Five Ways To Reduce Your Workload As A Maths Teacher

You are not going to help anyone if you are feeling overworked and stressed as a maths teacher. There is no doubt about it, teaching is hard work and can involve long hours – working out how to reduce your workload is one of the most important things you can do. You should be thinking about this question before you start your PGCE year – keeping your workload manageable will help you to develop into an inspirational teacher without becoming burnt out. 

1. Share Resources

Five minutes spent on the TES website could save you hours in preparation time. A good teacher will save time by using other people’s resources and tailoring them to suit their own classes (within copyright boundaries of course!). You will still need to create your own stuff but sharing and collaborating will save you lots of time. Make sure you ask your Head of Department about any resources which they are willing to share with you. 

2. When do you work best?

Have you ever tried marking late at night and realised that you have been staring at the same sentence for half an hour? You need to work out a way of working efficiently, and in a way which suits you. Some teachers stay after school and make sure that they get all their work finished before they go home. Other teachers like to leave as soon as possible and will come back to their work later in the evening, especially if they are naturally a night owl.  As a new teacher you will need to try out a pattern and see what works best for you.

3. Use your non-contact time wisely

As a new teacher you will be given more non-contact time than an established member of staff. It is so easy to fritter this time away – treat it like gold dust and try to plan in advance what you will do during each hour. For example you might always mark the books of a particular class, or plan your lessons for the next day.  Think about where you will work – if you find yourself chatting in the staffroom then try to find an empty classroom or putting in headphones. 

4. Be marking savvy

Marking is a big part of a teacher’s workload. A lot of what you do will be laid down by your school, but beyond that you should try and be as efficient as possible. Can your pupils mark their own work (self-assessment) or mark each other’s work (peer-assessment)? These are both strategies which are useful for your pupils and will save you time.  Does your school allow you to set online homework?  As a maths teacher the use of computer aided assessment can save a lot of time, as long as it is used well.  Are you doing silly things which slow marking down such as creating homework which is far too long, or marking at a cramped desk where you can’t lay your books out?  Small changes to your routine could be revolutionary.  

5. Review every half term

Sometimes when you are so busy, it seems crazy to stop and review what you are doing. In fact taking one hour to review your workload could save you countless hours in wasted time. Consider keeping a time diary to see how you are using your time – you might spot an easy area for improvement.  Discuss your workload with your mentor and other student teachers. They might have some advice which will really help.

Other top tips 

- Make sure you plan in regular relaxation time each day, weekend and holiday time.  There are going to be times when you feel so busy that you can’t take a break.  These are exactly the times when you will need to force yourself to stop.  Often you can be more efficient when you have less time available.  Time out isn’t optional – it is vital.

- When you apply for your first job as a maths teacher, make sure you pay attention to the culture of your prospective school. What is the ethos of the school? Are they expecting too much from their teachers? A successful school won’t mean burnt out teachers and a high staff turnover. 

- Your PGCE and NQT year will inevitably involve a high workload – you are learning so many new things and don’t have a huge bank of resources and experience to rely upon. You will also have assignments or equivalent which you need to complete. The key thing is – are you going in the right direction in terms of workload?  Are you being as efficient as you can be? Are you saving time where you can?  But don’t feel too despondent if these first years feel particularly tough and make sure that you are sharing any concerns with your mentor. 

Future leaders make a difference to teacher workload

Many Maths Teaching Scholars will go on to be future leaders in Mathematics education, becoming Heads of Department, Senior Leaders and Headteachers.  One day you might have the opportunity to shape the workload of the teachers in your school.  If you become a school leader, make reducing the workload of your staff a high priority, helping to create a happy workforce which will ultimately result in better outcomes for your pupils.