The thing with teaching

20 hours contact = a 60 hour week. This is why –

Like many working mums, I’m up at about 6 – 6.30am to catch up on household tasks before setting out for work. A full working day at school is typically 8am to 5pm, unless there are meetings, which may run later, or a parents’ evening which might keep me at school from 8 am, until 7.30 pm or so. Often, there is little time in the day for much adult contact, or time to eat a decent meal, often hardly time to go to the ladies’ or make a drink.

Between 5.30 and 7.30 or so, I try to fit in cooking, cleaning, laundry, parenting, taxiing to sports clubs, dog walking, phoning aged mum, washing up, etc. This is also the time available for any socialising, exercise and relaxation. Needless to say, time devoted to the cooking, cleaning, etc rarely leaves more than 37 seconds for any ‘me’ time.

As soon after 7.30 as I can manage, earlier if possible, I sit down to work. Yes, I’ve already been AT work all day, but tomorrow’s lessons don’t plan themselves. Over the next three, maybe four, hours I read, make notes, plan lessons – being careful to build in differentiation, to build on prior attainment, to facilitate observable progress, to construct measurable learning objectives which will enable progress (not just any old progress, not even a predictable, expected rate of progress: only exceptional progress is actually good enough these days).

If I’m teaching 5 one hour classes the following day, 5 lesson plans can take hours to put together, even if, at this stage in my career, I make quick notes – it’s the thinking and resourcing that takes the time. Often an A level lesson will take longer to plan than to deliver. That’s what good teaching is all about.

Then there are the resources to make, the sheets of notes, the worksheets, then the additional worksheets to challenge, worksheets to consolidate and worksheets to support, the reports to write (100 or so words about 30 pupils), the learning support evaluations to make a note on for the senco, the ucas references to write, the lesson observations to write up, the appraisals to write, the development plans to write, and review, and evaluate, and write again.

So, happily, the lesson planning is done, all the necessary admin and behind the scenes stuff is dealt with. Time for a cuppa, the slippers and a bit of telly? Don’t be ridiculous! Classes spent time writing today, so now I get on with the marking. Thirty adventure stories, thirty Of Mice and Men essays, a dozen text analyses from the sixth form, spelling tests to check, year 8 letters, year 9 leaflets left over from before the weekend, year 10 news articles. Oh well, just a quick tick to say I’ve seen it? Not on your life! Feedback must be related to assessment criteria, achievements must be explained, attainment levels justified and targets set for further improvement. Yes, we know, pupils look at the mark and close their book, but we still have to do it properly.

Weekends and all holidays between September and July are taken up with further planning, writing new schemes of work, reading new texts, undertaking exam results analyses, marking extensive and numerous sixth form coursework drafts, marking controlled assessments, of which there are many, keeping up with educational and subject developments, building or boosting my own subject knowledge in order to deliver a good service to my pupils.

During the summer holiday, it’s still necessary to hit the books. Schemes of work have to be adapted in the light of performance and in accordance with the ever-changing assessment expectations. There’ll be some marking from Years 10 and 12 to be carried over into the second year of their courses. There will be new materials and schemes to put together – we don’t stick to the same books, the same year groups or the same ability levels, so plans always have to be adapted. With staffing changes, there might be a completely new aspect of the subject to deliver next year – this is all put together in the ‘holiday’.

It’s not as if I haven’t got the time.