“The Teacher Workload Survey (2016) identified that teachers with less than six years’ experience report higher average working hours per week than more experienced colleagues”
Department for Education, 2017
Topics on this page:
- Managing your time
- Working with your mentor
- Other aspects of induction training
- Ofsted and the geography department
- Joining a community of practice for advice and support
As an early career teacher you should be prepared to take control, set priorities for your induction and manage your own workload. It is important to use your time properly, both for your own wellbeing as well as your effectiveness as a teacher.
Discuss with your mentor strategies to achieve a sustainable and manageable work-life balance: if you really feel you cannot cope seek help immediately and do not drive yourself too far physically, psychologically or emotionally.
Managing your time
As an early career teacher you will have a reduced teaching timetable. You can refer to the DfE guidance to check your time entitlement and training entitlement during induction. But it is up to you to make sure you make the best possible use of your time. It will be a challenge to manage the many demands you face and being a newly qualified teacher can be exhausting.
Some key ways to use your working time efficiently are to:
- Categorise tasks as high, medium or low priority so that you focus immediately on what is most important. Think into the medium term and identify tasks that can wait for a bit longer. If senior staff ask you to take on a new task, ask for their advice on what you should drop.
- Be systematic in your approach to paperwork or it will smother you. Set yourself targets (and keep to them) and use IT systems effectively to organise documents and messages.
- Consider how you are going to keep on top of marking students’ work. Focus on the quality of marking rather than quantity. Take steps to reduce the time you spend marking by making greater use of formative feedback in lessons, identifying common errors across all students’ work and adapting your next lesson to help students correct misunderstandings. See Feedback and marking and Formative assessment.
- Think about how you can streamline your planning and remember that it is planning for a sequence of learning to be covered in a series of lessons that is most important. Make good use of the geography department’s schemes of work and make sure you understand what each unit is intended to cover. Use any opportunities to plan series of lessons cooperatively with other teachers, sharing ideas and resources.
- Recognise that it takes a lot of time to build up your own bank of teaching resources. While you should be doing this, avoid reinventing the wheel when you can draw on good geography resources, for example from textbooks and websites. The GA has lots of resources you can use to build into your lessons: explore GA Resources and browse Teaching thematic geography for links to different teaching topics and themes such as places, human, physical and environmental geography, global learning and controversial issues.
- And finally, admit that you cannot always be a perfectionist. All teachers should work hard to do their best for their students, but be realistic in what you strive for.
The DfE has issued guidance on teacher workload Reducing workload: Supporting teachers in the early stages of their career. This has been written for the staff who are supporting you. If you browse the content you will see that many young teachers face the same problems, so if you do too you are not alone! The paper should help you to realise what it is reasonable to expect from those supporting you and help you to prepare any special requests you might want to make.
Make sure that you prioritise time for your induction because professional development is essential to help you to become an effective teacher and is an important investment for your career. Even though you have gained QTS you still have much to learn.
During your initial teacher training you will have been introduced to most of the content of the Early Career Framework, but induction is when you have a chance to embed this in your practice and develop your expertise further. That is why you must focus on managing your time and not wasting this opportunity.
Specific time should be set aside for you and your mentor to meet regularly and for you to observe other teachers. If you find it difficult to find time to study, attend training or meetings, talk to someone about it.
Get advice if you think you are not getting the time that you are entitled to. Share your problems with colleagues in school, friends from ITT or other ECTs. Often you will find they can suggest some coping strategies that they use that could help you.
Working with your mentor
Your mentor will provide you with support, but they will also give you an opportunity to reflect on your progress as a teacher and challenge you. They will explain or demonstrate ideas for you and help you to develop expert subject and pedagogical knowledge.
If your dedicated mentor is not a geographer you should ask for some time with a geographer as well. You should make sure that during your induction you master geography-specific teaching skills that can be challenging and that you may not have had the chance to develop during your initial training.
Make sure that you discuss with your mentor early on in induction any areas which you know you need to develop. In particular, work with them on aspects such as planning and undertaking fieldwork, managing geographical enquiries, dialogic teaching, teaching examination classes and using GIS – as well as any specific areas of geographical content where you feel less secure.
Your induction should involve a strong element of coaching. This is an evidence-based process to help you to develop. Your mentor will observe you teaching to provide the evidence that is the basis of coaching. They might observe for only for 15 minutes, rather than a whole lesson, but will focus on a particular teaching strategy that you have agreed in advance and are working on. By selecting a single focus at a time will you be able to consider that aspect in more depth.
In the follow-up meeting, you will discuss with your mentor what they observed and talk about how you felt it went. Don’t be afraid of admitting mistakes and what went wrong. Be ready to ask questions about what you do not know – remember that your mentor is there to advise and help you. After your discussion you will agree specific targets for you to work on to refine your practice. When necessary your mentor will draw in other colleagues to support you.
- To find out more about coaching, read this guidance prepared for mentors.
It is important that you develop a good relationship with your mentor if they are to help you. Both of you need to work at the relationship so it grows over time. You should be prepared to set the tone and honestly identify what you want to achieve. Be alert to not wasting your mentor’s time for they will have a busy workload too.
Do not take your mentor for granted, and thank them for their advice and help in words as well as responding through your actions. Be prepared for your mentor to push you beyond your comfort zone – that is what a good mentor does. They are there to guide and support you but if you are wrong or handled a situation poorly, they should point this out. Take note of their feedback but do not take criticism personally.
- For some good advice read 5 ways to get the most out of your mentor relationship.
Other aspects of induction training
Your induction should give you a chance to learn new content, work with experts and collaborate with other ECTs. In addition, your school might arrange for you to attend early career teachers’ conferences, training sessions or subject networks.
In addition, you should invest time in self-study, to develop your subject knowledge and understanding of pedagogy. Watching videos can be an effective way to explore what good practice looks like and give you a chance to consider how you might apply the ideas demonstrated to your own teaching. Reading is also a good way to dig deeper into pedagogy and think about what this might mean for your practice. After reading or watching videos it is important to discuss your ideas with others to check your understanding and reflect on your learning. Refer to the Reading list for geography teachers.
Take any opportunities you can to work with geographers and other experienced teachers both in and out of your school to help you identify the best ways to apply what you learn through your induction. Talk widely with colleagues and other ECTs, as well as your mentor.
Discuss with them what you have read about educational research and the implications for classroom practice. This will help you to share best practice and better understand what ‘good’ teaching is. Working on collaborative activities with other teachers is another excellent way to develop your experience. This could involve planning how to use a new teaching resource, designing a unit of work, planning some fieldwork, or moderating assessments of students’ work.
Professional development in your induction and beyond is not a ‘one off’ event. It has to be sustained over a period of time. It should infiltrate everything you do as a teacher, from reflecting on lessons you have taught to discussing with colleagues.
Ofsted and the geography department
Every school has an inspection from time to time. What does this mean for an ECT?
From September 2019 Ofsted school inspections will make a ‘quality of education’ judgement which will particularly focus on the curriculum of the school. A sample of subject departments will be subject to ‘deep dives’ during an inspection. This could involve the geography department in inspectors’ visits to lessons, scrutiny of pupils’ work and discussions with pupils and teachers.
You should expect inspectors to meet you if you are an ECT in a school that is being inspected and they may wish to observe some of your lessons. Inspectors are expected to give consideration to the fact that ECTs have less experience than other teachers, and they will assess the effectiveness of the support and professional development put in place for you, particularly in managing pupil behaviour. This will include the quality of mentoring and what the school has done to support your development in areas for improvement identified by your initial teacher training provider.
Find out more about Ofsted inspections of schools here.
Joining a community of practice for advice and support
There are many teacher organisations, both local and national, that are communities of practice. Examples include local teacher networks and teaching unions. Two that should be of particular interest to you and can provide support are:
- Read Why teachers matter which is written by Professor Dame Alison Peacock, the Chief Executive of the Chartered College, specifically for new teachers.
As well as using this website, reading the journals and attending the conference, consider going beyond this and using your membership of this organisation to meet and work with other geographers within the community.
For face-to-face engagement with others, you could join your local branch of the GA or attend CPD events. You could also get more involved through volunteer groups, writing for the website or journals or participating with your school in student activities.