By Teachers, For Teachers
Do you ever feel that you have too many work tasks and not enough time in the day to complete them?
If you said yes, then you are not alone. Most professionals (not just teachers) feel this way.
If you were to ask a non-teacher how many tasks a teacher has throughout her day, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that many people think teachers have it easy. People say, “All teachers have to do is play and boss around kids for about six hours a day, then they get their nights and weekends free and all that vacation time.”
However, fellow teachers know how it really is. We spend many late nights and weekends tiredly planning for lessons and grading papers, and volunteering for dances or coaching sporting events on the weekends. We also make a million decisions that need to be made at just about every minute of the day -- as well as the typical distractions, interruptions, paperwork and classrooms visitors. Just reading this list is probably making you tired. It’s no wonder teachers feel burned out at the end of the day.
Did you know that studies have shown that the average teacher makes more than 1,500 decisions each workday? That means that if you have a six-hour workday, then you are making about four decisions every minute. Doesn’t that just blow your mind? Studies have also revealed that the number one cited task that teachers spent most of their time on during the school day was classroom discipline. This makes complete sense, considering that the majority of teachers have an average of about 20 students in their classroom. Besides classroom discipline being the number one time robber for teachers, non- instructional duties like paperwork, unplanned interruptions, and distractions were all cited as tasks that steal your time. So, how can you make the most of your time? Here are a few teaching strategies to take control your day.
By dividing your tasks, you make them more manageable. Think about when you teach students how to read a long word. You ask them to “Chunk” the word and break it into parts. Chunking makes it easier for the child to read the word. This is what you have to do with your tasks. Divide your tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks. Let’s say that you are planning a unit on nutrition. Instead of planning out the whole unit all at once, divide the unit into lessons, then divide those lessons into daily activities. Focus on one “Chunk” at a time -- this will make it more manageable and easier to complete the task as a whole.
Don’t be a “Yes man,” you need to learn to say no! Teachers are natural people pleasers and usually never turn anyone down who needs their help. While it is your job to make sure your students succeed, it is not your job to say yes to every request that comes your way. This is how teachers get that ever-so-troubling “Teacher burnout.” As a teacher, you may get a million requests a day to volunteer, tutor, go to a “Work” party, or help a colleague after school. Your job is to try and eliminate some of your tasks and learn to say no. All you have to do is politely say “I’m over committed right now” or “Thanks for thinking of me, but I have a family obligation.” Once you learn how to do that, you will see that more of your time will start to free up.
You do not have to do it all on your own. If you are an elementary teacher then you have about 20 other people that you can share your responsibilities with. If you are a middle school or high school teacher, then you may have about 100 other people that can help you with your daily tasks. By giving your students some more responsibilities, you are freeing up so much more of your time. Assign students to do the classroom chores, take attendance, and collect assignments. You can even give students the power of grading! Have students switch papers with a neighbor and show them how to grade. Every task that you thought was a “Teacher task” can actually be given to someone else to complete. You just have to let go of some of the control and power and things can, and will get done.
Create procedures where students complete a task on their own. For example, instead of collecting homework in the morning, have students come in and place it in the homework basket. Or, instead of taking attendance or lunch count for younger students, assign a student to do it, or have students come in and clip a named clothespin to show they are “Here” or if they are bringing or buying their lunch.
Try a few of these tips out and see for yourself how your time will slowly begin to free up. If you start utilizing these teaching strategies early in the year, then you will see how much time you can really spent on the important stuff, like instructional time with your students.
How do you make the most of your workday? Do you have any teaching strategies that you would like to share with us? Please leave your ideas in the comment section below.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.