You don’t have to look far to see a report about the issues facing teachers; retention, budgets and workload seem to be popping up on a daily basis. While it is important to discuss these issues and good that they are getting attention I can’t help but feel that in the end nothing much will change as a result of national news coverage other than people outside of the profession feeling like it is teachers moaning again so I’ll stop. This is not the intention of this blog, in fact, it is the opposite. I’d like to share my joy for teaching in the hope that the few people who read this reflect on their amazing moments in the classroom and if one teacher who currently is thinking about leaving the profession has second thoughts then it’s all worthwhile.
Workload is an issue but for me it is almost completely self-made. I wouldn’t think twice about spending a weekend creating resources to help students progress, I look forward to marking mock exam papers to find out how my classes have performed and will often read an educational blog before I go to sleep. What’s more is that I know I am not alone, you only need to type in the #mathsconf14 to see the amount of teachers who gave up their Saturday to attend a CPD event and can’t wait to practice what they have learnt. Now before we all get labelled as mad it’s important to point out why we do this. For me, it is because I enjoy my job, I feel privileged to be part of a group of professionals who take pride in their work and are dedicated, sometimes obsessed, to helping students progress and enjoy school too. Although, granted, I only have 6 years’ experience in my previous career as an auditor to compare it to so I might be slightly biased!
I have been lucky though, I work in a fantastic department in a great school with supportive leadership who don’t put unnecessary pressure on and leave me to do what I do best. All teachers should feel confident in trying new techniques to improve their teaching, after all getting better never stops. In addition, any middle leader or senior leader worth their salt should be able to see the strengths in what you are doing and help you to improve further. If this is not the case then leave your school, not the profession! So here are a few takeaways I have used to help be more efficient, manage my workload, know my students better and overall enjoy teaching even more.
@jemmaths and @mathsonthebrain have wrote wonderful blogs on these here and here. For me, they help keep on top of marking and enable quicker, more efficient intervention for students. More importantly, students respond to their marked entrance tickets much better than any other work I have marked as it is more manageable and no one feels over faced by the amount of corrections. This is the first step for my classes in retrieving a skill previously learnt.
Low stakes quizzing
I have always used short quizzes to help students to engage during revision time that repeat over a series of weeks (Masters) but I have developed this further this year and integrated it within our SOW. Using quizzes more regularly enables my students to retrieve the knowledge they have learnt and has increased their performance in formal assessments. @mathsmrgordon explains how he has introduced a similar quiz approach here. This is an example of a number quiz I made for a Foundation Year 10 class.
Science of learning
@mrbartonmaths’ book is fantastic to get you started and references lots of other sources to help expand your research. I have found that planning sequences of learning around the knowledge of how students learn has made me much more efficient and effective. In addition, I have found that sharing this process with students has helped them engage with the content and quizzes.
Quick differentiated drills – teaching to the top
Always having 3 tiered questions for students to work through with support to reach the top. This helps students access the lessons as they are familiar with the format and I can identify who needs more help. Mathsbot.com and mrcartermaths.com are excellent examples of differentiated questions and @teacherhead has a great blog on teaching to the top here.
Have fun and stay positive!
Contrary to popular belief, every lesson does not need to be 100 mile per hour progress. Take some time with the foot off the pedal and get to know your students, they’ll pay it back later. Let your enthusiasm and enjoyment of your subject be known and the students will be more positive to go along for the ride. Always try to maintain a positive mind-set and care for your students. A year 11 student in my last period form class told me last week that she had been ‘told off’ by 5 different teachers in that day, all telling the class how they are not preparing for their exams seriously enough. She also said that she had spent 4 hours revising the night before and could not sleep from stress.
I regularly say to my students that no matter what results they achieve they must try to find something that they enjoy doing as a career. You spend a large amount of your time working, be it through choice or not, so do everything you can to make that time enjoyable. If it currently isn’t enjoyable for you in teaching then try make steps towards making it better and never lose sight of the reasons you became a teacher. Finally, can the many teachers who love what they do share their positivity with as many people as possible to show everyone what an amazing career you can create in teaching to encourage other likeminded professionals to join us.