Have you ever felt overwhelmed at home or at work? Does it always seem like there just aren’t enough hours in the workday to get everything accomplished? This is something that teachers encounter on a daily basis during each school year. Teachers have a lot to think about and do over the course of a school year; planning lessons, teaching lessons, grading papers, conflict resolution, and returning calls/e-mails from parents are just a few.
One thing that many teachers may overlook is finding ways to save time, so each day runs as smoothly as possible. In education (especially at the elementary level), there is rarely a day that goes exactly as planned. so saving a few minutes here and there will allow teachers more time to devote to higher priority tasks on their to do list. Based on my experience as a teacher, here are 7 ways teachers can save time on a daily basis and avoid becoming overwhelmed with “things to do”:
1. Get to work early - Not everyone is a morning person, but trust me this is an awesome way to save time. I used to arrive at work between 1.5 - 2.0 hours before the school day started. During this time, one can be extremely productive. It is quiet and most likely you will be the only one there! This enabled me to get a lot done without interruptions. Teachers are constantly interrupted during the day with students coming in to ask questions, colleagues and administrators stopping by, issues on the playground, etc.
2. Create a paperless classroom (for as many assignments as possible) - Google Docs is a great way to reduce the amount of paper used in a classroom. This can definitely be advantageous for Language Arts (research papers, short writing assignments, group projects, etc). It will eliminate students from using the “I lost it” excuse and will also be much easier for you to keep students’ assignments organized. Most of all, having everything saved securely on Google Drive Cloud means that you can access your work from anywhere on any computer by simply signing into your Google account. In addition to Google Docs, these three tools on Google Drive would be most useful in the classroom:
3. Keep your desk organized - Don’t use your desk as a temporary landing spot for papers, books, etc. You may have good intentions regarding putting it where it belongs, but if it is not addressed immediately your desk can become cluttered with miscellaneous items.
4. Keep your computer desktop organized - Spending chunks of time searching for documents on your computer can add up over time (even if you use your Operating system’s search feature). Make folders for everything you have (you may even need to make folders within folders). Label each folder so you can quickly find what you need.
5. Organize your classroom and keep it that way - Designate a place for everything: completed homework, completed in-class assignments, rulers, markers, crayons, classroom library, resource books, printer paper, lined paper, extra pencils, etc. Do the same for your desk drawers. If you are teaching elementary school, stipulate that each student keep their belongings in their cubbies. You may want to use TeacherKit. It is one of several apps for teachers to help with day-to-day management (e.g. attendance, seating charts, behavior notes).
6. Share responsibilities - Don’t try to do everything yourself; be it an Assistant, Intern or a Parent Volunteer a couple of times per week. If you need help, ASK. When I taught 4th grade, my 4th grade colleague, the 4th grade Intern and I worked very well as a team. Our goal was to be as efficient as possible. Each of us shared the load and helped each other when needed. Also, if you have a designated day when members of the PSA (Parent Support Association) or PTSA (Parent Teacher Student Association) volunteer to help teachers complete tasks, set aside projects for them to complete for you. Be sure you give them detailed instructions regarding what needs to be done.
7. Ask for help from your students - This mainly applies to elementary school teachers who teach grades 2 through 4. Ask students if they would like to help you file papers, clean desks, organize bookshelves, empty recycling and trash bins, clean dry erase boards, sharpen pencils, etc. I had a former 4th grade student, that enjoyed keeping the bookshelves in the classroom neat and orderly and another that liked to help me file completed assignments. If you ask, you might be surprised how many student will gladly help you.
8. Have students write homework assignments as soon as they enter the room - I found this to be very helpful. I designated 3 minutes every morning for students to write their homework assignments in their planner. I was fortunate to work at a school that had SMART Board interactive whiteboards in each classroom, so I had it on the screen as they entered the classroom. By doing so, it virtually eliminated students “forgetting” to write their assignment. I found it to work much better than at the end of the day. The end of the school day brings about boundless energy and students are keenly focused on being “released”. Writing homework assignments and making sure they have all of the materials needed to complete their homework is not at the forefront of their minds at this particular time.
Time management is a topic that is not often taught in most teacher certification programs. Teachers have just as many, if not more, tasks to juggle each day than the average corporate employee. When setting up your classroom during the few weeks before the first day of school, take some time to think about how you can save time. You may need to modify your plan based upon your classroom dynamic, but don’t be hesitant to do so. You may need to make adjustments from year to year just as you do with lesson plans, scope and sequence.
What time saving tips have you used or continue to use that have proven effective?