Teachers do too much. They take on too much. The job suddenly becomes too much to take.
It feels like there is always a million things to do. Workload might come ‘from above’ and the system but a lot of our workload is self-inflicted misery.
Minimalist teachers don’t suffer from that awful ‘drowning’ in work feeling because they get rid of the superfluous crap and streamline their operation.
It won’t matter which teaching job you walk into, there will always be a mountain of stuff that needs doing but then there will be some element of choice and discretion too. You can dictate your own workload to a point by not putting pressure on yourself. Did you really need to give out that assessment and promise to mark it by Friday? No. Get rid of things that you don’t need to do and work slicker and quicker.
Everyone is ‘busy’ but some make being busy their business and let it consume them.
‘Busy’ teachers will have a desk that resembles a landfill site, minimalist teachers will make it look like an empty ice-rink. And they don’t just adopt this feng shui to their dsks either but their marking and their activities. Minimalist teachers adopt a way of working get more done by actually doing less.
Senior Leaders have a thankless job but some do add considerably to teacher workloads. These ‘busy’ people forget that by introducing one more initiative or introducing one more change will send someone over the edge. SLT are not untouchable and can be challenged – decent SLT in fact welcome it. They have a responsibility for staff wellbeing, including their own, and that means not sending an email every 30 mins and not writing convoluted policies that take up 5 staff meetings. They treat their colleagues as professionals and they let folks get on with their jobs.
I like what Richard Templar has to say on this in his book The Rules of Management and he draws our attention to the old Chinese saying: ‘Govern a country the same way you cook a small fish’. Replace the word country for school or classroom and the same applies – keep fiddling with the fish and they fall apart.