Time Management That Works For You
Lesson plans. Parent emails. Grading papers. Staff meetings. Team collaboration. IEP meetings. Parent conferences. Holiday concerts.
Teaching is a 24/7 job. It can take over your life if you aren’t careful, so you have to find a way to make it work for you.
Your social events are important. Your family time should be protected. Your health should be the priority.
When considering your schedule, there is so much to take into consideration. You need to know yourself well to really determine the best way to manage your time.
Early on in my career as a teacher, I tried to set up a schedule where I would lesson plan a little bit every day after school. I tried to do all of the next week’s math lesson plans on Monday, language arts on Tuesday, science on Wednesday, etc. After about two months of attempting and failing, I realized this just didn’t work for me. I was frazzled from dismissal bus duty, my blood sugar was dropping, I was reflecting on all the failures of the day and feeling discouraged, and I was constantly getting interrupted by co-workers who would stop by and want to chat. Afternoons were just not a good time for me to plan. I was getting nothing done and feeling resentful about still being at school.
I also brought all my students’ work home with me to grade. I had good intentions and told myself I’d do it while watching a movie, but my evenings would fill up with other activities. (What? Teachers have a life outside of school?) I would just stare at the stack of papers on my kitchen counter that kept growing and mocking me. And I could never enjoy my evening plans because I felt guilty for what I wasn’t accomplishing.
That’s when I made a switch.
I’m a morning person. I’m more alert in the morning, and I can get much more accomplished. Rather than try to do a little bit of planning each afternoon, I just carved out a large chunk of time on Saturday mornings to plan for the whole week. It was a sacrifice to give up some of my weekend, but it worked out better for me in the long run. I produced higher quality lesson plans and actually saved time because I was more focused. I didn’t have to wait in line to make copies because nobody else was on campus. I wasn’t hungry and irritated or rushing to get home to make dinner, so I enjoyed the process of lesson planning much more. I also found that I was more likely to plan creative units that incorporated multiple subjects because I was able to zoom out and think through the entire week at a glance. I was able to really get into the mindset to plan and organize my week thoroughly rather than trying to do small tasks each day.
I may have gotten the side-eye from my co-workers as I was pulling out of the parking lot at 4pm, but it was worth it to know that I had some breathing room outside of the classroom.
I also started coming into school earlier school each day to keep up with my grading. This informed my teaching for the next day because I was able to really see which students needed more help understanding a concept. I wasn’t as overwhelmed when it was just one or two assignments to look through.
The biggest benefit was that I never had to bring anything home. My time outside of school was my own. When I gave myself my evenings off, I felt like a better teacher because I had time to myself to pursue my own interests and build relationships outside of school. Just by spreading out my tasks throughout the week and giving myself a buffer after a long school day, I started resenting my job and my students less. I was excited to come in and be there the next day because I had a true break from my students each evening.
I also found that I was less stressed throughout the week. It was so relaxing for me to know that I could walk in Monday morning with everything ready to go for the week. When I am trying to put together something at the last minute, it takes a toll on my emotions and I feel like I give my students less of my attention. This shift in my schedule freed me up to be more present with them and prepared for my day.
This may not be the schedule that works best for you but, as a teacher, you have to be proactive in setting up a plan that guards your time and prevents you from burning out. There’s always more to do, and it can be overwhelming, but we need to work smarter, not harder.
Your students want a happy and healthy teacher, and you deserve that, too.
Lauren Bleser can’t stop moving!
She grew up in upstate New York and taught 1st grade and 4th grade for a few years until she got the itch for adventure. She moved to a beautiful valley in southeast Oklahoma and used her teaching expertise as a full-time private tutor for a few years.
When she finally admitted that she wasn’t a country girl at heart, she packed up and moved to the city of San Antonio, Texas where she spent 10 years cursing the heat and humidity. She taught 3rd and 4th grade and became an academic dean. Lauren has spoken at conferences and written study guides that are used by teachers around the world.
Lauren now resides in Portland, Oregon and is thrilled to experience four seasons again. She works in higher education and loves supporting teachers in one of the most difficult and important professions. She also leads food tours and gets to show off this wonderful city’s history and cuisine.