#Teacher5aday Update – on the up but the jury is still out

This has been much delayed, partly due to a decision that was looming on the horizon, that has now been made – more of that later.

It’s half term and a good time to reflect on the #Teacher5aday commitment. I should set out from the start that I did not go about this through the conventional route. I used this idea to look at 5 things I could do on a regular basis to bring my life back into balance. Too much time working and virtually none on family, friends and of course me, was not sustainable.

Twitter is good fun most of the time and I listen with interest to many teachers. A common concern is the amount of time spent marking. This was one of the great pressures on me and with my school implementing a new marking policy, which at first sight looked like even more time marking, I realised something had to be done. If you accept that the amount of marking isn’t going to decrease then the only way of creating extra time is to approach marking differently. I’m not going to go into detail on the variety of marking styles I use but I can honestly say my productivity is much better. I only mark selected assessments in detail. The rest is a variety of self, peer, verbal feedback etc.  I have not broken my commitment once of marking beyond 7 pm. I do this 4 days a week and do not mark at the weekends. I also managed to be up-to-date with all marking by half term and have no marking to do during the holidays. #veryproud.

This has led to the other items on my list being achievable. I have had more time for me – reading, catching up on some programmes taped a long time ago and just reflecting.

I haven’t managed much in the way of fitness though. Being an hour away from work means I have 2 hours soaked up travelling. Audiobooks have meant that I have turned this into productive time – “The Court of the Red Tsar” by Simon Sebag Montefiore, heartily recommended. Going for long walks in the evening around here at this time of year isn’t really an option, so much more work needed on this front. Half term has provided the opportunity and the time to get into this. I have, infact, just returned from a 7 mile walk – beautiful scenery.

Importantly, I have had time to spend with the family. My eldest had been out of work for nearly 4 months. He was clearly struggling to find a way forward and was sending off applications like they were going out of fashion, with no success. My fleeting enquiries about “how many applications” had been sent off and “what had he done today” were more about ensuring he knew I was on his case rather than helping him. Over the Christmas holiday I spent time reviewing and editing his CV. A week later he had 2 interviews and 2 job offers. He started an apprenticeship 4 weeks ago. He is so chuffed and I am so happy to have played a small part in getting him back on track.

My lists and prioriting are helping all this to happen. I’m much less stressed and more energetic in the things that are important. Life is definitely better. However, how long will it stay that way? A job opportunity, which had been long in the offing, came available last half term. I pondered and pontificated. How would this impact on my new work/life balance? The consequences of not applying were quite long term. As most if you know, I decided to go for it and was informed on the last afternoon of half term that I was the new Welsh Baccalaureate Coordinator. We haven’t offered this before, so it involves creating a SOW for KS4 & 5; training and resourcing staff; promoting it to pupils, staff and parents, amongst many things. Oh, and it has to be ready for September.

Watch this space to see how it goes!







“Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its brevity.” ― Jean de La Bruyère, Les caractères #teacher5aday

#teacher5aday – Sean McDermott – @scjmcd
“Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its brevity.”

― Jean de La Bruyère, Les caractères


I have written this in my head at least 5 times. The item that remained a constant was time. My use of it has been poor of late and this is what I will correct this year.

A bit of preamble is required to put this into perspective. This year has been the hardest of my 7 years in teaching and that includes my NQT year. I entered teaching late and thoroughly enjoyed my first 4 years, 5 and 6 less so, and this year not at all. Why? Don’t panic, I’m not going to whine about the state of teaching but in short, the workload has increased significantly. Additionally, this year I teaching GCSE Ethics for the first time; a new Geography GCSE; a new subject in our History GCSE; and have revised our Politics A Level course. This has led to increased stress levels. I wouldn’t say I arrived in classes not knowing what I was doing but I arriving there and doing a lot of things for the first time.

I celebrated my 50th birthday last month. A few days afterwards I suffered some health issues which led to me being admitted to hospital. Tests were done, I recovered and had to take 2 weeks off work to recuperate – unheard of for me. On my return to work, I received news that my mother had died. This wasn’t unexpected and was for the best as her health had declined in recent years (I know what you’re thinking, cheerful stuff eh?)

So, my use of time has become very important to me and having reflected, I know I need to do the following:

Start making lists like I used and stick to achieving what’s on the list for the day. Don’t allow others to distract from what’s important for me
Prioritise – linked to the previous point. You can only do so much in one day. Do what’s important for my short and long-term goals. Allocate 2 hours a day 4 days a week for marking and none at weekends.
Don’t sweat the little stuff – again linked to the previous two items. There is much going on in teaching which is beyond my control, therefore, why worry about it. I have become far too negative in outlook thinking about the profession as a whole and stopped focussing on what I have got on my own doorstep. Enjoy the classroom and enjoy working with wonderful work colleagues.
Each day requires me time. This may be exercising, reading, walking but it’s stuff I want to do. I need to look after my health more. I have a fantastic landscape on my doorstep which I need to use more. Getting back into the gym is also on the cards.
Controversial but essential for all of this to happen is to drastically reduce time spent on twitter. Rather than tweet about how much marking I have to, I am going to get on and do it. Twitter in the right hands can be great. Unfortunately, I think it has sidetracked me this year especially (I can hear the laughter now – he’ll never stick to it!)