Time is probably the most valuable commodity in the teaching profession. Teachers are pulled in a million different directions each day, so it's no surprise that interruptions and "time sucks" lurk around every corner.
Having a good sense of time management is key. Here are some tips for combating the biggest threats to teachers' time.
1. Creating Lessons and Assessments
While an essential part of the job, creating effective lessons and assessments is probably the most time-consuming activity for teachers. After struggling for years to continually craft strong multiple-choice questions for the books my advanced placement and composition students read, I realized I needed help if I wanted to salvage my time. Luckily, I discovered an online source that created perfectly aligned AP questions for nearly every classic novel. In exchange for a small fee, I could save myself hours and hours of time.
If you're finding that lesson creation is eating away at your time, look online for sources. Your colleagues are another resource to consider. Chat with veteran teachers about techniques they use and look at shared folders. Though I still create many of my own lessons and assessments, I also turn to the internet and my peers for help.
2. Socializing at Work
I know all too well that if I go to the teacher's cafe at a certain time during my prep, I'll see several colleagues and end up chatting for at least 20 minutes. While it's important and absolutely necessary to talk and share with colleagues, don't let yourself get sucked in when you have a lot of time-sensitive duties. I make sure to avoid the lunchroom if I'm strapped for time, and I'm not afraid to close my door if I need to focus and get work done.
3. Nonessential Material
A few years ago, Boston had its largest seasonal snowfall in history: 108.6 inches! I was freaking out because I needed to be sure my sophomore students were ready for the state exam that was a few short weeks away. When we finally returned to school, I knew I needed to kick it into high gear to keep the class on track. So, I streamlined the curriculum, honed in on the most crucial skills, and utilized every single minute of class time.
I was shocked when I discovered that my sophomore class earned the highest growth percentile that year, and I believe it was because I concentrated on the most essential skills. Now, regardless of snowpocalypses, I make sure every lesson focuses on the skills most necessary for my students' success.
Evaluate all your lessons and get rid of any extraneous and unessential material. Over time, you'll be able to discern which lessons are powerful, which are weaker, and which need a bit more work to ensure they're truly impactful on student learning.
4. Parent and Student Meetings
Preparation is the name of the game when it comes to meeting with a parent or student. Being well-prepped helps you stay on time. Have the student's portfolio, work folder, and grades available. Make a list of exactly what you want to address in the meeting. In a particularly challenging situation, I'll add in extra time to the scheduling, just in case the meeting runs late. If it doesn't, that time is a bonus for me! (I always have work that needs finishing.)
5. Extra Help After School
All teachers have set office hours to help struggling students. During that time, it's important to equip the student with enough tools to complete the work on their own, as opposed to spending a lot of time walking them through the entirety of an assignment. For me, that may mean helping a student draft an outline of an essay so they can finish writing at home. For a math teacher, it may be walking a student through some sample problems so they can master the work independently.
Another time issue is when a large number of students show up for extra help. My friend, Cheryl, a math teacher, is masterful at handling this situation. She has students teach each other while they're waiting for help. Almost all of the time, the students are able to answer their own questions and facilitate their own learning by working together, which saves the teacher time.
Avoiding these common teacher time sucks will improve your time management, and you'll likely find that you're able to squeeze just a little more time out of your day.