10 Timesaving Tips to Reclaim Your Weekend by @TeacherToolkit

Time Pressure


First a disclaimer: I still work at weekends.  Less frequently these days though, often using time to think about the week ahead, deleting emails or reading up about education. I teach much less than I used to, but I still mark books, comment on reports and enter assessment data.

I think it’s a good idea to spend some time preparing for the challenges of the week ahead but I keep this to a bare minimum and focus on what’s going to really help me help my students.

The following tips are some of the ways I’ve managed to stay on top of things that have also proven to be successful with my team at school and with readers of my blog.

1. Your students must work harder than you

The lessons I’ve seen fail the most, are the ones where the teacher has tried to do too much. Your job is to get the students engaged in their learning and understand why. Let go of the guilt and the need to focus on what you are doing. Instead, loosen up the control on everything and things get a lot easier.


2. Minimise planning

In 2012, under the pressure of an Ofsted inspection, I shared a lesson plan online for a Year 7 lesson, which stripped the process of teaching and learning down to the bare essentials. This went on to become the template for the #5MinPlan which has now been downloaded and used successfully by thousands of teachers all over the world!

This video shows the process:


3. Say no to fads and myths

There are numerous examples of buzzwords, fads, and frameworks that are still eating up valuable hours of every teacher’s working day. One of my recent frustrations with the system, is evidence of ‘verbal feedback stamps’ in students’ books which some teachers believe provides evidence that feedback has taken place. Ofsted does not expect to see unnecessary written dialogue between teacher and pupil.

Ofsted Guidance


Question everything you think you are required to do, particularly if it goes against common sense and share evidence-based practise widely.


4. Don’t reinvent the wheel

Spend a few minutes on Twitter once in a while and you’ll get a super-concentrated dose of CPD. Someone else has probably found a solution to the problem you’re facing and is willing to share it with you for free.

If you’re new to Twitter (or have tried it but got overwhelmed or didn’t see the point), this will help you get started.


5. Disconnect

Quality Time


In the tip above, I’ve advocated using social media.  The caveat is that, to save time, it should be used sparingly and purposefully.

Equally important is regularly switching off from the stream of information, especially email. If you still idly check up on social media and one thing leads to another, soon you’ll find yourself writing another email and be in a downward spiral. Switch off your phone, put it down and spend time with family and friends.

Some tips on marking:

6. Focus on quality, not quantity

Marking has two purposes. One, students act on feedback and make progress over time. Two, it informs future planning and teaching and is the greatest tool for differentiation. ‘Should teachers be marking every piece of work?‘ Absolutely not! “High quality, not truck-loads of ticks. Fewer things, done really well“ says @MaryMyatt.


7. Student Marking

Student Marking


Get students to mark their own classwork and their peers’ work. Do this regularly using student friendly mark-schemes and see your marking workload decrease. Train your students well with assessment methods and routine self and peer-assessment and you can watch their capacity to retain knowledge, act on feedback and improve the quality of their work, gradually increase!


8. Margin Marking

Instead of marking each spelling or grammar mistake, put a mark in the margin for students to find their mistakes, and correct them. Share your school’s marking code and use it religiously; and please stay away from ‘verbal feedback stamps’ for observers such as Ofsted inspectors and appraisers. Mark for your students, not for anyone else!


9. Re-drafted Marking

Get students to re-do a piece of work for you after a lesson, focused on improvements only. Ensure you accept the work if they have scored a higher mark on it because they have understood the feedback on how to improve. If not, ask students to do the work again. The Yellow Box is a useful methodology for this. It removes the burden of time and replaces the teacher and student with a focused marking zone in the exercise book. Re-drafted work is made more precise and concise!

#10 Growth Mindset


Of all the concepts in Carol Dweck’s work, [image] the standout concept for me is ‘Not Yet’.  Dealing with a pupil who doesn’t yet understand is so much easier than dealing with a pupil who can’t do it.  For me, this is the key to making students more responsible for - and more excited about - their own learning and this is going to take away some of your workload.  It’s also a useful concept to apply to your own work and can help you to go easy on yourself!

Ross Morrison McGill
Ross Morrison McGill is @TeacherToolkit, the ‘most followed teacher on Twitter in the UK’. He is an award-winning deputy headteacher who writes the ‘most influential blog on education in the UK’ and has one of the most widely read blogs across the world. In 2015, he was nominated for ‘500 Most Influential People in the Britain’ by Debrett’s. Teacher Toolkit is also ranked one of the ‘top-50 brands in education-technology‘ across the world by Onalytica.