I’ve been thinking a bit more about this ‘work-life’ balance thing. The more and more that @UKEdChat re-tweets my previous posts about this topic, the more I reflect on how I can continue to improve this aspect of my life as well as that of my colleagues.
I continue to worry about the amount of hours that teachers put in every day. The marking, the planning, the additional paperwork that comes with assessment and everything else that is required. Therefore, I’m always thinking of ways to continue to ‘work smarter, not harder.’ This is always a recurrent theme in our school.
What has become overwhelmingly obvious is the fact that quite a bit of what we do and what has become ‘expected’ are things that schools have developed over time in response to Ofsted. As my staff know, we don’t do anything for Ofsted…..what we do is for the children. If children are at the heart of everything we do and at the heart of the decisions we make we can’t go far wrong.
We have had many discussions over the past few months regarding these things…..but with the release of the Commission Report, assessment has taken front seat. When we were looking through books the other week, we were asking ourselves what the ‘purpose’ was for all the comments that teachers take so long to write in their pupil’s books. Is it helping the children? Are they reading and ‘understanding’ them? Do they really take any note?
I can hear you thinking – well you give them time in the lesson to respond – you build in feedback time, etc. Yes….we already do all of this. But, we are thinking even about those comments such as, “Well done, you have used excellent sentence openers.” Yes, all children need building up and these comments do have their place, but surely there must be a better way to do this that has the same desired impact on the child. Think of the time it takes to write even just that sentence in ‘every’ book. Teachers have come to believe that ‘every’ piece of work must be acknowledged in some way. Is this necessary? What is the purpose of this? This is why we are rewriting our marking policy – to ensure that it has ‘purpose’ and that children always know how to improve their work.
These are just simple things, but when they are all added together, give teachers more time for other things that will greatly impact their pupils.
It was heartening to hear the deputy speaking about our policy of leaving by 4:15 at least twice a week. He explained that even though some weeks, teachers weren’t able to keep to it, the fact that it was ‘allowed’ gave them reassurance that it was okay to walk out of school with nothing in their hands. That it was expected for them to have ‘time off.’ That they were required to think about their life outside of the school gates.
I would much rather have teachers who come into school giving 120% to their pupils every day, rather than spending hours in the evening writing a plan on a school template or doing other unnecessary paperwork and rolling into school still groggy from a lack of sleep.
We all need time away – time to spend with our families, time to refresh and reflect. This is what helps us to improve……thinking time. Without it, we run out of energy, we fizzle and burn out and everyone notices.
Even more important, is that the leaders in school set the example for others to follow. It isn’t about seeing who the longest to stay at school is……looking at our watches when a colleague walks out of the door at 4:00.
As long as children are learning, engaged, children are safe and things are being accomplished, what difference does it make when your teachers walk out the doors? In fact, I guarantee, that if you set this precedence in your school, everyone will reap the benefits…….TRUST your teachers to get the job done.
Create a culture of excellence, allow everyone to be passionate about their roles. If they have the time outside of work to enjoy ‘life,’ they will deliver the results you are looking for……..