The beginning of the school year is when we have the best intentions for how the school year will go. Let’s keep this energy up by committing to stop doing these 4 time wasters. These time wasters lead to stress and burn out – I can personally attest!
Point 1: Stop Bringing Your Work Home
This may seem like the opposite of a time waster since you are trying to get more work done, but hear me out.
You are going to have to prioritize what needs to happen each and every day during your planning time. Not everything is equally important. We have to prioritize the important things and let go of some of the smaller things.
Maybe you take work home, but leave it on the table only to bring it back to school the next day. All this does is add a mental burden to the time you should be resting, and you feel like you failed at something you wanted to accomplish.
Here are some ways to turn this ineffective and exhaustive practice into something productive and sustainable.
Choose one night to stay late at school. I would stay on Thursday nights to get everything prepared for the week ahead. Throughout the week, I would lesson plan very briefly so that I had a start on what we were doing and what I needed to accomplish on Thursdays. I would then delve into any creation of activities and lesson plans. By Thursday, most of the other staff members were tired, and I wouldn’t have any interruptions.
When I left on Thursdays, I had all of my pages ready for copying, my keys worked for the next week, all of my bell ringers, and any assessments needed. I felt ready for the next week.
If you don’t have the capacity to stay late, then I would suggest batching by day of the week. Example: Mondays are for grading, Tuesdays are for lesson planning, Wednesday are for copies, and so on.
Point 2: Stop Trying to Grade Everything
While students need feedback and grades, they do not need you to personally grade every single assignment that they touch. But, just like anything in life, they also need practice…practice for the sake of practice.
So here are a few ideas that don’t require a lot of time spent grading. I go into more detail here.
- Choose a single problem to grade — place it on a slip
- Roll a dice — my high school teacher rolled a dice every day with whether she would take up a homework assignment for a grade.
- A Friday activity that allows you to grade and circulate for feedback
- Trade and grade
Point 3: Stop Trying to Do It All Alone
Working with colleagues is a privilege, so if you are able to work with someone, find a way to work together, so that you can stop trying to do it all alone. I was the only 6th grade math teacher at my school, so I reached out to other teachers in my district to split up some of the planning workload.
Additionally, utilizing ready-to-go resources like our All Access Membership or other resources instead of reinventing the wheel is going to be something that frees up your time for other things — remember your time is valuable and finite!
Another few suggestions for you to consider:
- Ask for help from parents — copies, cutting lamination, extra supplies
- Ask an instructional coach — their job is to help, so try and give them plenty of time to help develop the lesson — but be specific about what you need — “I am looking for a bank of 10 questions on standard _____ that I can use in a class activity”. If you aren’t specific, then you may end up with something that you don’t necessarily want to use.
Point 4: Stop Checking Your Email Frequently Throughout the Day
If you do not have the time and energy to respond to an email at that exact moment, then do not check or read the email. If you receive a negative email, it can throw you off. If you are in the middle of being productive, an incoming email can mess with your rhythm. Turn off email notifications. Notifications are such a distraction and your phone is a huge time waster.
This also works similarly in the evenings. So I have a few very practical tips.
- Set up an out of office response — If you aren’t going to respond to email after a specific time, set an out of office with a positive message, and a link to your LMS or wherever else a student/parent could access the needed work. This could be set in the evenings, on the weekends, or whenever else. It prevents parents from sending 6 emails because you haven’t responded, and establishes a boundary of when you respond to the emails.
- Set a timer when checking emails. Set a 15-30 minute timer and focus solely on that task.
- Create a Google Doc with common questions and responses. This seems like a lot of work up front but if you keep adding to it, you could save yourself hours over the period of the school year and even be able to update it for the next school year! Take the time to go slow now so you can go fast later. Copy and paste is your friend!
What time wasters are you trying to avoid this school year?