How to get your work done during the school day (and leave on time)

how to work smarter

Hi teacher friends! Since school is starting back up, I want to share my secret to keeping my sanity while teaching. I am a planner, and I figured out very quickly that teaching was a job that needed serious time management. At first, I spent nights and weekends grading papers. It took me four hours on Sunday nights to plan my week’s lessons and write my lesson plans to turn in to my principal. I spend who knows how many hours online and in book stores researching the best creative and effective ways to teach my content. When you spend ten hours at school teaching, prepping, tutoring, and planning, the last thing you want to do (or need to do) it work at home.

We all need a nice, relaxing, enjoyable home life. I have found that having hobbies and date nights and family movie nights and attending church all help me live a happy life. Working long hours and continuing to work at home take away those joys.

I know that teaching is a demanding career. Never before did I have so much responsibility, diversity, planning, data, or training like teaching required. We teachers have a great deal of information and activities to cram into each day of the school year. I have worked in all exemplary schools with very high expectations on the teachers. So, I know the incredible stress of needing your students to pass state tests. I am hoping that sharing some ways I found to get my work done at school and leave on time will help you find ways to do the same.

  1. Get to work at least 30 minutes before the kids get there. This will give you time to make sure you have everything you need for the day, look over your plans, start the day quietly, and maybe even catch up or get ahead on copies or grading.
  2. Sneak in time to grade student work. I would grade while I ate, while I made copies, while I waiting on a meeting to start, and after school. Its never a good idea to grade while you should be monitoring or teaching. If the students are in your care, its probably not the best time to grade. Grading student work using a remote (CPS) system can be a huge time saver, if it is a multiple choice assignment. I used the remote system for grading homework assignments quickly. It also gave us a chance to talk about each question as a class, and give the class and me an idea how well everyone was understanding the questions.
  3. Make class time count. The more involved you are in assessing and redirecting and guiding student learning, the better they will “get it” the first time. As students work, walk around observing, asking questions, and assessing their work. If you can work with each student individually throughout the day on their assignments, then you may be able to tutor within each lesson. This just makes your time more effective. I am not saying this will replace your normal tutoring time, but they will be more successful with your extra attention throughout the day. For each topic, teach it and show it in a variety of ways. The more your students experience and re-experience a topic, the better it will “stick” with them. They say it takes reading or hearing something seven times to commit it to memory. How many times do your students see or hear the content? Repetition is a great method for helping students commit it to memory.
  4. Plan during your planning period. I know meetings and obligations come up during your planning period, but use that as much as possible to plan. I recently wrote a post about how I use a system to plan efficiently. Find a system that will work for most units, and you can just plug the materials in. Here are a couple examples of my lesson planning.

This is a planning page that shows my overall system of planning resources for a lesson. lesson brainstorming imgHere is an actual lesson plan that I have written for 5th grade science. It will show you how those resources fit into my week. Every week just about follows this plan. Same plan, new topic, new resources.Free science lesson- Structures and Functions of Plants and Animals

6. Prep. As part of my planning, I sort the copies I make and set up the materials for the next day. Here is an overview of my prep methods:

Make lesson plans at least three weeks ahead. Make copies at least one week ahead. Place labels on an empty counter space for each day of the week. On Thursdays, stack the copies and materials you need for each day of the following week on those labels. On Thursday,  you can also move your Friday (of this week) materials to your desk for easy access. When it comes to a lab or activity that requires a material list. I would set that up the day before. After school the day before a lab or activity, set out a basket for each table. Fill the baskets with the materials each group will need. You can either place a basket at each table, or you can have a group member pick up the materials when needed. This seriously would take me about 20 minutes after school. *As you write your lessons, think ahead to what materials you will need for those lessons to make sure you have them when that week comes around.

7. Make a Happy List. Okay, this is just a fun thing for you to do. What are ten activities that make you happy? Make your list and aim to do at least one of those things each week. Here is my happy list:

happy list

And, I could add chalk art while the kids play to that list. 🙂

Whatever your workload this year, make time for yourself. Love yourself, and I believe your teaching will be even more successful!

Best Wishes this year!

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