Head of Computer Science, Farrah Khalifa, shares some of her favourite tips for maintaining a better work-life balance with the help of technology.

As a teacher in the UK, it can be challenging to maintain a healthy work-life balance. The demands of the job – lesson planning, marking, admin, duties and meetings – can often spill over into our personal lives, which have just as much (if not more!) going on, leaving us feeling overwhelmed, anxious and drained.

You can’t pour from a glass half-full, so we should take advantage of the help we can get from technology to work smarter, not harder and create a better balance between our work and personal lives.

One of the trickiest areas to navigate is managing workload. That to-do list seems never-ending, and sometimes it can be hard to work out where to start! Lesson planning can be a time-consuming process, especially if you are creating everything from scratch. However, there are many online resources available that can help to speed up the process. Exam boards, as well as websites such as Twinkl, Teachit and Tes have a wide range of pre-made lesson plans and resources that you can use as a starting point. Many of these resources can be customised, so you can tailor them to fit your teaching style and your students’ needs.

Re-usable resources

Teachers are often willing to help each other, so utilise the networking opportunities that social media allows for. I have found some great resources online, just make sure you’re willing to contribute where you can too. On the topic of social media, making videos is time-consuming but they can also be reused year in, year out. They can also be used to support students with long term absences, for cover lessons and to provide differentiation. I find making a YouTube playlist works really well, I hope to continue my quest to cover the whole GCSE spec in a video playlist.

The videos can also be used for modelling or step-by-step guides, so students can watch and work through the video at their own pace.

Cloud storage like OneDrive, DropBox and Google Drive are great for shared planning, resources and schemes of work. You could even make a Google Class or Teams Channel dedicated to sharing teaching and learning practices within your school.

Managing marking

Marking can be a lengthy task which can eat away your evenings and weekends, especially if you are grading multiple assessments. However, there are many tools available that can help to speed up the process. Some online platforms, such as Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams, have built-in grading features that allow you to score and provide feedback on assignments quickly and easily. I love using tools such as Kahoot, Blooket and Quizizz for some quick retrieval practice, the best thing is the quizzes can be reused year in, year out – bonus!

AI has also played a big part in assessment, it can be used to mark an extended answer, or write up a model answer. I have been making a bank of model answers that I can use when teaching how to answer essay questions.

Building a rapport and keeping in touch with students, parents and colleagues is so important but can be a challenge when you are teaching back-to-back and have a ton of other tasks to complete. This is where mail merge can be your best friend! Create a few templates and use your Excel workbook to personalise and you can send multiple emails with a few clicks! You can even pull most of the data from your school’s MIS to keep your workbook up to date. The workbook can also be used as a mark book, using formulas to automatically calculate percentages and grades based on the boundaries inputted.

The best thing is you can tailor this mark book to your needs and reuse it year in, year out – mine has been going for ten years strong!

Limiting your load

To manage your workload effectively and maintain a healthy work-life balance, it is important to set boundaries and prioritise your time. I have found that leaving my laptop at work had stopped me from logging on for a quick task which then turns into hours working late into the evening. I also find that having my emails on my phone helps me to respond to things quickly, schedule emails that I want to send in the morning and flag anything urgent. Some people prefer to keep their personal devices free of anything related to work, and that’s ok; find what works for you and run with it.

I have also recently used the calendars available on Outlook and my school’s MIS, places where I’m most likely to look. This has helped me remember things like after-school meetings and duties, as well as arranging social events – everything is centralised. I am someone who is motivated by doing new things and trying to develop myself. That’s why I think it is so important to take advantage of any training and development opportunities that are available to you. This could mean attending workshops or seminars, taking online courses, or even just reading books or articles related to your subject area. By continuing to develop your skills and knowledge, you can always keep your practice up to date and try new strategies that you come across.

Prioritising pastimes

While technology can significantly aid in managing your work-life balance, it’s important to remember that it’s not a cure-all solution. It’s crucial to maintain a healthy relationship with technology and set boundaries to prevent it from consuming your personal time. Make it work for you, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Find the right environment for your development, where you feel like you are able to spread your wings and fly.

Self-care outside of work is just as important. Many schools have access to counselling which you can use. Build a good support network. Many problems can feel so much lighter when shared over a good mug of coffee and some biscuits (because who can stop at just one?!).

For me, a nice hot chocolate with a movie works well to help me to unwind, or if I’m feeling adventurous then a long country walk or drive does the trick – nothing quite like mother nature’s healing capabilities! I find using an app to plan my weekly meals has also made a huge impact on my work-life balance. Prepping things on the weekends/during half-terms means I always have something homemade and comforting to hand. By having things prepared or ingredients pre-brought, it means I’m not spending hours in the kitchen after work. Sometimes you just want to kick back with a plate of warm food, ready in minutes. My freezer has been a godsend for this (that’s technically still technology!).

Ultimately, managing your work-life balance requires a combination of effective time management; using technology tools wisely; setting boundaries; and prioritising self-care and your health and wellbeing. By finding the right balance, you can enhance your teaching effectiveness, reduce stress, and create a more fulfilling personal life outside of the classroom as well as a conducive environment inside it.

Remember, taking care of yourself is crucial for your overall wellbeing and what you can offer to your students.

Author

  • Farrah Khalifa

    Farrah is a head of computer science and Year 7 form tutor. She is a BCS scholar, OCR moderator and NCCE subject accelerator. Farrah is also a freelance web developer and all-round tech and pedagogical enthusiast! Formerly, Farrah was a personal development coordinator.
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