Simple Ways To Reduce Teacher Workload And Increase Effectiveness
Simplify and focus!
One of the key takeaways from the Teacher Wellbeing Workshop in 2017 to reduce workload, was prioritising tasks to use your time and energy more effectively.
Deciding what tasks you need to do and what can be left undone can be very freeing.
As can realising that you can say no:
No to students, to colleagues, to parents, and (even!) no to your boss.
Teachers are notorious for saying yes to far too many projects and then burning out.
It’s a downward spiral.
The key to more effective teaching practices is to simplify and focus.
Simplify What You Do
Take time to think about how you can make your teaching as simple as possible by only doing what you need to do.
Outsource some of your work.
Now, this may sound weird for a teacher, but, please, stay with me.
While you may not be able to employ someone on Upwork, you can get other people to do some of the work you now do.
You can delegate or share tasks with both students and colleagues.
Your students are probably capable of taking on much more responsibility than you may currently be giving them.
Conduct a class meeting at the beginning of the year with your students to discuss the running of the classroom and all that entails.
And no, you don’t have to come up with all the ideas in advance.
Give them open-ended questions and a platform to voice their opinions, and then listen to what they have to say; you may be pleasantly surprised at what they have to offer.
Here are some ideas to get you started and build students’ problem solving skills:
Consider all you do to keep the physical environment attractive and inviting for your students.
With your class, brainstorm a list of jobs that need to be done to keep the classroom clean, tidy and functioning well.
Create a roster system for students to be responsible for the classroom and you could even give responsibility for the roster allocation to a student (you can make a system simple enough even a kindergarten student could run it).
Teaching students to be responsible for and take care of the classroom will increase their sense of belonging and connectedness, vital for building a positive school culture and successful students (Wingspread Declaration).
When students feel that they have ownership of their learning space they are more likely to respect and value the education that occurs there.
Increase student independence and interdependence to reduce their need for you.
What do you mean ‘reduce their need for me’?
Isn’t teaching the most important activity in the classroom?
Sorry, but no.
The most important activity that occurs in the classroom is not teaching, BUT learning!
Get kids to design their own learning!
At the Habits of Highly Effective Teachers Workshop you can experience the power of these strategies, and see clearly how you can implement them into your classroom as part of your classroom behaviour management.
Marking student work is the bane of many teachers’ lives.
Make the task easier on you and more efficient, so students are getting real time feedback about their work.
In the younger grades, immediate marking is essential otherwise students have forgotten what the work was about.
Being on your feet, moving around the room and marking immediately is mandatory.
Kids standing in line waiting for their work to be marked must never happen in any classroom!
Their time is valuable and should be spent in more productive ways.
Even high school students need feedback to be given as close as possible to the task to make it meaningful.
This means they can make corrections and improvements sooner and move onto the next task better equipped to succeed.
Teach kids how to mark their own and other’s tasks when appropriate and develop systems for one on one conferencing about student work.
Share planning with peers so you don’t have to come up with everything.
Even if you decide to change up a lesson or put your own spin on it, having the bulk of the work done by sharing the planning with a buddy teacher reduces your workload.
Get together with other teachers who are teaching the same classes or topics and brainstorm ideas: you can reduce your workload if you divide and conquer.
Some teachers prefer to do all their own planning and designing lessons, and that is fine, but if you want more time for what you love, planning together can really help.
And if you can find someone who is really good at something you don’t enjoy, even better!
Rather than simply dividing up planning for topics or subject areas, consider your strengths and what you enjoy doing.
If you love planning lessons but hate putting together overviews or speaking to parent groups, maybe you could divide up the tasks in more beneficial ways.
Don’t keep tricky student behaviour problems to yourself!
Another teacher may be having the same issues with that student, which will make you feel better, or they may have some awesome strategy that works with that kid.
You can also call on colleagues when you need backup or a break from a particular student. Having another room for the student to go to can really help to break the escalation cycle and give you both breathing space. Behaviour management is a whole school responsibility.
It is easy for teachers to fall into the trap of trying to do everything perfectly.
After all, there is a multitude of skills that you need to hone as a teacher.
A better strategy, and one that will save your sanity, is to focus on a small number of and aim to do them well.
Once you have mastered those habits, you can add another.
Perhaps you need to concentrate on building positive relationships with students. There are so many elements that contribute to this area of teaching, and putting your focus here will yield results that go well beyond the classroom.
Maybe you need to focus on teacher wellbeing.
Incorporating attitudes and practices such as mindfulness, gratitude and a growth mindset into your lessons will benefit both you and your students.
Additionally, integrating music and movement breaks, calm spaces and celebration into your day, will make you and your kids feel amazing, have fun and enjoy school more.
You could focus on differentiation and develop creative ways to help your students learn more effectively. Include students in the discussion by getting them to think about how they learn best, what they enjoy and what motivates them.
Build a toolbox of effective cooperative learning strategies by focusing on one or two to begin with, use them often so that they become familiar and then gradually add others.
Remember, whatever you decide to focus on, keep it simple.