Time management

Emma Galbraith's New Year's resolution is to make sure her CPD doesn't become a juggling act.

English teacher, Lenzie Academy, East Dumbartonshire

My first term at school was non-stop. I was enthusiastic and excited about starting my new job; feeling super-motivated and eager to succeed, I jumped into the life of the school with both feet. I took every CPD opportunity I could and offered my services at various extracurricular activities. Theatre trips, discos, hikes . . . you name it, and I'd say yes to it.

Feeling the pressure

Of course it was only a matter of time before my good intentions came back to bite me. Overstretched and stressed out, my classes and my personal life began to suffer, with my ever-patient boyfriend taking most of the flak. It was a mistake I've noticed a lot of my fellow probationers make as well. I'd taken on far too much, but why?

I think there were a few reasons. In the current employment climate, NQTs appreciate all the help they can get when building up their CV. The more, the better - anything to dispel the looming spectre of the dole queue that I think many of us have lingering at the back of our minds, a horrifying worst-case scenario.

Other teachers in my school were kind enough to help me build up a bank of useful experience that I could draw on later, and I appreciated their thoughtfulness in asking me to join in.

Another reason was simply my own reluctance to say 'no'. I wanted to be seen as helpful and willing and didn't like to turn people down when they asked for a favour.

And, lastly, it felt like it was expected of me. At one CPD event, I remember the speaker telling us an anecdote about two probationers who went home instead of helping out at an S1 disco. Shock horror! They were the very ones who should be staying!

As probationers, we're already under a lot of pressure. Adding an extra dollop of CPD is great, but we have to make sure we don't overdo it. Tiredness and stress can disrupt your personal life and health and prevent you from doing your job properly, therefore becoming counter-productive.

Time management tips

In the end, it's a case of time management. Here are my hard-learned tips:

Target your extracurricular activities

Choose things that will help you achieve your development goals. You might have stayed in school until 10:30 on Tuesday night for the S5 art show, but what did you learn from it?

Think first!

When asked to do something by another member of staff, politely tell them you'll have a think about it first. Don't be embarrassed to say no.

Always make your classes a priority

You could join in all the development opportunities under the sun, but if you can't deliver in the classroom then you're not getting anywhere.

Make sure you plan time for yourself

It's important not to let your hobbies and relationships suffer unnecessarily - it'll only make you miserable (and yet again, become counter-productive).

Learn some stress-management techniques

I felt that the recent EDC course on stress management was one of the most useful I've been on, but possibly the most effective technique is simply talking to other NQTs about how you're feeling - chances are, they're feeling it too.

I'm still very busy at the moment, and I still get tired and grumpy from time to time. But I've learned the hard way that, although CPD is great and extracurricular activities can be good fun, it doesn't pay to do too much. Teaching is a difficult job, and there's no need to make it any harder than it has to be.