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Surviving and succeeding in the first year of teaching: Managing time effectively

surviving-teachingAlex Galvin, Senior Education Lead, SSAT, writes…

In this series we are sharing advice for new teachers from Geoff Barton, headteacher of King Edward VI School on how to make a success of your early months in teaching. This latest piece gives you five tips on how to manage your time effectively…


The reality of teaching is that it will never be the kind of job where you can clear your desk and go home at the end of the day knowing that you have done everything that you could have done. However, that does not mean that you should resign yourself to working every evening and weekend.

Five tips for effective time-management

1. Prioritise. Your most important job in any week is to plan good lessons. Start with your lesson planning, identify any other immovable deadlines and plan your time around this. Try to allocate your time at least a week in advance, collect and prepare resources in plenty of time to avoid a last minute panic when you find someone else has taken the books you wanted to use! Use your planner to keep a clear picture of when you have time available to get things done. Make sure that you have written down everything that is coming up – meetings, after-school clubs and social commitments so that you have a realistic view of how much time you have. Block time slots for anything that must be done that week – otherwise you can lose a whole free lesson dithering in the staffroom and worrying about where to start.

2. You don’t need to mark everything! Make sure that you are realistic about your marking. It is much better to mark key pieces of work in detail, providing meaningful feedback, than it is to plough through hundreds of exercise books a night. If your lessons are well-planned, you should find that a lot of class- work doesn’t need to be marked. Think about what other assessment techniques might be used: use peer or self-assessment; ask students to highlight key learning points as part of your plenary.

3. Be clever with homework. Effective homework tasks do not have to include a lengthy piece of work that you will have to spend hours marking. A good strategy is to plan a homework that generates interest in the next topic to be covered. A structured research homework can provide the basis for discussion next lesson, eg using at least two different sources of information (talking to someone at home, textbook, internet) choose five words that might describe Henry VIII and a give a reason why each word might apply to him. Alternatively homework tasks can be peer or group marked as a starter activity. Quite a few schools now use extended projects as homework task; even if your school hasn’t gone down this route, you might want to consider this for some topics.

4. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Your colleagues will have a lot of resources and lesson ideas – use them. Before starting a new topic, talk to your colleagues – how do they introduce it? What are they doing with their class? Whilst teaching from someone else’s plans can be difficult, there will be ideas and resources that you can use and which will save you a lot of time. Don’t forget people from your PGCE – you may well be teaching the same courses and can help each other out. It is also worth looking online – although bear in mind that the quality is variable, so proceed with caution!

5. Work out when and where you work best. As you get settled in your new school, you’ll get a better sense of when you are most productive. You might find that you work best at school, either first thing or after lessons; you might prefer to give yourself a break straight after school and then work at home. Find areas of the school where you can stay focused or organise your work according to where you’ll be – a busy staffroom is fine for preparing resources and photocopying, marking year 12 assignments is probably better done in a quiet room after school or at home.

Advice from those who’ve been there and done it

An Ofsted inspection can be a very rewarding time at school; everyone pulls together, the school’s attributes are highlighted and constructive feedback is given. Don’t blow it out of proportion!
Christa, Business Academy Bexley

I learnt so much from observing; keep the observations up when you start teaching in your free periods. I would also ask teachers from other departments to observe you if possible. I gained so much after being observed by experienced teachers from other departments and being a technology teacher I didn’t think this would be the case but people outside your area see you and the area with free eyes.
Emma, Little Heath School

It’s very important to observe and be observed as much as possible to share thoughts on how teaching and learning and classroom management can be improved. Do not be afraid to talk to the kids about this. If you see resources that work well, borrow them or make a copy for yourself. Following observations never focus on just the negatives, remind yourself that you are a good teacher.
Hannah, South Wirral School



What are your experiences of your first year in teaching? What worked for you? What didn’t work? Let us know via Twitter with the hashtag #SSATsurvive or in the comments below.

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