Awe, the freshness of a new year! I enjoy setting goals to become a better teacher and I take advantage of the new year to assess how I am doing and ways I can improve. Like most teachers, I want to take better care of myself, which means I need to be home at a normal hour. Here are some tips that I use as well as some more ideas to help me leave school within an hour after the last bell.
Most of these tips focus on maximizing my time at school:
- SSR – My class has a 1/2 an hour of silent sustained reading every day right after lunch. Students can read whatever chapter book they want. At the beginning of the year, I model what it looks like by reading a book too. But now I use this time to do (in order of priority): make sure I am ready for the afternoon’s activities, check the morning’s assignments and log grades, make sure I am ready for tomorrow mornings activities, check in with students, and then check email.
- Have a Central In/Out Box – When I did a journal of my day to keep track of my time (I recommend you do this to see where you can make changes), I noticed that I spent a lot of time handing out and collecting assignments. Now I have an IN box for students to turn in assignments, and an OUT box for me to return assignments. So now there are only two places for me to keep track of assignments. It’s my students’ responsibility to check the OUT box, in the morning, before the school bell rings. If a student is absent, I just write their name on the assignment and put it in the OUT box.
- Have students correct their own papers (when applicable) – I provide answer sheets and calculators for students to check their own work. They still need to turn them into my IN box, but it’s easy for me to assess what is going on.
- Assign class professors – I have professors for each subject. Their job includes: a resource if students have questions on a assignment (and I’m busy with a group), keeping track of answer keys, instructions, and masters, handing out assignments, running centers, conducting clinics, etc.
- Check email only three times a day – Email tends to divert me from what I really need to do. So I only check it three times: in the morning after I am set up and ready to start the morning’s activities, during SSR time (see first tip above), and at the end of the day (only after I’m ready for the next day activities). Email should not be a priority.
- Have a buddy to get you out of lengthly after school conversations – Yes it’s a teacher’s responsibility to be available for parents, colleagues, and students. I do plan on spending about 15 minutes right after school to check in, but if I know that a particular conversation is going to be too long, I arrange to have a teacher friend to come an interrupt the conversation and remind me that I have another commitment. While I rarely use this, it’s nice to have.
- Avoid the teacher’s lounge when you have stuff to do – For obvious reasons.
- Lunch Time is me time – While I try to take at least 15-20 minutes for a real sit down and eat and chat lunch (only social media time), I also know that if there are some pressing items that I need to do in order for me to get home at a decent hour, I’m willing to scarf (that doesn’t look right, but it is) down my lunch.
- Take advantage of parent volunteers, office workers, and teacher aids – Plan ahead for copies, classroom events, field trips, etc, so you can off load tasks that get in your way of teaching.
Hopefully I gave you ideas on how to make your school time more efficient, so you can get home, relax a bit, exercise, do laundry, walk the dog, make dinner, check with your kids, oh well, maybe it’s better to stay longer at school!
Here are some related blog posts on classroom management: