Published 28th April 2017

As teachers, we put a lot of time and effort into planning our lessons and dealing with assessment. Many people don’t realise that most of the work of being a teacher takes place before and after the lesson, not just the time we are in the classroom. Lesson planning, sourcing materials, marking homework – all of this takes time and effort and we often end up dedicating our evenings and weekends to make sure our lessons go as well as they can.

But is that actually a sensible approach to teaching?

Concentrating on preparation is undoubtedly worthwhile, but does this not mean that we are losing sight of what should be the focus of our lessons: our students?

In recent years there has been a shift in educational thinking from focussing on the teacher and instead focussing on the students. This makes all the more sense when we take a moment to think about what really makes a good teacher.

Do you think your students appreciate the hours it took to cut up and laminate the present perfect board game? Do you think they realise how much time it took to adapt that newspaper article so it was suitable for the classroom? Do you think they know how long it takes to mark 30 spelling tests?

Probably not.

Now we’re not saying that you shouldn’t prep for your lessons and we’re not saying that all the work that you do is for nothing. Being prepared is necessary and spending time sourcing materials won’t be in vain, but there are probably better things you could be doing with your time.

Take a moment now and remember your own education. Think of a teacher who really stands out in your mind as one of your favourite teachers. Now try and think why they were one of your favourites and why they are so memorable. Chances are, you were able to form a special bond with them not because of their neat boardwriting but more because of the human factor.

If you think about what your students are really going to appreciate, it’s not going to be your beautiful worksheets. They are going to appreciate the more personal side of your teaching.

They will remember the personal stories you tell them about your life and they will remember the fact that you took the effort to remember their names and took an interest in their lives. They will remember that you knew that they liked football and so planned a lesson that they would enjoy. They will remember that you did not get frustrated with them when they couldn’t understand mixed conditionals and that you didn’t laugh at them when they kept on making the same mistakes.

So bear that in mind when you find yourself spending every waking minute trying to put together the most amazing lesson your classroom has ever seen. Don’t forget you are just as important as your materials, so bring your best self into the classroom and you will find yourself building better relationships with your students.