Author: Natalie Nezhati, Educational content consultant
There’s nothing like that elusive ‘lightbulb moment’ when a student suddenly grasps a concept. Or the lingering high of a fun-filled lesson when everything went to plan. Sometimes teaching really is like the Department for Education recruitment adverts and sometimes it’s even better. But let’s not forget the untold hours that educators spend planning and delivering valuable learning experiences. Demanding and rewarding in equal measure, there’s little doubt that teaching requires a great deal of energy and some serious organisational skills. [[READ_MORE]]
From NQT, HoD to SLT, a teacher’s work is never done. More work to assess, lessons to plan, parents to telephone, schemes of learning to create, TAs to coordinate, progress to track, behaviour to manage, displays to update, data to analyse and emails to read. And not forgetting the small matter of teaching the students.
So how should we maintain a healthy work-life balance? How should we take care of all administrative tasks and find time to plan consistently well-paced, thoughtfully differentiated learning opportunities? How do we find the time to learn that Callum supports Liverpool FC and Sophie sings in a rock choir? How do we create the right learning environment for those magical ‘lightbulb moments’ to happen?
Most agree that the most time-consuming and stress-inducing aspect of modern teaching is the marking. As recently reported by the TES, marking can easily rob us of up to three full working days out of every fortnight. Since thoughtful, timely assessment is key (and we know to avoid the superficial ‘tick and flick’ approach at all costs), many teachers will regularly lug home heavy bags of marking for the weekend.
Yet the Department for Education questions the wisdom of giving extensive feedback on every piece of student work. In fact, a report published in March 2016 refers to the ‘false comfort’ of ‘deep marking’, stating that ‘too much value is currently placed on written feedback’.
Surely then it is better to issue written feedback only when required and instead make greater use of formative assessment strategies. Auto-marked, reusable methods of electronic assessment, such as those included in NetSupport School’s testing console, for example, can also be shared between colleagues, saving hours of time lost to marking, year after year.
It is also helpful to create an assessment schedule at the beginning of the year, carefully staggering deadlines to ensure that work doesn’t pile up all at once. Some schools will encourage teachers to ‘deep mark’ only the first two paragraphs of a piece so the student can self-assess the remainder. This helps a learner to detect patterns of error and encourages deeper reflection.
If a teacher is fortunate enough to work with a teaching assistant (TA), then it is helpful to schedule regular meetings to ensure that they know how best to support teaching and learning. It’s also a good idea to provide the TA with an outline of the lesson in advance, together with details of resources they will need and any particular student groups to support.
Of course, the most effective classroom is one where teachers are able to focus on their teaching and schools are increasingly turning to technology to ease the burdens of classroom management – freeing up teacher time for more meaningful activities like building relationships with students, initiating learning conversations and providing support.
NetSupport School’s tools have been designed with the modern classroom in mind; putting technology to work so that teachers can focus on their students. Along with its host of rich teaching, assessment and collaboration tools, NetSupport School allows teachers to distribute files from their own PC to multiple student devices, automate the collection of completed student assignments and even issue reminders for work outstanding.
Even better, if a student is absent from a lesson, a teacher can simply direct them to the materials covered in their NetSupport Student Journal without having to root out multiple copies at a later date.
While we know that innovative educators harness technology to create new and exciting learning experiences, we sometimes forget that it can also assist in our day-to-day classroom management. Together with clever marking, thoughtful teaching strategies and the support of colleagues, technology can be a real stress-saver – meaning that teachers can focus on the exciting business of teaching, learning and the creation of lightbulb moments.
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