Ten Ways Schools Make Being A Teacher Difficult!

Whether you are an ECT or an experienced teacher, we all know there are things that schools do that can make teaching harder. Here are ten things (we could probably all agree) that make our jobs as teachers more difficult!

1. Pointless Meetings

We’ve all been there! We get called to a last minute meeting, or it’s our weekly scheduled inset time. We are sat there half listening, tapping a pencil on the table and shaking our leg… completely starting to zone out! Why? This meeting could easily have been an email! We don’t really understand why this happens so often, maybe Admin/SLT just really like to talk? Who knows? Just make sure you have a book to doodle in! And Admin/SLT, please stop having pointless meetings that could have been an email. Thank you!


2. Excessive Marking

Now, I just want to say thank you and well done to all the schools out there that have already started to tackle this. It is becoming noticed more and more that excessive marking is a high contribution to teacher burnout and work-life balance. Some of you may be thinking, “but I have to mark the children’s work, how else would I know how they did?” If this is you, ask your admin to go on a CPD course for formative assessment. You do not have to mark every single little thing to know that a child has met the learning objective or not. Most of you will know this from a quick glance or even a conversation with the class during and at the end of the lesson. Why make more work for yourself? So, schools, take a look at your marking policy and change it to a marking and feedback policy. Children respond so much better to verbal feedback than written feedback and they will be able to make changes in the moment, rather than the next day or lesson. Try giving the learning objective a simple tick or dot so when you look back at lessons you know if the objective was met or not. If it wasn’t, then write under the work and have the child complete next steps. But you do not need to write a comment for every single child, for every single piece of work they complete. That’s a LOT! Personally, I (and my students) love a stamp. Stamps are great as they can be custom made to say what you would like and are fun. The children love them and it makes marking 1000 times faster! Tick the LO and stamp or dot the LO and write next steps. Easy peasy!


3. Intense Planning

Planning oh joyful planning! This can either be our best friend or our worst enemy. We know we need to have a plan for what we are going to be teaching the children, especially if we are planning for our own class as well as someone else’s, e.g. you work in a three form entry school and you’re responsible for the English planning that term. However, I am a firm believer that you do not need to plan intensely. Here is what you need to know for the lesson: curriculum area, national curriculum statements, learning objective, success criteria, resources, child groupings in your class, TA movements, step by step what you will do, supporting activities, extending activities, and so on. But, this is what you actually need on a piece of paper: learning objective, success criteria, brief overview of activity, brief overview of support and extension, list of resources. You don’t need to put groups or TA movements on there, unless you are not going to be in class. You know your class, you know how they learn and who needs what support. You know your TA and can verbally communicate with prior to and during the lesson on what you need. Formal intense plans are only there for visitors, SLT and governors. If you (and more importantly your class) can explain what the purpose of the lesson is, the skill they are progressing and what they are learning/have learnt, then you have done your job. Don’t let planning keep you up at night.


4. Strict Display Board Policy

Display boards are great for in the classroom and across the school as a whole. They look nice, they are informative, they can even be a working wall. If you love making perfect displays then fantastic! You rock! But, some teachers don’t, and I’m here for you! I do love a display board, but I really don’t like it when there are super strict policies about how they have to look. I understand the want for things to look uniform and match across the school but, in my opinion, this doesn’t allow a class (or a teacher) any individuality. Fair enough if a display board looks atrocious, help them redo it. However, I knew a teacher that was fantastic at art and would paint all of her display boards and they would look stunning, but the SLT didn’t like how different they were from everything else and she had to cover them up. Also, I dislike how often I had to change my boards. In one classroom I had, I had twelve boards where all but three were above door height! I had to use a ladder every time I needed to change them, so I was very grateful when a new policy said that I only had to change them once a term, not every half term. I loved it even more in one school where, as a class, we could make a display of our choosing that represented the class and leave it up for the whole year! Fantastic! So, long story short, having display boards is great and really useful tools for the class but don’t spend hours on them as they will only come down in a month or two.


5. Cleaning Up After Your Class

I am a teacher, not a maid. It is not my job the tidy up after the class and there have been days where I told the school cleaner to leave the classroom alone and my students cleaned it up themselves the next day. Some schools expect classrooms to be pristine at the end of the day, which of course you would love but this isn’t always possible. My class had a day once completely out of routine, stuck inside all-day due to bad weather with a supply teacher. I came back to the classroom and it was a mess! Now, I don’t mind picking up the odd thing here and there but like I said, I’m no maid. You shouldn’t be either. If your class have an off day, use it as a learning opportunity and don’t let your school force you to clean the room. Explain to them that the children will be cleaning it first thing in the morning and it will be a great learning opportunity on respect for possessions, manners and following school rules.


6. Formal Observations

Observations can be an important tool to support teachers, especially ECTs within their profession; however, surprise observations, lengthy observations or pointless observations are a no go. Personally, I don’t believe that formal observations show the true nature of a class or a teacher’s skills. If it is planned, they have time to prep the children and adjust planning purely for the observation. That doesn’t show day-to-day teaching or good practice. If it is a surprise visit the class and the teacher may not show their true nature either as they feel caught off guard and under a microscope. So what is the best kind of observation? Learning walks. These are (relatively) pressure free and quick observations of the whole school where staff know what day or week they will happen in. These are especially great if everyone across the school is teaching the same subject at the same time and you can see the progression of skills and learning, as well as spot any inconsistencies. So let’s get rid of formal observations and opt for the more friendly learning walk.


7. No Feedback

So after all those surprise or formal observations, after all the hard work, learning walks and endless pressure… nothing. It is so frustrating when SLT conduct observations and then give you absolutely zero feedback! Why? If you are going to be observing someone, provide honest feedback. If they did fantastic, celebrate your great staff. If it wasn’t what you wanted to see, provide CPD and advise to progress their teaching. Just make sure that if you schedule in time to go and observe someone’s teaching, you also schedule in time to feedback.


8. Everything Being Perfect

Some schools put such pressure on staff to have everything perfect. If you know Primary Progression, you know that we don’t believe in perfection – only progress. No one will be able to match the head teacher’s image of perfection except the head teacher as everyone has a different idea. So communicate with staff and explain your thought process. What is your ideal, not your perfect answer. Teachers, don’t stress about perfections! You are doing amazing and your children appreciate you. So what if there is a pile of papers on your desk? So what if a child left a chair untucked at break time? So what if…. There are so many of these I could say. Just remember, do your best and that is all that matters.


9. Lack of Communication

“Oh we have a new English scheme? Great. Wait, breaktime changed? Since when? Hold on, when did this become a thing? Oh we have a new way to speak in Maths? Super! What’s this? A new mental wellbeing scheme? All right then. Wait… another new thing? What is it this time?!” If this sounds like you then you have an SLT that has poor communication. This is a big problem. And the only way to solve it? Funny enough… through communication. Now, this can be awkward and scary, trust me I’ve been there, but if you and your colleagues are getting stressed from constant changes that you weren’t prepared for, you need to speak to your Senior Leadership Team. Two or three of you go together and just calmly explain that you are excited to progress the school and make improvements, but it is coming to fast and you would like more communication and time to discover all the new things you will be doing. Try your best to communicate how you are all feeling and hopefully SLT will begin more open communication in your school.


10. Undermining You in Front of Others

This one is something that unfortunately happens far too often. You may have just supported a child, or disciplined a class, or celebrated something as a class when a member higher than you in the school uses their authority to change what you have said in front of your students and other staff members. Not only is this rude and degrading, it shows the staff and students at the school that you have no authority and they shouldn’t listen to you. This can then cause great difficulty for the teacher as behaviour may decline and respect reduce for SLT. So, school leaders, do not undermine your staff, unless it is for another’s safety.

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