Hard Work vs. Smart Work is an argument that is usually debated in the business world. The general consensus is that to get ahead and be successful in business you need to be more of a smart worker and not just a hard worker.

It’s worth looking at it from a business perspective. Imagine putting in 12-hour days Monday to Friday to deliver work for your clients. At the end of the day, you will simply be too tired to do anything else – for the business, for your family or for you. You haven’t got the time to generate new business or market yourself properly.

This puts you in a precarious business position. What happens if you lose your clients? Not to mention the physical and emotional toll of working such long hours and the potential damage to health and well-being.

Now look at things from the perspective of a teacher – a teacher who regularly puts in 12-hour days (and time at the weekends). Consider a teacher who has no time for family or leisure.

In the long run this is no good to anyone. There is a lot of hard work going on, but very little smart work.

The problem with teachers is…

The problem with teachers is that they are often their own worst enemies. You go into teaching wanting to make a difference. You go into it prepared to go the extra mile. This is a good thing, of course, but a combination of your own dedication and the demands that are put on you by yourself, pupils, parents, SLT, or Ofsted soon result in you feeling like a hamster continually spinning on the wheel. The treadmill of lesson planning and marking is hard to jump off from… unless you are smart worker.

All teachers are hard workers, but are they smart workers?

The vast majority of teachers are extremely hard workers. It comes with the territory. However, hard work alone never equates to success as a teacher. For this, you need to have a smart workers’ mind-set too.

Sadly, no amount of smart working is going to miraculously transform a teacher’s typical 60 hour week into an idyllic and perfect work-life balance.

But, you can make things easier for yourself. If you do that you will become a more effective practitioner.

Smart working isn’t about cutting corners. It is about making the most of time and of every opportunity. It’s about squeezing every last drop of efficiency out of a situation, not just every last drop of effort from you.

How do you do it? Staggering your marking load is one way. Firstly so you haven’t always got to cram your car boot full books every Friday afternoon. Secondly, think about whether every piece of homework needs to be a written piece.

On the subject of marking. A department head might lessen the burden of marking mock exams for his team by paying an external marker to do some, or all, of the work. That is certainly smart working.

And take ‘Question 2’ on the exam. Your pupils continually struggle with it. They have done so for the best of two years. Do you continue slogging away at it, flogging a dead horse? Or, do you focus your energy on ‘Questions 3, 4 and 5’ where your pupils are more likely to improve and pick up marks?