regularly fool myself into thinking that I won’t veer off onto my eight tangent of the lesson while discussing “Healthy Eating”. I’d trick myself into believing that everything will get done within the tight timetable that I had created “Sure of course the art lesson will only take 1 hour if I keep everyone focused and 10 minutes is definitely plenty of time to clean up 34 paint trays and brushes at the end.”
Anything that would throw me of course would just add another layer of stress and panic. I now set realistic times (most of the time). We probably get the same amount of work done, but we do it better and there’s less stress. If we finish everything early, I’ve plenty of fun learning activities that will fill 10 minutes.
And 3 other methods
Prioritise. I write my key objectives at the start of the month. Anything that helps me achieve these is done as soon as possible; anything else can justifiably be put on the long-finger.
Embrace Oral Language Lessons. Once I figured out how to run great oral-language lessons, I couldn’t believe it had taken me so long. The children love them, they learn loads and there’s no copies to correct – what’s not to love?
Get the children to work in pairs. They’re working collaboratively and they’re learning from each other. Also, it literally halves the work that has to be corrected!