Teaching can be a hugely satisfying profession and career choice. Those inspired to become teachers typically think of teaching as a vocation, one that offers variety and progression, with the opportunity to prepare pupils and students for greater things in life.
Like any job, however, teaching is not without its challenges. Issues such as pupil behavior, long hours, excess paperwork and general workload challenges, can affect teachers’ overall effectiveness and perception of their ability to carry out their job. Teaching under challenging circumstances can also cause stress, and an unhealthy work-life balance.
So, what are the solutions? We’ll take a look at some of the most commonly raised issues and challenges for teachers, and look at some possible solutions that can be easily implemented.
Effective classroom and behaviour management
Let’s start in the classroom. Effective classroom and behavior management is an essential part of a teacher’s job. Disruptive and inappropriate pupil behavior can quickly derail a lesson, negatively impact on other students in the class, and deprive the pupil or pupils in question of the learning experience they might otherwise have had.
Setting the tone from the outset will help keep the expectation of good behaviour in pupils’ minds, and one of the ways in which to achieve this is through managing classroom entry. You can have pupils line-up outside the classroom before the lesson begins and stagger the number of pupils that enter at any one time.
As pupils enter, greet them personally. This quick measure helps create a space for students where they feel welcomed and valued, while also building on the rapport between you and your class.
Once in the classroom, avoid having pupils sit idly at their desks without anything to do by giving them an exercise as soon as they’re seated, this will focus their attention and keep them occupied.
Organise the classroom seating plan to disperse pupils who are prone to disruptive, behavior, this will enable you to better manage and control the flow of the lesson. If you decide to move a pupil during the lesson, follow through with the move as quickly as possible, to minimise the risk of escalating disruption.
Ensure that children are aware of the school’s behavior management policy by prominently displaying classroom rules to remind each student what’s expected of them, this can be as simple as checklist or a list of do’s and don’ts. Visible guidelines reinforces expectations on behavior, discipline and boundaries.
Rewarding good behavior
There are a number of whole-school approaches teachers can use to reward pupils’ good behaviour and effort. Personalised behaviour cards can motivate students who are keen to collect and receive the recognition or rewards set by the teacher.
Golden time, golden rewards and secret pupil can also incentivise pupils. Some schools find that sending cards or postcards home to a child’s parents for outstanding effort and work to be positive incentives for children. Like any approach, you can adapt the rewards system based on the interests of your pupils to find the best fit and what’s most effective for your class.
Managing a demanding workload
An already busy teacher can quickly become burdened by the additional pressure of paperwork and non-teaching responsibilities, and if you spend time planning lessons at home – during what’s meant to be your free time – your work-life balance can become skewed and unhealthy.
Planning preparation and assessment (PPA)
Start by ensuring you make use of the PPA (planning, preparation and assessment) time you are entitled to. PPA time became a statutory requirement in 2005, as outlined in the School Teachers Pay and Conditions document, and is set at a minimum of 10 per cent of a teacher’s timetabled teaching time.
How PPA time is organised is up to the school, some schools will bring in a supply teacher or use an HLTA to cover teachers’ PPA. Regardless of how your school covers and structures PPA, it is up to you, as a teacher, to decide the most effective use of your allocated PPA time.
Assessing pupils’ learning and work is a integral part of a teacher’s job. For an already busy teacher, this can be a challenge to juggle along with other responsibilities. Tech Knowledge for schools lists five of the best observation and assessment apps for teachers to make this process easier. The apps are either free or nominally priced, and linked to under the ‘Useful links’ section, below.
Marking pupils’ work
Marking can take considerable time and become burdensome if a teacher is already stretched. Teachers can manage their marking workload by making use of peer and self-assessment during class time, while also giving students immediate verbal feedback.
Once your pupils are settled and busy working away, use the class time you have to mark work, a quiet classroom is the perfect opportunity to catch up on your marking workload.
Making use of rubber stamps to mark work can significantly speed up the process, while investing in a selection of stamps will allow you to appropriately mark a greater volume of work.
Your school marking policy should reflect a system that children benefit from, while being manageable for you. An important part of this is balancing in-depth marking at agreed times with the more regular marking of students’ work.
Collaborate to improve school systems
The school environment provides teachers with the perfect opportunity to collaborate, share ideas and best practice. If you can see there is room for improving existing procedures and systems, then share your ideas with colleagues to get their feedback before raising with the school’s management. This will give you a sounding board and the space to refine your proposals before approaching the school leadership team.
If you are struggling, stressed, or just seeking advice, the Teacher Support Network run a 24-hour helpline, 365 days a year. The helpline can give you information, financial advice and support, as well as practical guides for coping with the pressures and demands of teaching life.
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