By Teachers, For Teachers
There never seems to be enough time, right? Between our lesson plans, gathering materials, teaching, grading, classroom management, and scores of other tasks, we teachers are pretty much maxed out. Even if we find time to do everything that we’re supposed to, we feel like we’re not really doing them all that well. How can we maximize our time and classroom management? Here are some handy tips that might help you save time and accomplish more throughout your day.
Check your e-mail only a couple times during the day. Check once during your mid-day break and once at the end. Most teachers fall into the trap of checking e-mail dozens of times, but ask yourself—is something so important really going to happen that you must check your e-mail incessantly?
Lesson plan in clusters, not bit by bit. Try to sit down for a long period of time— like several hours over a weekend—and complete your planning and material creation you’ll need for the following week. The less stress during work days, the better.
In fact, do everything in chunks. If you have to run errands around your building, do it at once. If you have to grade papers, do them all at once. The more time you spend interrupting your tasks, the more time you’re losing. Do whatever it takes to avoid even the smallest interruption.
Rely less on paper copies. When you have to print and copy your materials, it takes time. It also takes time to store and find copies when a student needs an extra. If you store items digitally and post them for students to download, then you’ll save time (and drawer space).
Use the one-touch rule. That is, if you touch something, take care of it right away. If you touch student homework, grade that set right away. If you check your e-mail, respond to all messages immediately. If you have to drop off a form in the office, get it done now.
Take advantage of your mornings. Your mind is the freshest in the mornings, before school begins. Take extra time to organize your tasks and materials and time to think through your day. It’ll streamline your productivity.
Choose how thoroughly you actually need to grade each assignment. Not every detail needs your excruciating attention. Instead, focus on the one or two major aspects where you’d like to give feedback. This will increase your grading speed.
Think: “Can I have students do this?” Any time I’m planning a lesson and am about to commit to creating some material for it, I ask myself this question. Often, the answer is “Yes.” This means that I save myself time by not having to prepare extra materials, and students benefit by having the opportunity to create something themselves.
Have a consistent organizational system in place. You know where something goes, and you know where it stays until you need it again.
Learn to say no. Administrators, teachers, parents, and students all make requests of us. But believe it or not, the world will still function if we have to turn down a few. Focus on your priorities, and feel the freedom to dismiss the rest.
Take advantage of others techniques, materials, ideas, and resources. The wheel was invented a long time ago. Instead of starting from scratch, think about what already exists and how you can utilize those items to save you time.
We have a seemingly interminable list of to-dos hanging over our heads throughout the school year. If we can take steps to whittle down that list and control how we use our time, then we might have some breathing room to realize that we are doing a great job. Consider applying some of these tried-and-true teacher time saving tips as you hit the ground running this school year!
How do you save yourself time? Share your favorite tips with us in the comments below!
Jordan Catapano is a high school English teacher in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated, he also has worked with the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and currently serves as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website ACTWritingTips.com.