Walk into any school building or classroom (or really any professional setting) and ask the teachers what their biggest struggle in teaching is. It is bound to be time! But I am convinced that time isn’t the only issue. I think a bigger issue is how teachers manage time.
This is our culture today. Everyone is go go go and we are all expected to be “on” all the time. This is something I am struggling a lot with right now because I am trying to find the balance between resting and being productive. But the never ending to do list always seems to win.
But that is a different blog for a different day.
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I remember being a first year teacher and thinking that staying late made me a good teacher. I would sometimes stay till 6:00 or 7:00. One week my mom had my dog and I stayed till 8:00 each night. All in the name of being a good teacher. While I understand that being a good teacher does sometimes take staying late, it doesn’t take staying late to be a good teacher.
I am actually convinced that if we manage our time well, we become better teachers. When we manage our time in a way that we leave work at work and go home at a decent time, then we become better humans. Which ultimately makes us better teachers, moms, wives, sisters, husbands (sorry…I was getting a little gender specific there with the female teacher stereotype).
So how can we manage our time more efficiently?
It’s ironic that I am writing about time management today because I just started an online course called “Take Back Your Time” from Kirsten Thompson (if you are a wanna be/aspiring/already are blogger…check her out!).
The first thing she spoke about is that time management is not a magical list of steps to complete in order to manage your time well. Instead it is a shift in mindset. Listening to her talk while mixing around my own ideas for time management specifically related to teaching, I have come up with the following list of five mindsets we need to shift in order to manage time more efficiently.
5 Mindset Shifts to Help Teachers Manage Time Better
What Teachers Think:Â
I Need to Do All The Things
Mindset Shift: I Need to Create One Goal For My Year
Instead of trying to be the best at everything, set an overarching goal for the whole year. Last year mine was more small group math instruction and math stations. This year my goal is flexible seating. If I come up with a great idea or a fun new way to do something, but it doesn’t fit into my goal for the year- then I table it.
What Teachers Think:
I Need toÂ Stay Late to Get Everything Done
Mindset Shift: I Need to Leave Early to Take Care of MeÂ
Staying late won’t make you a better teacher. Instead of having the mindset that “I will leave early one or two days a week,” flip the mindset. “I will stay late one or two nights a week.” The rest of the days, leave on time. Go home. Relax. Take the dogs on a walk. And for the love, DON’T DO TEACHER STUFF AT HOME!!!!!!!!!!
What Teachers Think:
I Need to Check off My To Do ListÂ
Mindset Shift: I Need to Prioritize My To Do List
It’s easy to be a slave to the to do list. I know I am. But what I have found works best for me is to keep a to do list at my desk in the SAME SPOT at all times. When something comes to mind, no matter how tiny of a thing it is, I write it down. Then, when I have time, I prioritize what is most important on my to do list and do those first.
Sometimes I need to just buckle down and work through my to do list from top to bottom. I have found that this works well for me too (instead of skipping around to things I want to do first).
What Teachers Think:Â
I Need to Stick to My Schedule
Mindset Shift: I Need to Give Myself Grace
I know one thing I am guilty of (in both a professional and personal setting) is feeling the need to stick to my schedule. Stick to my plan. Stick to my to do list. But I am learning that it is more important that I give myself grace for the days I fall short. I am learning that the work will always be there tomorrow. AND THAT’S OKAY!
I haven’t gotten on my soapbox in a while…so here I go…
What Teachers Think:
I Need to Do Everything That is Asked of MeÂ
Mindset Shift: I Need to Say No Sometimes
Obviously teaching is your job and you HAVE to do your job. But I think teachers are always asked to do SO MUCH EXTRA stuff! And some of that stuff is good. But sometimes you have to say “No.” Obviously not to your boss or to something that is legitimately part of your job. But say no to the extra committee you were asked to be apart of. Voice your opinion about the extra stuff on your plate. As teachers, we just always feel like we need to do everything that is asked of us and keep our mouths shut. But I think there is a time and place to stand up for ourselves and our profession. And sometimes you just need to say NO!
Ways Teachers Manage Time with Students
I just gave you a nice long list about how you manage YOUR time. But what about your time with the kids?
Here are a few of my tips:
1.Use a Timer- I set timers for specials, lunch, recess, math time, guided reading time. All the times. I also use a timer as a motivation for transitions. This group moves SO STINKIN SLOW this year. Like three minutes to put away their books and get to the carpet. So I have started using a timer and giving them thirty seconds to put their books away and get to the carpet. If they beat the time, they get a marble or two for the marble jar! And whadyaknow? They CAN do it!
2. Monitor and Readjust- I usually plan way too much for a lesson cause I always feel like “next week WILL be the week that we can get our sh** done in a reasonable time” and every week I fail. So I readjust. I shift things around, delete things that maybe are not that critical. Be flexible! You’re a teacher…You know how to do that!
3. Plan for “Catch Up Friday’s”- One thing I have been more intentional about this year is allowing for catch up time on Friday. I do believe it is really important to plan rigorous content for my kids. But I also believe that I have to be realistic and right now, that looks like making my Friday load a little lighter so that I can allow time for students to finish up work we didn’t get to. (And it allows me some time to get prepped for the following week.)
4. Keep That To-Do List Nearby- I realize I talked up top about not being a slave to your to-do list, but I have found that the most effective thing I can do is to write down every little thing that comes to mind as soon as I think about it. This saves SO much time trying to figure out what all you need to do.
I wrote a whole post on time management during my First Year Teacher series. But really, the tips I shared in that post can be applied to all teachers. So check out my other blog post on time management.
Until next time,