Sharing the responsibility: You can’t and shouldn’t do it all

I’m on the train, this time for leisure. I have about three hours to fill on my way to Glasgow where I’m due to meet up with a friend from Switzerland who is on tour with his Sensational Alex Harvey tribute band called, unsurprisingly, Not The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. The sun is out but for a change the carriages are cool and the conductor directed me to a quiet place on the train. Well ok it was until Dundee anyway!

I made use of some of the time by thinking about my timetable for this session and, in particular, the classes I share with my colleagues. In the past shared classes have typically followed on from lesson to lesson with each teacher trying to ensure that all outcomes have been achieved at the end of each lesson. It is not always possible and when it works with one class it could be an entirely different tale with another. This can work well but it is always easier to carry on teaching from your own unfinished lesson if necessary.

In the past my colleagues and I have adjusted our lessons and timings “on the fly” and evenly shared admin responsibilities such as coursework marking, prelim setting and reporting. In essence we have relied on each other for support and worked entirely on professional trust.

When the department is stable and staff are permanent this is usually not an issue. However I was nearly burnt out by the additional admin required when sharing a class with a temporary teacher. Simply getting information about which practical task each child was on was a struggle, sometimes additional material I had developed to make that teacher’s life easier remained untaught. I suffered, the pupils suffered, and when the temporary teacher left there was a lot of work for both of us to do to catch up. It was a situation I hadn’t experienced before and left an outcome I never want to experience again!

Last week I was talking to my partner, an English teacher in another secondary school, about how her subject and department organise shared classes. She was amazed that our responsibilities weren’t written down and managed by our principal teacher (or in my case our faculty head). These casual admin arrangements were something I had never questioned in four years at my current school as there had never been any problems with them until the aforementioned temporary teacher.

It is a simple task: the admin work associated with each shared class is assigned to each teacher based on the percentage of time they see the class. Then the two teachers discuss and adapt the arrangements if necessary and WRITE THEM DOWN. I can’t believe I teach the importance of agreed documentation in software development and never considered applying this to my own role. Do as I say not as I do strikes again.


So I’ve changed (and may yet hit myself on the back of the head ala NCIS). I apologise to my nerves that it took me this long. I now want to recommend each teacher considers the importance of this simple task and passes on this knowledge to others. Knowing at the start of the school session that you have half the amount of reports to write than you previously thought or that you can spread out your appointments at parents evening or just that everyone in your department is on the same page means that you can get on with teaching your class unhindered.


4 thoughts on “Sharing the responsibility: You can’t and shouldn’t do it all

  1. Having worked in the school above thinking this way of working was the norm I have had my eyes opened. I actually got given a completed course plan to read, my head of department actually asked if I was ok do I know what I am going to teaching do I need help with anything (the course is very different to the one I am used to). I was so shocked I had no idea what to say. I now feel a lot more relaxed and working at home/after school is no longer a chore. You could argue that it is because it is an independent school but I would argue there is a higher expectation at a fee paying school so I should be more stressed. The point I am trying to make is if your manager takes an interest and you can see the end goal makes for a more relaxed working environment. Unfortunately for you it is a concept your management have yet to grasp!

    1. Hi Linz, thanks for your comment. I agree but also think that if you aren’t lucky enough to have these things passed on to you by your manager it should be something you push for yourself as a teacher – the benefit of hindsight! We had our first departmental meeting today and set the responsibilities of each person in stone. I also made unit outlines for each certiicate course for the year ahead so everyone knows when internal assessments, coursework and prelims are due. Although we always worked out these arrangements informally I know you’ll agree we were stung badly by less professional colleagues last year! I think my new colleagues appreciate knowing exactly where the goalposts are leaving them to get on with planning for their classes, it has already made my job easier this session so the short term pain of pulling this together has a long term gain.

      1. Yeah it seems like a much better plan but then it should not have been your job to put together the course outlines and assessment schedule. I found out that is also the job of a head of department. Its all down to professional dialogue, we had it others didnt just the luck of the draw i suppose.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

productivity self-reflection Teacher Training + Support Workflow

This post is brought to you by the number 549 and the letter Q

This was the number facing me as I opened my email this morning: 549. 549 apparently unread emails. This was depressing. What a way to start the year! Already significantly behind! However I knew – in part at least – why the number had crept up to such heights. What I didn’t know was how […]

Read More
self-reflection Teacher Training + Support Workflow

Brave or Stupid? Abandoning email #workflow #teacher5aday #wellbeing #productivity

There are plenty of articles out there about email productivity, labelling, filtering. Colour stars abound. Branching labels grow unchecked. I won’t link to them here. My workflow – for years – has almost always been manually controlled: Interesting / useful email message? Forward to Evernote for archiving and tagging. An action from an email message? […]

Read More
Augmented Reality CodeBug programming Raspberry Pi self-reflection STEAM This Is My Classroom

Constructing my hackable classroom – Part 1 #ThisIsMyClassroom

// In late 2015 I had the opportunity to sit down and design a classroom environment suited to Computer Science students. After surveying my students and getting lots of ideas (including one which resembled a living-room with C shaped sofa – tempting, I’ll admit) for what they consider would be their optimal learning environment I […]

Read More