We work on weekends. We stay hours after school to finish grading. The work never seems to end. For those of you non teachers, that work also includes state mandated paper work, information for special education, tracking progress monitoring, and any other paper that is not just grading.
So why do we spend so much time doing work and staying after school or on weekends when we are not even getting paid?
In my first year of teaching, I felt like I was barely keeping afloat. Think of a person drowning and only their lips are above water to keep them alive. That was me. I came home every night with textbooks and grading. HOURS were spent trying to keep up with my work. The stress of my job was real and staring at me straight in the face. After an entire semester of this, I realized something had to change. Quickly.
As I moved to new positions and even grade levels I still stuck to these steps for time management. It has led me leave school on time, spend more time with my family, and reduce job related stress.
Steps to Time Management:
1) Set a Quitting Time and Stick to It!
Set a time you leave the building and work completely, that includes no weekend work. That means turn off the emails. Turn off school notifications (unless it’s for cancelations or delays) and focus on your life outside school. Inevitably you will have to stay late for conferences or a meeting, but otherwise you stick to that schedule. I have too much work to just leave. Alright, then pick one day you stay late at school and work. All 4 days you stick to your quitting time. You have a life outside your job.
Want to reduce your job related stress? Leave your job that is causing you stress at a reasonable time.
2. Work Smarter not Harder
Did a teacher just say that? Yup.
- Stop spending hours on your computer after school trying to come up with perfect lessons to create. If that’s not your strong point, then support another teacher by buying lesson plans or materials off of Teachers Pay Teachers. If you are good at that, keep creating those awesome lessons. You want to know why? Because you’re being PAID.
- Keep off of social media and focus on your work and students aka put the phone away.
- I see this daily, but we don’t realize how much time we waste. I watch teachers spend their planning period every day talking to other teachers and procrastinating. These are the same ones that stay after school and weekends, because they couldn’t finish their work. Sit in your room and work. Use your time wisely, as we would tell our own students.
- You’re giving a test and monitoring? Use a clipboard and grade papers as you walk around the room and answer questions at the same time.
- Kiddos are on computers practicing technology skills? Grade and fill out papers as you monitor.
- Find when you are most productive. For example, I am the most productive in the morning. Many studies show that people are more productive in the morning as well. Teachers rarely get into school earlier than absolutely needed. Get to school 30 minutes early–make your copies when there is no line, grade when no one is in the building yet, set up your classroom so you’re not doing it during your lunch period. That thirty minutes early allows me to leave school immediately, no weekends, and generally I only need to do this on Monday mornings to be set for the week.
Make a list of what needs to be accomplished for the week and focus on that, especially those who struggle with time management. Keep your focus on what needs to be done and work smart.
3. Assign Less Homework
Uh oh. Touchy point.
At the elementary level, homework has little to no effect on student achievement. Yup. You read that right. We send kids home with reading logs (FYI most parents don’t do and just sign off), worksheets (mostly busy work), and homework that they can’t do. We spend more time tracking down homework and berating students who did not do it, than using that time for actual teaching. If a child can not understand his or her homework, the frustration carries over to the home and back to school the next day.
But it helps carry over our work at school and helps them practice. Practice makes perfect.
- No. Practice makes permanent. If you have a kid who struggles, they’ll just practice it wrong and you spend more time in class fixing their work and thinking process.
What if you have to give homework?
- Than make it short and meaningful. Stop sending busy work. It sucks for the kids and you.
Middle school and High school colleagues–studies show that homework is more beneficial by this level (mainly high school). So set up your homework that is meaningful, easy for you to grade, and set aside one day for only homework grading or refer to point 2 above.
A little more on this new teaching phenomenon:
Only you can change your time management. I went from working hours outside of school time unpaid to entering and leaving my classroom on time while being fully prepared for my kiddos. I have a life outside of teaching. Spend time focusing on what ways you waste time and eliminate it from your daily routine. How can you work smarter and not harder?
“Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week.” ~Charles Richards