Start of the Year Time Saving Tips for Teachers: Read This During Your Next Meeting

This was originally posted a few years ago at the start of the school year. I think it works for the beginning of the actual year, too.

A Cautionary Tale about Teacher Time Management

Ms. Needtogetready had been working hard during the two days of “teacher instruction” leading up to the start of the new school year. Then she realized—seconds before her administrator, Mr. Suckthejoyoutoflife, stopped by for a pre-observation conference that took another 3 hours and added a tenfold amount of stress to her already stressed out nervous system.

She needed to get ready, but it was already time for the informational meeting, the one that crams 5 minutes of useful information into 90 minutes, followed by another 60-minute meeting for the club she was voluntold to sponsor.

All Ms. Needtogetready could do was cry.

So she did… as she spent Saturday and Sunday getting ready. She could have used my teacher time saving tips to start the school year.

Don’t let this happen to you. Keep reading.

Teacher Time-Saving Tip #1: Identify the Most Important Things First (And Do Them).

Teacher Time Management Tips

All you’re really doing in tip #1 is setting a short term goal and accomplishing it. It’s what we tell our students to do all the time.

Even though I feel a moderate amount of despair when the school year begins, I always answer the friendly conversation starter “How are you?” with an emphatic “Great. I’ve got two weeks worth of lesson plans ready to go and no papers to grade!”

Isn’t that, after all, the essence of preparation for a teacher. At any point during the year, if you have 2 weeks worth of lessons prepared and ready to go with no papers to grade, you are in an optimal position to actually teach and (pardon the cheesiness and triteness, but it’s true) change lives.

So why do we spend so much time making bulletin boards, configuring wi-fi hotspots, and cavorting with co-workers when the essence of our job is to create lessons, teach them, and evaluate them?

Teacher Time-Saving Tip #1b: Do The Most Important Thing First.

Teacher Time Management Tips

Meetings go by a lot faster when you’ve already accomplished your most important task.

It’s one thing to identify what’s most important and another thing to actually do it. Most pre-school year days begin on Wednesday with a 3-hour meeting about some training your principal went to in the Bahamas that he’s fired up about even though nobody else cares, a 3-hour meeting that could be accomplished with a handout that takes 5 minutes to read.

Here’s an ordered list of tasks I do.

  1. The first thing you should do after that meeting is go to your room and write 2 weeks worth of lesson plans—don’t forget to put in for copies or make them. If you need teacher ready ELA plans to save even more time just type what you need in the search bar to the right, and there’s a good chance you’ll find them.
  2. If you plan with a team, try to get that meeting schedule ASAP. If that’s not possible, throw together a unit—like this one I made for The Odyssey, bring it to the meeting, and say, “I threw some stuff together that I think would help and put it into a day-by-day format. Let me know what you think or if there’s something I’m missing.” Since you’re colleagues are just as stressed as you are, they’ll be overjoyed and take whatever it is you have. Now you are a hero in addition to being prepared.
  3. Make sure everything is ready to go for day 1. Everything you need should be set up for day 1 at the earliest possible time. For example, if it’s Wednesday, by the time you leave, your room and lessons should be so ready that even if you got sick for four days, you could walk in on Monday and be ready for two weeks. What will happen is you’ll be nice and relaxed on Thursday and Friday (maybe even leave early) while everyone else is freaking out.
  4. Do all the other stuff that would be nice to get done or just wait until Monday and delegate the stuff that could be reasonably accomplished by a good student aide.

Teacher Time-Saving Tip #2: Shut the Door, Lock it, and Cover Your Window.

Teacher Time Management Tips

Most people will follow instructions. The ones who don’t will at least feel guilty.

This is pretty self-explanatory. If you’re worried an administrator will come by and think you’re ditching work, just put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door instead. You’ll get 2-3 times more work done, uninterrupted, than you would otherwise.

If you do need to leave the room to make copies or ask a question, see if there’s other things you need to do while you’re out and take care of them at the same time. If you get cornered by the talkative type, just tell him or her to talk on the way to your room because you have tons of work to do. Chances are they’ll find someone else to badger by the time you get there.

Teacher Time-Saving Tip #3: Show up Early or Work During Lunch

Teacher Time Management Tips

Ever feel like this right before school starts?

This goes back to the uninterrupted time efficiency tip. If you can’t find an uninterrupted hour during the day, create one in the morning, during lunch, or during the summer. It’ll pay off big time.

This tip will only work if you employ tip #2. The effectiveness will be magnified the better you apply tips #1 and #1b.



Stress Free Lesson Planning

For more on lesson planning when you only have a couple of minutes, check out this handsome chap:




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