“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”
Teachers, do you feel as if you have a million responsibilities, not enough time to accomplish all of them, and it’s driving you crazy?
If so, you are probably like most other educators out there. Too much on your plate, more obligations added on a daily basis, and decreased time to get everything done. The worst part is that many of the logistical nightmares and administrivia take you away from the most important part of your job – doing meaningful work with your students.
Knowing that you are a good teacher and doing your best doesn’t help when you feel like you are drowning. So, if I tell you that you need to be SOFT, it might not help. But for your own mental health, you need to make sure that you are SOFT –
S lowing down, O rganizing, and F inding T ime.
It can be extremely difficult. Again, you have a million responsibilities, and not enough time to get everything done. But try starting with these strategies:
Avoid the Time Sucks. You get only one forty minute prep period per day. Don’t waste it with time sucks. Online teacher sites can drain your valued time faster than anything else. You get on pinterest to look for one idea, and suddenly your forty minutes are gone. You end up in a meandering side conversation about reality TV with a colleague, and suddenly your precious minutes vaporize. You search for the perfect lesson and while you were supposed to be planning an entire week’s worth of lessons, you only get one done. Everyone has been attacked by the time sucks. They are so enticing. They draw you in and before you know it, the time sucks will waste every extra minute that you have. DON”T LET IT HAPPEN!
Take Things Off the Table. There are only so many hours in the day, and even fewer hours in the school day. Some of the beloved tasks and activities you do during the day aren’t actually adding any value for you or your students. Consider how you actually spend your time during the day. Complete a time inventory, and list out how you actually spend your given minutes. After looking at the list, decide what you can eliminate. Some things look good on paper but don’t actually accomplish anything. Some things suck you in with nostalgia. “We’ve always done this!” If an action or activity doesn’t add value, it’s got to go. Sometimes the hardest part is saying goodbye!
Add More Whitespace to Your Schedule. As contradictory as this may sound, leaving gaps of time in your daily schedule may actually help you accomplish more. As a teacher, you know that the busiest of schedules only gets more crazy as things come up. The copier decided that you shouldn’t have to make copies today. An unexpected fire alarm kept you outside for thirty minutes. Your Principal came to you to announce that a brand new student starts this morning. Emergency situations happen, and if you leave time blocks in your day, you can adapt when necessary. If you schedule a thirty minute block in your schedule, and no sudden emergency takes place, then you actually have time to breathe, or maybe a few minutes to catch up on some of those logistics that you never have time for. Give yourself more time to accomplish everything you need to.
Remember Tomorrow and Forget Perfection. There’s always tomorrow. The work will be waiting for you there in the morning. If it didn’t get done today, add it to your list for tomorrow, and forget it once you go home. Don’t try to be a superhero. Accomplish what you can accomplish without burning yourself out. Write lesson plans that are good enough rather than perfect. Trust that your instruction will reach students whether you have the perfect video to kick it off. Your classroom doesn’t need to look like all of those Perfect Pinterest Worthy Pictures! That Instagram Educator shows only their perfect moments, not all of the other times when things go wrong. Trying to be perfect will only lead you down the wrong path. Make mistakes. Learn from them. Give yourself time away from your students and the classroom. It will all be there tomorrow waiting for you. Forget perfection and remember tomorrow!
Time regrettably, will never be on your side. You will always be at its mercy. Your goal should be to work within the constraints of bell schedules, and instructional minute allotments to find value and meaningful work. Determine how you are really using your allotted time. Analyze it on a deeper level. Try to eliminate the practices simply wasting time. Allow yourself a moment to breathe. The key is to think actively about how you use your time. If you don’t, you will frivolously fritter it away.
Take care of yourself first. Be smart about how you use your time.
The SOFTer the better!
For more time saving strategies, check out The SECRET SAUCE: Essential Ingredients for Exceptional Teaching.