I am fantastic at planning lessons.
In fact I would go so far as to say that planning and creating resources is my absolute strongest suit as a teacher. During my five rollercoaster years in the classroom if you had told me, “Don’t worry about thinking through the minutiae of your lesson structure and putting together a fabulous PowerPoint, someone else is going to do that for you. All you need to do is teach,” then I would have been a little bit taken aback. That was my favourite part of the job.
Roll forwards to now: I’ve been working for Twinkl for two and a half years and, most of that time, heading up the Secondary product. If I could have known then what I know now, as my teaching career came crashing down around me, then I would still be in the classroom. And what do I know now? I know that Twinkl Secondary English has got my planning covered for the rest of the year and beyond. And in spite of the pride and enjoyment I got out of making my own resources and lessons, if I was to return to school I would trade all of that in for the extra headspace that this time afforded me.
You do get the most fabulously organised teachers who seem to be able to stay on top of things and appear to breeze through their classroom careers from one outstanding lesson to the next. That wasn’t me. My schedule went something like this:
- wake up at five-thirty;
- cycle forty-five minutes to school (not because I was a cyclist but because my wife needed the car);
- full day of teaching;
- mark books in my classroom until five;
- cycle home (an hour on the way back, I was tired and there were more hills);
- cram tea-time, tidy-up and bedtime for four children into a two hour slot;
- at eight-thirty pm start planning lessons for the next day. This often took me past eleven. At which point I still had to jump into the shower before collapsing into bed.
I fully accept that I wasn’t handling this as well as I could, I was partly screwed because I had a big family to worry about, but I had got to the stage where I wasn’t on top of things. For me it felt impossible to get out of the spiral because there was no time to take stock and re-organise. This will be a familiar sensation for thousands of teachers around the UK.
I firmly believe that I shouldn’t have had to feel like this. When I spoke to super-efficient teachers about the hours I worked I was told to “work smart.” I disagree with this as a principle. I’m a great teacher because I’m an effective communicator, I love my subject, and I enjoy working with young people, I shouldn’t have to find ways to work any smarter than I already do.
So, I don’t want to hard-sell Twinkl because I know that people don’t want to hear that, but I would heartily recommend it. You can pick up a subject-specific subscription for under £60 a year (which equates to less than £5 a month if maths isn’t your strong point) and in doing so save yourself at least the three hours that I lost every evening in planning and creation time. Does this mean that you are a less good teacher because you’re relying on someone else’s planning? No, I think we need to shake off that kind of stigma. Building upon the work of others and assimilating the ideas of experts isn’t a cop-out, in fact I would argue that it’s developmental.
When I left teaching I didn’t plan to return, I was so wiped out by it. Now, if I didn’t enjoy working for Twinkl so much, I would gladly get back to school armed with a Secondary English account and know that a significant portion of my workload was taken care of.