Lean Working

This idea started prior to beginning my current role. @steelemaths had heard I was moving and mentioned that a key member of staff @workedgechoas i would be working with had done a podcast with Craig Barton. Thought i had better listen! I’d never been much of a blogger, podcaster or twitter man and lucked around the edges of it – continual developmental conversations with @kathrinedavies had challenged my thinking repeatedly.

Listening throughout the podcast @workedgechoas mentioned the idea of a lean department and lean working and creating the right conditions for this. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m somewhat of a workaholic and I really wanted to get attempt some form of work-life balance with my new role. I’ve not managed it throughout my career! I’d love to be able to walk into work knowing all my assessments had been marked and lessons planned automatically and all I needed to do was rock up and teach and carry out my other leadership duties.

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Unfortunately I’ve not created self marking classwork books or lessons that plan themselves but have tried to unpick my own working practices to ensure that I maximise time for my job and family. Whilst also being a workaholic colleagues will also associate me with spreadsheets!

I have started to timing myself doing teaching tasks – Planning, Marking, Mark Scheme creation, QLA, homework etc… and looked at the conditions in which I was undertaking these tasks. The sheet then works out the average time for each book to be marked or lesson to be planned then I reflect on these conditions to see if any changes could shorten my time further – making myself more ‘lean’. Just to be clear different assessments can take longer to mark than others and the same with lesson topics plus I have to make sure any changes I do make does not impact on the quality of the work. But I think this process has made some significant changes to my own ways of working.

I started timing myself in September and was taking 22 minutes and 30 seconds to plan each of my 4 Year 9 lessons. Teaching 16 lessons a week that’s 6 hours of planning a week – pretty much half a day at the weekend. That’s not including marking, homework and other tasks. Now in January i am regularly hitting around 10 minutes – so I’ve shaved off 12 minutes 30 on average which saves 3 hours 20 minutes a week – over 130 hours in a teaching year!

I shudder now at how I was working in September. Due to guilt at teaching preparation dominating my family time I had the office door open so the kids could drop in, the internet browser open which i’d occasionally look at Huddersfield Town updates and other time killer emails open so would get pinged if any of them came in and immediately would think about them.

Over time i have amended the conditions in which i plan. The internet browser stays shut, the emails are closed and I set clear time for planning with the office door shut as i’m now aware of roughly how long my lessons take to plan – it will never be nor should it be an exact Science but reducing time as long as quality does not suffer can be no bad thing. Do you know how long you plan for? Mark for? Set and track homework for? Spend time inputting on a QLA? If the answer is no try it and then think about the conditions you are doing it in. We definitely as a profession default to adding to the pile of workload before reviewing what we are actually doing.

These were the conditions i looked at School or Office at home, Browser open, email, Door etc..

As well as the conditions in which I completed tasks I also began to reflect on HOW I actually completed them. My last two schools have planned using the Connect, Activate, Demonstrate and Consolidate cycles within lessons. In September I was planning the 4 lessons individually so would plan the Connect –> Activate –> Demonstrate –> Consolidate phases or multiple phases for each individual lesson. One weekend I tried tweaking this and sourced the demonstrate phases for all 4 lessons, then the Connects, then the Consolidates and then glued together with the Activates. This again was a significant time saver and actually improved my overall quality of planning – double win!

Critical stage – Just a short reflection – these rambles may not make sense to the reader but this part supported evolving my practice

Looking at Question Level Analysis Input on a spreadsheet – noticed a 20 second time saving per child when using a numpad on the far right of a keyboard compared to moving along the top number buttons on standard keyboard layout. Again same job completed but significant time saved over the year. Another one – thought I worked better with Music playing in the background – apparently not! Although even though I know it adds time occasionally I’ve got to have music on to get me through some tasks!

I’ve attached the sheet I used for this. And before some smarty pants says i’ll save time by not completing it I honestly think documenting it has allowed me to focus on tasks more effectively and really reflect on improvements