Teaching is a balance between entrepreneurship and bureaucracy. Like with any job of worth, teachers often say that it a job that can fill all your time should you choose to do so. I agree, but I do not think that such qualities are distinct to teachers. I do think ,though, that time management is often not a subject discussed in the profession.
Talking of profession, I have increasingly thought that teachers struggle with the tension between seeing their job as either a profession (where they work hours for pay) or a vocation (where they work until the job is complete, usually to fulfill personal values). My view is this: some think that anyone can be a teacher, and that the prime role of most teachers is to babysit children while two parents can contribute to the economy. There are no particular machinations behind this: you want your very best people educating your children. The question is, whose children are those? And from that, how aspirational are those children allowed to be?
I would say that without a culture of valuing publicly marking and feedback, it is almost an impossibility for students to aspire to improve as much as they can. A culture of high expectations thrives only when they experience a teacher (all teachers?) demanding sustained improvement through responding to diagnostic feedback. In real terms, this could mean trying to conceptualise themes that might not be understandable, or connotating words beyond their current experience: in other words, doing something that will most likely lead to failure. And that failure might, and perhaps should, lead to some sense of ardour and reflection.
The teacher needs to stay smart and strong in these periods. It is all too easy to deprioritise marking. Although a corporate sounding word, to deprioritise something is a direct result of prioritising something else – I have to send between 40-60 emails each day alongside teaching up to six lessons day with extra-curricular commitments. On top of that, I want a social and a personal and an imaginative life. Marking can easily be deprioritised when students do not seem to respond to comments, or, even worse, if the culture of marking is that it should only be for image.
One method of keeping to marking demands is to make something of a schedule. One method I have seen that works well for English teachers is to mark one set of books once per week on a weekend. It still involves several hours, but it gets done, is regular, and…
As part of this marking demand, it is apparent to me that to meet it consistently takes certain time out from the reflective aspect of teaching. As an international teacher, now, I find myself in a culture of visiting places for a weekend or too, something that I perhaps rarely did before.
So, the questions I would ask about marking are these:
Who are you marking for?
When are your regular marking schedules allocated?
How much response to your feedback so you expect? How will you vary your teaching based on your marking?
What to do when I miss marking schedules?
What has stopped me from marking in class?
Is it right/efficient to mark in class/test time?
Should marking be used as display work?
Can innovation happen with marking? Is that innovation for the students, or for the teachers?
Who checks marking? Why do they check? Will teachers mark as they could (should) without that accountability? What happens if no-one checks marking?
How quickly do I mark? When do I expect pupils to respond? (see my Marking Time Calculator post).
When do I change my teaching in response to marking? Do I have to mark in detail in order to make a meaningful change? To what extent does the content of what is taught change depending on marking?
On average, should students have one criteria-based formative comment that requires response every two weeks? Should that include generic spelling and grammatical based responses?