TM4T NQT - A Teachers Guide to Half Term

For some teachers, especially teachers early in their career, Autumn half-term becomes a make-or-break ritual: get it right and they can return re-invigorated and cruise on till Christmas, get it wrong and they go back to school more tired than they left, having solved none of their problems and merely dented a daunting backlog of work.

Here, therefore, are the key points about working out of hours, especially working at half-term.

1. You should already have decided in advance (ideally at the start of the year) how much of your life you want to dedicate to teaching. To be successful in your job, this will frequently require significantly more than your annual 1265 hours of directed time.

2. You should accept that there will be some swings and roundabouts in the teaching year: sometimes you will be working less than you'd envisaged; sometimes more. Your lifestyle needs to be flexible enough to accommodate this.

3. You should remind yourself that your NQT year should not set a pattern for the rest of your teaching life. Working-weekends or all-nighters may be tolerable for a while, but you cannot spend your teaching-life in this way. You need to ensure that things do get better.

4. You need to monitor how many hours you are working, and you need to strive to work efficiently. 'Efficiently' means reducing wasted effort, avoiding stress, and being aware of displacement activity, focusing only on what needs to be achieved.

5. At half-term, most teachers have enough time available to relax, to enjoy, and to catch up on work as well. To achieve this, the techniques that TM4T recommends for weekends apply at half-term too. Prepare carefully what needs to be achieved, decide which days are 'work-days', involve your friends and loved ones in your plans, and schedule carefully what you need to do. For details see: A Teachers Guide to Weekends.

6. Having monitored how many hours you are working - during term and at half-term, you should review whether you are happy with this pattern. If you are following the advice for efficient working, half-term should not be a burden; it should blend sensible work with relaxation and fun. However, this does not mean that you have to be happy with this arrangement.

Half-Term and TM4T

The TM4T method itself involves a concept called Z-Time: extensive periods of time dedicated to unscheduled teaching work - outside of school, frequently at weekends. This experience, of course, is not unusual for many teachers, even if they have never heard of TM4T. For NQTs, this home-work grind can become a routine way of life, though this is unplanned and unwanted. In TM4T, however, the letter 'Z' implies that this way of working is a last resort, and in TM4T the emphasis is on monitoring and periodically reviewing the use of Z-Time. It is by definition doing more work than originally planned, and therefore a clear indication that something has gone wrong, and that something needs to change.