TM4T - Time Management Basics 18: Delegate

Most teachers - secondary school teachers anyway - struggle with delegation. They sometimes skip the 'delegation' page in the time management handbook because, well... 'that's all very well if you're working in business with a team of minions, but it doesn't work with just two of us in the department...' (or something similar).

Well, it's certainly true that delegation for teachers is more complicated, and requires more thought, than in most jobs. We need to be creative. This means that you need think carefully about secondly what work you can reasonably delegate and firstly who you can delegate too. 

Let's look at the options...

1.The obvious option: support staff. It is quite astonishing how frequently support staff say that they don't have enough work to do at some times during the year.  If you are new to your role, make sure you ask what support is available, make sure you talk to the support staff, and identify - as early in the year as possible - what they can do for you.  Then... and this is the tricky bit, you need to organize your workload to fit the needs of your support team.  If 'Brian' is usually free to help on Tuesday afternoons you need to juggle your work schedule around so you have a stack of work ready for him.

2. The option which seems to be routine in primary schools, but woefully underemployed in many secondary schools: the students.

There are, of course, some common sense ethical limits about how much forced labour you can extract from your little innocents, but TM4T recommends that you push those limits as far as you can. Anything not-too-heavy that needs carrying, sorting,sticking, or checking - get the kids to do it. Use whatever psychological levers you can - sanction or reward - but make sure that the administration workload and operational effort of your lessons is not borne by you alone.

3. The office. Most schools have a lot of non-routine events. Parents evenings, plays, sports days, prizegivings, trips, whatever. If you have work relating to these, which are not a part of your regular everyday grind: ask for help. In fact, get used to asking anyway. Usually, somewhere in a school, there are helpful people hidden away, who actually do volunteer to help others when they are busy. The hard part is finding them.

4. The boss. Your immediate superior (department head, faculty director, starzone emperor, whatever) is invariably the person best qualified to do your job. If you have a genuine reason to be overworked - for example, if your boss has just dumped you with a heap of unexpected new work - then you could consider a little negotiation. Could she take on some of your day-to-day workload? After all, she could probably do it with her eyes shut....

5. Your colleagues. I know, I know... they're just as overworked as you are. Probably... but not necessarily at the same time, or for the same reasons. We are not really talking about delegation here, but a bit of tactical swapping. If you are prepared to be delegated to when you have some breathing space in your timetable, you can expect your colleagues to reciprocate. As always, the key trick is to ask... and also to offer, if you can spare the time.

6. Your loved ones and significant others. Oh dear, I can hear the universal negative response, along the lines of: 'Hah! I can't see Dave planning a Year 11 Italian lesson; he can't even order pasta' or 'Lorraine wouldn't be much good marking A Level Sociology'.  Et-cet-er-a... and of course, you're dead right. However, Dave can almost certainly lay out a Power Point presentation as well as you can, and Lorraine can definitely enter marks into a spreadsheet. Teachers regularly complain that they have to do too much routine clerical work, frequently at home. If that's you, then you're likely to find that Dave and Lorraine are only too happy to help you.