If you are a teacher who is caught up and always ready for the week, you can skip this post! If you are a new reader, I ask you to share this with colleagues who are just getting started with teaching or colleagues who are feeling swamped right now.
I know many readers are new or fairly new to teaching. By this point in the year, sometimes teachers have the glub glub glub sense that they are going under, as the time demands of their position take over their lives. Maybe your week-end just got sucked away from you.
Here are some tips to help:
♦ Read the lesson plan for tomorrow at the end of the school day before you leave the building. This allows for emergency trips to Walmart or the Dollar Store. It’s easiest to stop on the way home.
♦ Stock up on regularly used materials, especially if you find a sale. These materials will differ from subject to subject and grade to grade, but it’s a good bet you will need markers and/or colored pencils and glue sticks.
♦ When possible, try to grade as you go. You can often do this as you are helping with classwork. You can still buy those old green gradebooks from days of yore, or you can print out spreadsheet pages to attach to a clipboard. Put your students names in the first column and print the gridlines to make blank boxes. One advantage to this approach will be evident immediately. Many students work more diligently in class when they see that clipboard walking around.
♦ Don’t grade everything. You can put a check or a check with a plus on many items that don’t need to be in a gradebook and add praise where due. Students mostly want to know you looked at their work. (Don’t tell them work will be ungraded, though. The quality of some students’ work slips dramatically if they don’t expect that work to figure in their grade.)
♦ Consider not leaving school until all the grading is done and all materials are ready for the next day, if family and other demands don’t make this impossible. Staying to grade can make for a long day, but the advantage is huge. When you leave, you will often be completely done for the day. You will be able to watch Rizzoli and Isles in peace, without your laptop in front of you and papers strewn all over the floor in front of the TV.
♦ If you are not naturally good with time, set timers or your phone to alert you to the need to move on to the next item in your lesson plan. I’d suggest setting the alerts when you are reading your tomorrow’s lesson plan at the end of the day.
♦ Are your routines slipping? Don’t let them get away from you. Routines save time. You want those first few minutes of class clear to finish attendance and do set-up work. Make sure you have a functional opener and that kids know what to do without your help. By now, they should be entering class and starting to work on their own. If they are not, ask a colleague for advice on how to get this piece in place.
♦ Before the day begins, ask yourself: “What do my students need to learn?” Staying focused keeps time from slipping away.
♦ Take time to call parents. Whether for homework, behavioral or disciplinary issues, parents can help. Parent calls tend to get put on the back burner, but that’s a mistake. Five or ten minutes talking to mom may prevent hours of student issues throughout the year.
♦ Have some fun! Schedule dinner with a friend. Make Thursday family board game night. Join a book club. Establish a regular gym routine. You will get more done faster when you are having some fun. You’ll be less of a grouch in class, too.