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TM4T - I've got my own ways of working....

TM4T is a pretty comprehensive time-management method, and its many components - the individual methods and techniques - are compatible with each other. They fit together. They were designed that way.

However: in some aspects of your work, you may have your own ways of doing things, which (a) seem as good or better than TM4T and (b) seem to be compatible with the other bits of TM4T and (c) you kind-of-like.  Can you use your-way instead?

As they say on all the best time management sites: 'you betcha'.

However, you should use the checklist below to make sure your own methods are really up-to-scratch. A good method should be scaleable, flexible, robust, and transferable (as well as efficient and easy-to- use).


1.    Scaleability

Scaleability is a major issues for new teachers. During their training they are taught to do things well. Their routine for marking might involve reviewing sample scripts, printing out grade boundary guidance, and lots of formative feedback. Excellent stuff, but not a method which can be carried out on a large-scale (for example, six 30-student classes per week). Not unless you intend to live like a hermit. If your life gets very busy, very quickly, you don't want to start looking for new ways of doing things. You should already have a method which copes.

This issue re-emerges when teachers develop new ways of working during the quiet part of the year (well, it's the only opportunity they have). These methods work fine, until things get busy, and then - again - things get stressful.


2.    Flexibility

A method must not only be able to cope with large-scale use, but it must not vary too much depending on circumstances. Every teacher knows a marking method to cater for crisis times: they call it tick-and-flick: but this method is not appropriate for other times, and it is pretty obvious to students that it is dramatically different to 'proper' marking.

A good method can be applied, tweaked, modified, or versioned to cater for a range of contexts and circumstances.


3.    Robustness

The criterion of robustness can be over-emphasized, and I suggest you don't do that. The principle itself is sound enough: don't base your method on anything that can break - an example might involve a routine of photo-copying worksheets on the morning of a lesson. However, in schools, things do go wrong sometimes, and we cannot expect to be prepared for every eventuality. However, your methods should be mindful of Sod's Law, and not over-optimistic. If your approach to lesson preparation demands complete isolation, warm weather, and a working flatbed scanner, you are likely to run into problems.  If your method of tackling e-mails requires a quiet well-behaved class and a reliable Wi-Fi system, then it may not be robust.


4.    Transferability

Transferability is a key issue with 'my own way of working'. You may have encountered the little whirl of chaos which occurs when 'George' goes off sick (every school has a George). No-one can understand George's lesson plans. He is teaching the syllabus in an unusual order. His marksheets have cryptic code-numbers instead of Grades, and the Teaching Assistants have no idea where any resources are.  George's methods may, in fact, be very efficient. However, his methods cannot be transferred to other people, and are incompatible with the schools' own systems.

Now, again, this is not an absolute criterion: you cannot achieve complete transferability in your methods. However, you should be mindful of other people, and how easy your own methods are to understand. As far as possible, you should ensure that your end-product looks the same as the other teachers.
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