Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Time Management

Hi Friend,
The age old teacher question...How are you going home already? For years I said it. And meant it. I would arrive at school around 7 and not leave until close to 6 regularly. How does that compare to the hours you keep at school?

And then I had a baby who refused to drink from a bottle. I knew I was NEVER going to be able to keep the hours I was accustomed to keeping at school again. She needed me to leave on time to feed her. After we got home, I would want to play with her, read to her, make dinner. You know, all of the things that people want to do when they leave work. I would not be able to grade a huge bag of papers. Plus, I didn't want to.

None of us enjoy staying late daily to accomplish our goals at school. We just don't realize that we *could* be mismanaging our time.

After a moment of panic, I made a phone call. I talked my fears out with my bestie. She is a nurse. She admitted to spending hours charting at home after regular working hours. It made me feel better, just knowing I wasn't the only one. That even non-teachers are in the same boat.

We hung up and I made a vow to myself. I would leave no later than four o'clock. That means I would still have over three hours of time to work past my contract time each week, but at least it would be an improvement over 10-20 additional hours a week.

But how?

It has been a couple of years, but here are a few things I changed in my day.

1. I tried to eat in my classroom. By eating in my room and giving myself a few minutes to eat and relax, I was more focused on the tasks I needed to complete. Grading papers is better on a full tummy. I was nicer and more thoughtful in my grading and I got more done.

2. I planned multiple weeks of instruction in at a time. I filled in as much of my plans and made as many copies in advance as I could. By planning in advance, I felt more secure in my daily plans. I was a more consistent instructor because I always knew what was coming up in the next days and weeks. I also spent way less time planning because I had all of my planning materials, teacher guides, standards, and my curriculum map out one time for multiple weeks of planning.

3. I stayed in my room. This one was the hardest. After reflecting, I realized a spent a lot of time out of my room chatting. Having friendly conversations with my school family was important to me, so I was worried about this one. Once I gave my new plan a shot, I found that the conversations I did have with co-workers were more meaningful and of better quality. I think it was because I valued the time I spent visiting more.

4. I used my planning time to collaborate with my team. By working together and talking through issues, I saved lots of time and effort I would have wasted figuring things out alone.

Did I reach my goal? Mostly. A few days I was forced to stay later than 4. I also left at 3:20 at least a couple of days a week.

Another teacher friend of mine noticed how early I was leaving and asked me how I was doing it. I told her my plan and she gave it a try. Guess what? She started leaving on time too! I think the best part about this entire process is knowing that to this day, over two years later, she is still leaving on time.

What do you do to honor your life away from school and leave school on time?



  1. I do a lot of what you mentioned already, and this year I started eating in my room. At first it was kind of lonely, but I use that time to get on Pinterest or whatever when I used to do that during my prep. Also, I haven't been getting roped into the drama that sometimes happens in the workroom. On Fridays, we take turns buying pizza for the team, so we all eat together then. That's just enough for me, since we have team time every day in addition to prep. It also helped me to bring my lunch instead of buy it. I'm also lucky that I have an associate that does the majority of my grading/copying.

    Regardless of what I do during lunch, the biggie is my Must Do and Can Do lists. My Must Do list is what I have to do before I go home. If I'm in the zone, I can start chipping away at the Can Do list. When the clock hits 3:35 and my Must Do list is done, I'm out of there!!

    Fifth in the Middle

  2. Such good tips. I started eating in my classroom this year too, but I haven't decided if it's worth it. I have to drop my kids off at recess, walk down to the lunchroom to grab my salad, and walk all the way back up three flights of starts. I feel like by the time I sit down 20 minutes of my lunch is over! I'm totally sticking it out though- maybe it will work! Not working so many hours is one of my major goals this year.

    Caffeine and Lesson Plans

  3. I would love to figure this out. We are on a four day school week from 8-4 Monday through Thursday. I would love to be out the door by 5, but it never seems possible. I stay late on Wednesdays, until about 7:30, and do lesson plans and copies for the next week, but I have students in my room most nights doing homework and then I have my own grading. I am going to try some of your suggestions and see if it helps. THANKS!


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