Teachers; Work Smarter, Not Harder.
Once upon I time, I had a different career. I had many different tasks to accomplish each day. I had daily deadlines to adhere to and people counted on me to be knowledgeable, punctual, thorough and prepared. The demands of this job required that I work smarter, not harder.
- Make a list. Every day. Identify what needs to be done and write it down. Then, prioritize it.
It doesn’t matter what you use to write your list on. Like sticky notes? Great! Prefer a pretty notepad? Super! Don’t give two hoots and prefer to use scratch paper or whatever is lying around? Fabulous. Just write it all down!
- Get it done. Once you’ve identified the tasks you need to accomplish, and you’ve prioritized them, do them. Get to work. Quilly-dallying. Put your phone down, stockist-chatting with your youneighbouror and get to work. Confession: this can be hard, but you’ll have time to stalk your phone and chit chat if you get your work done first.
Think of it this way, if you don’t get your work done you run the risk of being unprepared, stressed out, and ineffective as a teacher. And our job is too important changes that! Force yourself to focus and get things done as quickly as possible. If this is super hard for you and you need some external motivation then reward yourself each day/week that you get stuff done. Before you know it, it will become a natural work habit.
- Establish a daily work routine. Yes, there will be interruptions and disruptions, but you can still create a framework for what your work time will look like each day. Decide which tasks you will attend to each morning before school starts and each afternoon when the students are gone.
- Write down your thought bombs. You’re a teacher, you probably have 25 random thought bombs a day….when you aren’t at school.
Sometimes I get random ideas or remember small things that need to be done when I’m not at school. To help me remember these things, I carry a small notepad in my purse. And I keep one on my nightstand as well. Sometimes, I email myself from my phone! This way, I can easily record those little reminders and ideas as they come to me and I won’t have to waste time trying to remember my thoughts and ideas when I’m back at school the following day.
- Establish an email schedule. What I mean by that is, pick a time of day that you will read your emails.
I tend to read mine first thing in the morning. We don’t have a “desk job” so checking email periodically throughout the day is not always practical (or smart). Maybe you opt to check it first thing and immediately after school. Great! The point is, create a routine that works for you and your situation.
I also have a policy of responding to emails within 24 hours. Keep in mind that you don’t need to respond to every email you get. So many of the emails we get as teachers are FYI type emails. Don’t bother with responding to those.
Finally, I also have a policy of never checking my email from home. You never know what’s lurking in that inbox, so I err on the side of caution and refuse to even log into my email from home. Work emails get read when I’m at work. End of story.
- Collaborate. Whether it’s a like-minded minded individual or your grade level, collaboration can make your job so much easier.
Keep in mind that collaboration isn’t dolling out or splitting up responsibilities. It’s discussing and evaluating the material you plan to/are expected to teach your students.
The point of collaboration is to help you perfect your craft and effectiveness as a teacher. So, make sure you confer with people who will help you achieve this.
- Set limits. Leave your work at school. Teaching is demanding. It demands your energy, focus, and your time.
It all boils down to prioritizing your workload at school and sticking to a routine. When you find what works for you, you won’t feel the need to regularly bring work home and when you do bring it home on occasion, you won’t feel as guilty.
- Grade like a boss. Say what? What I mean by that is, know what you’re going to grade. Mark it in your lesson plans, or put a sticky note on those materials to remind you so that when you give that assignment you know you’re planning to use it for a grade. Then, set aside a day or two each week to enter grades. This cane able to enter them without spending huge chunks of time doing so (and parents knocking on your door pestering you as to why you haven’t entered grades in the past month).
Remember, you don’t have to grade everything. If you’ve completed an assignment together in class, don’t even collect it from students. Send it home! If you want to mark classwork (and you probably should), you could spot check certain assignments, depending upon what it is. Or, you could go over it in class so you can able to see how they did right there on the spot, saving you time in the long run.
- Take a break. Or two. During the school day. No, I’m not suggesting you run out into the hall and hide from your students, but just like your students, you need a brain break here and there too!
The point is, it’s OK to take a break, it’s natural! Doctors, police officers, and everyone in between take them. Anwell-known well-known fact that breaks refuel the body and mind, and teachers shouldn’t think that boff-limit limits office. You’re the professional, use your judgement to facilitate breaks as needed in your classroom because you will all benefit in the long run.
- Make time for you. Find time in your day to focus on YOU! Focus on something other than teaching.
Yes, we love what we do, and yes, we are passionate about it, but it isn’t healthy to focus on teaching all.of.the.time. Read a book, find a hobby, get your nails done, binge watch Netflix. Whatever! Just make sure you carve some time out for you to focus on other things. Otherwise, you fail to take care of yourself and run the risk of burnout and/or unnecessary stress. Plus, you’re worth it.