Teacher Tip: How to leave work on time every day

It’s time to take back your nights and weekends. You deserve it!

How I leave work on time each day! {without compromising student learning or success}

Honestly, I rarely leave work late as a teacher. I am not a slacker, and my students have always thrived in learning and scored high enough to keep our exemplary status on state tests. I have a good system in place, and methodically prep each lesson of the school year. One year at a staff development meeting the superintendent was asked what the time was that we could leave each day. He answered with “You can leave when you classroom is ready for the next day.” That’s a simple answer that gave me motivation to work smarter, not  later 😉

Making Copies

Okay, here we go. The biggest system I had in place to keep me within my workday hours was prepping for upcoming lessons. Keep all of your lessons in binders, organized chronologically within each unit. Make copies for each week, a week in advance. So by Friday, you should have every copy made and set out on your designated counter or table space. Teaching Science and Social Studies to three rotations a day, leaves you with too high of stacks to keep in file folders. So, I had a label stuck to the counter for each day of the week and would pile the papers for each day on its label. Then I would lay my lesson plan for the day on that stack, and be ready to go!

This helps with those surprise sub days, too!

Binders: Lessons Planned and Organized

Streamlining my copies, only works when I have my complete curriculum planned and stored in binders. I print each week’s lesson plan with the master copies for the activities and store them in a section of my lesson binder. This is where those Mega Bundles and complete curriculum bundles that I have collected really come in handy!! Anyone that knows me knows that I like to streamline everything the best I can so I don’t have to stress and overwork myself. The key here is to find or create a high quality complete curriculum so you maintain student success while simplifying your workload.

I also like to use accordion file folders and slip the lesson plans and master copies in one slot per week. They work just as well and take less energy than binders. I will always find an easier, more effective way. If you want my lesson plans sent right to you each week, sign up for my Science Newsletter! Or, I even have a Preschool Newsletter if that matches your grade level better.

Grading Papers

My least favorite part of teaching- just kidding- well, sort of… A lot of teachers have what they call an “86 File”. If you have so many useless activities to grade that you have to dispose of them, you are wasting both your time and your students’ time. To cover my methods for grading papers within the school day, we will start with cutting down on the quantity of grading you do. Only grade items that fall into the formative assessment and summative assessment categories. That’s when you really want to give them a score for their progress anyways. My school required 6 formative assessments and 3 summative assessments in each grading period. It came out to about one graded assignment a week, depending on the week. That is a very manageable amount to grade. I chose to grade during my grading period and while I scarfed down my lunch. Any grading I had left, I would finish right after school before I worked on my lab baskets for the following day.

Now you may be wondering: What will I do with the remainder of the work they do? Go over the work they do in class when everyone is finished. A teacher I student taught with did this with most of the class work her students did, and I saw it as a great teaching opportunity. Students can evaluate their own answers as you discuss the correct answers as a class. Have them make corrections as you go. As far as knowing how well your kids are learning the material, you will know how well they are doing by all the “spying” and detective work you do during their class time. Walk around, observe, ask questions, have students share thoughts with the class, use exit slips. You will be able to get an idea where their thinking is on each activity by using non-paper types of formative assessments. Plus, you can always add in a quick write or summary writing for you look over while walking around the classroom.

Not only does tossing papers waste time and paper, it wastes that learning opportunity. If you go over the work with the class, you can lead valuable discussions and have students correct their work as you go. You just doubled the learning your students get from that one activity! It probably takes less than 10 minutes to go back over most assignments. All those 86 files can now be more learning for each student.

Supplies and Lab Set-up (Works for Centers, too!)

Baskets. Always have a basket for each group sitting on the back counter or table. At the end of each day you can put up the left over supplies and materials for the day, and restock for the next day. Fill each basket with the materials that each group will use the next day and you will be ready to go the next morning! This would seriously take me twenty or thirty minutes at the end of each day, and then I was ready to head home!

This tip works for centers as well. Have center baskets or tubs set up just like this to streamline that prep as well.

Want to know an even bigger time saving secret? I have been turning all of my labs into digital labs! This means that you can still have real experience learning when you just don’t have the supplies. Works great for make-up labs, labs on sub days, labs for at-home learning, and saving materials in class. Pandemic year led me to make this addition, but I have found that digital lesson sets and labs work for so many situations.

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