Working part-time hours isn’t the end of ambition. @FKAEnglish debunks the myths and gives tips and tricks for making an impression in a part-time role.
As of the 11th of March there were 190 part-time teaching jobs in secondary schools advertised on the TES out of 2221 jobs in the UK. The vast majority of these were temporary maternity cover and only one was listed as a leadership role.
Of course, what employers mean when they advertise that a job is ‘full-time’ is that they have the equivalent of a full time teacher’s hours to fill. Not necessarily that that these hours need to be done by one person.
But how many excellent teachers are deterred from applying by this wording? How many feel trapped in the job they’re in because they’ve managed to negotiate a part time role they’re convinced they wont find elsewhere?
It takes real confidence to apply for a role that is listed as ‘full time’ when you know you want part-time hours. We fear being an inconvenience. A spanner in the already fraught timetabling works.
But the value of a teacher should not be impacted by how many hours they want to work. In fact it would appear that an increasing number of teachers are going part time to help manage workload. Indeed, embracing Part Time workers is becoming increasingly important and celebrated.
The reality of a part-time role is a world away from the self-indulging freedom it is often perceived to be. You might lose one hour of groups you would normally see four times a week, but the weight of planning, marking and parents evenings remains the same. Equally, you can experience casual ‘part-time-ism:’ a subtle (and often self inflicted) undermining of your role.
‘I’m just a part-timer.’
‘All these part-timers make the timetable complicated.’
In addition there are actions that can erode how valuable you feel. When we consider the possibility of not having a classroom of your own, feeling removed from communication/consultation and being given ‘less important’ or fragmented groups in timetabling, the complicated reality of part-time work starts to emerge.
Going part-time isn’t always optional. Sometimes it is necessitated, financially or logistically but it is often the result of finding compromise between two important facets of your life. Whatever the reason, part time creates its own challenges of balancing and organisation in an already busy and demanding profession. You want to get the work done well, have an impact and move forward professionally. But you also have other pressing (and often small human shaped) demands on every second of your ‘free’ time.
Enter: Power Part-Time.
I have always endeavoured to take minimal work home with me and be as efficient as possible when I am at work. This was even more the case when I returned to work 0.6 after my first daughter and then increased this to 0.8 the following year. I was determined to have the same impact, maintain my leadership role and to be seen in the same capacity. But I had fewer hours to play with. The following tips and suggestions are ways I think I have managed to survive and (increasingly) thrive in a part-time role.
Spend your valuable time honing excellent pedagogy driven template resources that can be adapted for all of your classes.
- Menu tasks– brilliant for quick and effective differentiation.
- P4C resources
- Exit cards- gain an insight into your class’s thinking at the end of the lesson. Pose a question and use the answers to refine the next lesson or use as a starter.
- Bank of ‘thunks’ or ‘High Ceiling/Low Threshold’ starters.
- Challenge cards– laminated slips you can quickly add challenge questions for individual students.
- Oracy starter sentences (ABC – Agree/Build/Challenge)
- Blooms taxonomy question stems
I also use ‘pedagogy symbols’ as short hand to denote what I want students to do. I have a whole PowerPoint with symbols for peer/self assessment, questioning, challenge, progress points, questioning etc. I have it open on my desktop when planning.
The ‘Wheel’ works well enough
Share. Collaborate. Use the endless resources shared by benevolent practitioners on Twitter. No one needs you to spend a precious hour after your children are in bed making the 3000th resource on the context of Great Expectations. Find one that already exists, make sure it is relevant and accessible for your group. Then pour a glass of wine and watch Broadchurch.
Draw a line in the sand.
A resource can always be better. It can always be prettier. It can always have a more painstakingly sourced and relevant picture at the top. It can always be rendered in a jazzier font. But learn to draw the line. Draw the line where impact on student progress ends and time wasting begins.
Making Marking Matter
Marking is my least favourite part of the job, so when I do it I want to make sure it is purposeful and impactful. I want the time I’ve spent giving feedback to send immediate and bespoke ripples of improvement across the class.
- Make it purposeful. There is no need to flick and tick or add comments on pages of generic notes/definitions from classwork.
- Use numeric success criteria. Make a grid for the success criteria, which are numbered and stuck into books. Use these to give feedback without writing out the same comment repeatedly. I blog about this in more detail here.
- Encourage self-reflection. Peer/self assessment helps students become less reliant on you for feedback and helps them internalise the success criteria.
- DIRT time. Designate time for students to act on the feedback you’ve given. An excellent starter, it ensures the time you’ve taken to mark books makes an immediate impact. I have a symbol I use to denote this and a generic slide, which guides them through the actions they need to take.
It can be hard to find the energy for an after school meeting after a full day of teaching and your sofa is calling you. It can be even more stressful when you know that you have a tired toddler to pick up from nursery and they are definitely going to refuse the dinner you hand craft whilst on your knees with exhaustion. Equally, meetings held when you aren’t in, can leave you feeling out of the loop.
- Ensure you the ones you go to are relevant. We all want to show willing, but if it’s a meeting about choosing a new A Level Spec and you don’t teach KS5, you might want to have a conversation with your HOD.
- Be upfront about your commitments. This is far more professional than slinking out or announcing you have to leave half way through an agenda item. Even with the best intentions, a half hour meeting can spiral. If you’ve already been upfront with the time you have to leave, this will be less stressful. Show that you can catch up on things you miss when the little people are asleep. Build trust with your boss so that you work flexibly.
- Ask for the minutes. Make sure that your HOD/HOY/Head knows that you want to be sent minutes and given time to give your view on any relevant discussions taking place. This varies for everyone, but I like to be included in all email chains and minutes so that I can be present even when I’m at home.
Get stuff done
Own your time. It can slip away easily. I don’t plan lessons in my planner, but I label each hour. Plan Year 12. Mark year 10. Design new seating plan. Meet with DHT about CPD next year. If I need to do multiple things in one hour I list them in order of urgency. I find that if I compartmentalise my day, it forces me to be more efficient and form a clearer barrier between home and work.
Stake your claim
Finally, the decision to go part time can be perceived as a disintegration of ambition. Don’t let it be seen that way. Organise a ‘return to work’ meeting and lay out your ambitions. Speak up about new ideas. Don’t apologise for your decision to reduce your hours. Instead, make people see that you are just as powerful as you’ve ever been.