Teachers should know where their time goes

It all started when I was asked by the head teacher how much time I had spent on a particular task.

The question was asked of everyone in the school, along with a breakdown of what eveyone had done. This took me hours. I did not want to be subjected to this request again without being prepared. I wanted to say within a few minutes “I’ve spent x amount of time on this task and these are the outcomes”, great if I had the time to create such a report on the fly. As all teachers know teaching is a balancing act between priorities, as well as satisfying those unexpected requests when you are already busy, which can cause undue stress.

I wanted to show off my performance. It seems as though unless you write the tasks down, detailing in folders and department notes what you have done, you have gaps where it looks like you have not done anything outside of teaching time when the truth is the exact opposite.

Pie Chart

Pie chart showing all work carried out outside of direct teaching

Video demonstration of using ‘Time recording’ on my phone

I decided to use Time Recording to log everything, this saved my bacon on a few occasions.  The question “why haven’t you completed such and such” led to my answer “because I was also given A, B and C to do which took me x hours last night, so I couldn’t do it”.

This may sound like shirking, but it’s not. By having a logging app I was able to support my own interpretation of my worth.

It gave me confidence and reduced my stress levels as I was able to assertively say what was and was not possible within a set amount of time.  It is unreasonable to expect more than what is feasible, but as we all know ‘the extra mile’ is part of the job. Work load management is an undeniable stress factor for teachers. I would definitely recommend this app to anyone wanting to work more efficiently, suffering stress at work due to overloading, or if time management is questioned. I was able to confidently say where my time was going.  With this app I was able to justify extending deadlines by using data explaining how long a typical task would take and therefore my reason for requesting an extension.

It became second nature to press a button on my phone to simply log tasks as I was doing them. The logging acted as a diary and became more and more useful. I was working evenings, weekends and many days in the holidays, yet like most teachers, I was still not finishing everything I had set out to. I was blaming myself. I heard “Time management” a few times, then after 6 months of logging I realised what was taking up my precious time. Time I could have spent on teaching and improving student progress. Time on making every lesson an outstanding one, time to do everything that benefits students rather than support paper trails.

38% of my time outside of teaching students in class was spent replying to emails and producing reports.

As an educator you appreciate how data indicates many things such as how students are performing. You understand that this data is important for yourself to intervene and support students that need the help. On the other hand, I did think to myself “wouldn’t students benefit more from great lessons, a not so tired teacher and more detailed assessment”.

This pie chart represents all non teaching time; 4 hours preparation time a week, time before and after school, evenings, weekends and holidays (In total 60 + hours a week including teaching time). This pie chart represents all my “free time”. Therefore what could be scrapped from this pie chart of extra teaching tasks. Like most teachers I found that email had become a paper trail for many members of staff so they could say “I’ve done my bit. Phew! Someone else’s problem now” and with so much work you can understand why this is necessary for many.

I propose a complete overhaul. Email whether you like it or not is taking you away from educating.

Paperwork / reporting data is taking you away from educating. We need a balance. I recommend we do away with email. There are alternatives such as talking to someone face to face, picking up the phone, instant messaging and others such as evernote’s chat client. Sharing information is great but a morning meeting where knowledge is shared would be better. If it is really urgent, a person (messenger) could come round and inform you or the students about something that is relevant to you and your class, rather than the alternative email that is sent to “whole school”. Something has to change. On regular occasions I was receiving 100+ emails in a day. Then you would have someone say to you in-between lessons “have you received my email, what do you think?”.

I’m not saying that data, reporting, answering queries by email and filling out pupil reports is not important. What I am saying is that the frequency and amount of these tasks has to be balanced by what teacher tasks provide the most effective learning and progress. Priorities need to be reassessed. There needs to be either more funding for admin staff to collate data and report, or teachers need to be asked for admin less often. Alternatively OFSTED, parents and governors should be told what is possible with current funding and teacher time.

Something has to change. As technology gets more advanced it is bringing it’s own problems, not allowing teachers to switch off.

Fragmented and duplicated data technology which hinders rather than supports. I know that all schools will not be streamlined any time soon as this would require funding for better technology and training for staff. But most importantly people need to be aware of their own time limitations. How do you think this time management could be addressed?

7 thoughts on “Teachers should know where their time goes

  1. Mike

    This is so true. Our email system stopped working at our school for a few days and it was great, and no, the school did not fall to pieces with out. Most of the emails I receive in a day are completely pointless and a waste of time.

    1. David Kelly Post author

      Hi Mike. Thanks for the comment. I think email is far too embedded in the education system. It’s going to take a radical forward thinking head to change some of these processes. I have heard many teachers say the same as us.

      It’s not until you add up all the hours spent on email that you realise the benefits are far outweighed by the time wasting and bureaucracy. This gets in the way of educating children and makes a teachers work life balance more difficult to manage.

      All I would end with is this. Get yourself the free ‘Time recorder’ app and log everything. You will then be able to show your own head how much time is spent on email. This may prompt them on being that “Forward thinking head”. Else if that fails you will be able to look at your current workload and discuss with your team what could be made more efficient. This may include less meetings, less frequent reporting etc.

      Good luck!

        1. Peter Mason

          I watched the brief video that was posted and noticed the widget used to quickly enter time …but could not figure out how to active the same on my Profile version.
          Also searched the PlayStore for a plug-in. Can’t find one??m

          1. David Kelly Post author

            Hi Peter. The widget is available from your widget area. So on the older version of Android hold your finger down on the home screen and wait for the menu “add widget”, select the widget from the list. On the newer version of Android you hold down your finger on the home page, when the menu appears, select “widgets”. It should be available from the list here. Don’t forget the widget is only available with the pro version. Well worth paying for for the features it offers.

  2. Ryan

    I recently was asked what did I do all day. Of course I know that I did not stop working and put in all of my hours. My boss stated that they knew how long it took to do each job assigned to me, this app let’s me break it down by category and add notes. Next time they ask I will pull it out and say here you go. I love it so far, just figuring out all the features.

    1. David Kelly Post author

      It gets surprisingly useful to add notes. I found just adding a few words jogged my memory and became a real lifesaver much later on, it only takes a few seconds. Thanks for the comment Ryan. It’s nice to hear you’ve benefited from this little gem.


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