Give students word limits to ease marking

When I taught English I found it worked well sometimes to give pupils a word limit. If they couldn’t write at too great a length, they were far more selective and thoughtful about what they included, the quality of their writing went up and my marking load went down – a win-win situation. Also, writing succinctly and within constraints is a good life skill for students to have in the future.

– Jill Berry is former headteacher of Dame Alice Harpur school in Bedford and an education consultant.
If you’re fit and healthy you’ll perform better in class

Things like having a hobby or making sure you get a good eight hours’ sleep a night can make the world of difference. What makes teaching unique is that teachers personally invest in their students and the success of their school, which can make it harder to switch off. But we strongly believe that healthier teachers can lead to higher marks. Abesenteeism is costly but presenteeism is also a growing problem. So don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself. If you are fit and healthy – physically and mentally – you will be able to perform better in the classroom and do the best for your pupils.

Think about when you work best

Think about the quality of time as well as the quantity available. About 20% of a working day is prime time and, used well, should produce 80% of your best work. The rest of your time will be nowhere near as productive, so it’s worth recognising which part of the day is best for you and maximising it to get something demanding done rather than flogging yourself when you’re tired.

Stepping out of the “victim” mindset and being more assertive about what you can and can’t do, and will and won’t do, is one way of achieving a better work-life balance.

The only thing is, there is always something more you can do. You can always put a little bit more effort into supporting a child with special educational needs, trying to close the gap between boys and girls, or pupils on free school meals and others. There is no limit to what you can do and it’s probably that that prevents teachers from switching off after work.

Work professional hours (I get to school at 7am and leave around 4.30pm) and if it’s not done within those hours it cannot be that important. Have a prioritised to-do list and stick with it. Planning for progress and providing feedback to the children should always be at the top of this list. This will lead to improved outcomes for pupils and if your results stack up then the powers-that-be will have nothing to throw at you.

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