I heard of so many teachers who put in 60, 70, 80 hours a week to work. I like my job. I love my students. I love teaching, but we don’t get paid enough to dedicate that time to our career. And the best part is that it is not necessary.
I work from 6:30 to 4:00 most days. Then I go home empty-handed and don’t think about school again until the next day. Even maintaining these hours, I am able to lead a well-organized, exciting, academically driven, and high-performing classroom.
My goal is to provide you with some quick strategies to optimize your planning, organization and work so that you can be successful as a teacher and still have a life!
First, plan with a team. In team planning, “share the wealth.” Each teacher brings their strengths and putting them together to plan raises the bar for everyone’s plans. Working in a team also gives you the opportunity to share ideas with others in a non-threatening environment.
If there are no other teachers in your school to plan with, look for a few in the area. Teaching is, unfortunately, a largely isolated profession: teaching, planning, qualifying and working alone. Planning shouldn’t be like this. You are only as good as your plans, so find other professionals to plan with.
Second, plan “in bulk”. At my school we take one afternoon a week and plan each subject for a month. The first week we plan the reading, the second week we plan the math, the third week we plan the writing, etc. By doing this, you know what you need in advance, so there is never a last minute rush. This also covers you in case of illness or other unexpected emergency. If you have teaching assistants or parent volunteers coming into your classroom, you will know ahead of time if you need anything to help you cut, shop, or assemble.
Bulk planning can also help you ensure that you are meeting all standards and expectations. You are never hanging in the wind with 3 weeks of classes if you are continually looking ahead over large blocks of time.
Third, simplify your lessons. Every lesson doesn’t need to have a cute art project, worksheet, or product. The best lessons are lessons that have a clear purpose, a concise objective, simplified teaching, and maintain academic flow. My classroom is a “no worksheets” zone. Children do not learn from worksheets. They learn from clear teaching, real-world application, and the use of all the senses.
One of my all-time favorite teaching tools is blank copy paper. You can do almost anything with plain white paper. There are hundreds of ways to turn it into graphic organizers, stories, books, reviews, word family tables, and more. Children feel like they own their products and it is an authentic assessment. To find cool things to do with paper, visit Dinah’s Archives.
I have all kinds of students in my classroom, just like you: “typical”, gifted, ESE, ADHD, and the list goes on and on. Most of these students don’t want to be in a chair all day, they would rather move! It makes sense to have a classroom that allows children to learn in the way that they are most capable. During my day we have tons of music, movement, dancing, writing, drawing, cooperative work, hands-on centers, and structured “learning through play.”
Try one of these tips and see if you become a happier teacher with more time to play.