Time was Shakespeare’s most prominent muse, and today it is often a teacher’s greatest challenge. You can’t always get everything done when you want to. Paperwork falls through the cracks, and you feel like you’re losing grip of at-risk students and wondering how you’re going to reign them back in. These are just a few of the things teachers can face when figuring out time management strategies.
To clarify, teachers are as differing as the subject matter they teach. What works for some might not work for others. So what are some top time management strategies that would work for pretty much every teacher?
Some Time Management Tips for Teachers
It’s all about the plan.
I can’t tell you how many countless hours I’ve spent trying to get things right. I quickly realized that all those hours agonizing about the lesson plan amounted to 50 minutes of instructional activity. Most of the time, the plan ended up being modified. Time management was something that really would have helped me.
Once you plan lessons, then you have to print them for your lesson plan book, create or curate the materials needed, and organize trips to the Xerox machine and stand in long lines. All this takes away from valuable learning time. The more quickly you can plan, the sooner you can get down to business. Find a way to plan efficiently, whether that’s with Chalk.com or through our own Solution Fluency Activity Planner.
Try to bring some fun into your time management planning to offset the monotony. For example, you can collaborate and talk things through with colleagues. Also remember not to forget planning for a substitute. You never know when you’ll be out for an emergency and the lessons must be simple yet explicit.
Change the way you think about time.
As an addition to the above comment, I was only planning for that 50-minute time slot. Nowadays, you have more time to get students information than you think. That’s where flipped lessons comes into play.
Flipped lessons or video lectures posted online duplicate yourself and allow instructional time to happen at home, wherever and whenever digital natives can access the Internet. So think outside the class time slot.
Instead of assigning homework that takes them hours, have them watch a video of your lecture. They can take a quick online quiz which you can monitor in real time, and they’re done with it. Then when they arrive in class prepared, they can focus on higher-order thinking skill activities. Additionally, collaboration tools such as Asana or Basecamp allow students more time to work on things outside the class.
Change the way you think about yourself.
If you carry the sole responsibility for dispensing information, people will always be vying for your time. If you can teach a few well and allow them to blossom into leaders, you can become more of a coach or facilitator while your “team” is on the “court” doing all the work, and also learning better. This way it’s not so much about managing time as it is managing people.
Get to know your students’ learning styles/personalities.
Do this as soon as you are able, maybe even as soon as you’ve got names on your roster. Use surveys, questionnaires (online, if possible) to get a profile of your class. This will help you differentiate and save valuable time while planning.
Get all your paperwork online.
Don’t bother with large file cabinets if you don’t have to. While much of the world still works in paper, you don’t have to. Print out only that which is needed and keep the rest in the Cloud.
Here are some classic time wasters to avoid from Ben Johnson over at Edutopia:
- When a teacher takes time to write on the white board for students to copy
- When a teacher takes time to pass out papers, or collect them
- When a teacher repeats exactly what a student just said, or even worse, repeats themselves several times
- When a teacher loses time in transitioning from one activity to another
- When a teacher does not have an effective system that minimizes the effect of students leaving class for the restroom or the office
- When a teacher does not have a system for absent students to catch up with the classwork missed
When searching for ways to gain back your time it’s all about gaining insight, skills, tools and routines that you can use efficiently and expertly. Your proverbial utility belt will determine your success as a teacher and with reaching the most difficult learners.