TM4T NQT - Part Time Teaching

Part-time teachers face particular challenges when it comes to time management.

In theory, everything should be peachy: you spend four days a week teaching – which you love – and you get three days with your own children – which is great.

Far too often, this idyllic dream turns into a bit of a nightmare. Many teachers go part-time reluctantly. They don't have enough hours in the day, so they sensibly reduce their workload. The problem is that they don't reduce their commitment or sense of obligation to their students. They end up working at home on their 'free days' and feeling guilty because their colleagues are in a classroom and they aren't.

Here's our five step guide to successful part-time teaching

Step 1 Have Reasonable Expectations

Write down what you are going to do or trying to do (or what you have already done). This should read something like:

When I teach five days a week, I generate about 20 hours of additional work which I have to do at home, which impacts my family and my health. I will therefore teach four days a week, and I will try as hard as I can to reduce the out-of-school work to 10 hours.

This example is not intended to be ideal; it is intended to be realistic. Do not kid yourself, or your family, that part-time teaching is going to be a bowl of cherries or sort out all your problems. It will be tough.

Make sure that you understand the rules regarding working time obligations, timetable patterns, after-hours working, duties, meetings, registrations, shared classes, PPA time and so on. The list is long and the complications are many. Seek Union advice if necessary.

You should also prepare yourself for some obvious inconvenience: you won't have 'your' classroom anymore (if you ever did); you may find yourself a little 'out of the loop'; and you will find that the staffroom is not populated by angels (see below).

Step 2 Know Thyself

We are all different: we all have our quirks and idionsyncracies. Make sure you understand your own foibles well. Are you a perfectionist? Do you feel lazy or guilty without reason? Do you hate leaving anything half-done?

(To read more, search the TM4T website for 'self-awareness')

Most part-time teachers report that they do far more than 'x' days work for 'x' days pay, but that is invariably true for full-time teachers as well. The difference is that some part-time teachers report doing full-time work for part-time pay - the only difference being a reduction in their contact time and doing the extra work at home instead of school.

You need to identify any risks up front and guard against this (see below).

Step 3 Use TM4T

Well, we would say that, wouldn't we? So let's be a little less biased: use any good time management system, but definitely use a time management system. In particular:

a) Plan in advance how much work you are going to do outside the classroom and when and where you are going to do it. If you want to leave school on time and do your admin at home, that's fine. If you want to stay at school until your work is done, and keep your home work-free, that's fine too; but decide in advance.

(TM4T uses 11 Preparations to plan a school year. Read more here)

b) Use a Ticklist always (or to-do list or action list). This means a single To-Do list for all work-related tasks, issues, and ideas. Keep your Ticklist with you on non-working days, even if you have resolved not to even think about work.

(Ticklists are central to TM4T. Search the website for Ticklist for more info, but definitely read the page here)

c) Use a concept like X-Time to manage unexpected peaks in your workload.

The idea is that you allocate one specific time (let's say Sunday Afternoon) to do any overflow work, which you can't fit in to your regular schedule. There are advantages anyway in having a routine, but the main advantage of X-Time is that it is easily monitorable. If you are spending every Sunday Afternoon on school work, you know that your time management plan isn't working, and you need to be prepared to do something about it.

(Read more about X-Time here)

d) Monitor constantly whether you are doing what you set out to in Step 1. Monitor how many hours you are working, how much X-Time you are using, whether you are doing too much, whether you're not achieving your objectives. Make sure you get periodic feedback from your boss (Head of Department, SLT) on how they think it is going.

e) Review the school calendar and anticipate problems (parents' evenings, sports days and so on). Decide well in advance how much help you can offer, and then keep to your decision. If unexpected events appear on the calendar (lawks, it's Ofsted), do the same thing, but very quickly.

The key point here is that good time management is important for all teachers, but it is even more important if you are teaching part-time.

Step 4 Tackle the Interpersonal Stuff Head On

Now, maybe you won't need Step 4. Maybe you work in a school where everyone is nice to each other. Maybe they are even nice to the teachers who don't work as many hours as other teachers. Maybe they always remember which days people work and which days they don't. Maybe no-one seems perversely proud of how overworked they are. Maybe no-one ever makes catty remarks behind anyone's back...

Seriously, if you work in a busy school (who doesn't?) you must expect some communication and interpersonal difficulties. Make sure you:

a) Tell people regularly, frequently, even constantly that you are part-time and that you are busy on your non-working days. “Sorry, I don't work Fridays, I have child-care and college commitments”. Be sensitive to push-backs “You don't have to keep telling me you don't work Fridays”, but assertive about issues “If you don't need to be reminded, why did you schedule an important team-meeting while I wasn't here?”.

b) Speak frankly with close or trusted colleagues about how you feel. Guilty that you're at home while others are working? Exhausted by homecare commitments and study in addition to part-time teaching? Sensitive that people may not think you're pulling your weight? Concerned that you're getting more than your share of admin tasks? Listen carefully to their responses and think about any genuine issues.

c) Challenge any put-downs. If you monitoring your workload, and you are doing what you set out to do, and you are tackling any issues, then you have a right to put any sniffy colleagues right, politely but firmly. If they cannot manage their time, that is not your problem. Just because you are a part-timer, you still deserve to be taken seriously as an educator.

d) Accept that some people are going to be difficult no matter what you do or say (especially if you are happy in your life and they aren't). There are plenty of tips for dealing with difficult people in the TM4T Stress Armoury.

Step 5 Choose your Next Challenge Carefully

If you get it right, part-time teaching can be a wonderful and flexible lifestyle. However, don't get stuck in a rut: you have opportunities which are denied to most teachers. You need to accept that things change; that's how life works - and you need to change with it.

You can choose to do more work - to do extra lesson planning, give students more feedback, and so on. You could even choose to increase your formal working hours, if your circumstances permit it.

However, you could choose the opposite approach. Use some of your time at home to improve your efficiency, and reduce that '10 hours' of out-of-school work we mentioned in our opening example.

Working part-time can be difficult to get right, but if you can crack the code, you just might get the best of both worlds.