Teaching is tough, and it always will be. You need to figure out what each student needs to thrive, keep up with assessments and reports and tracking, fit in all the standards, deal with emotional needs … and then there’s the lesson planning and organizing and creating engaging games and activities. While nothing will make teaching easy, anything that makes teaching easier helps. Try these time saving tips.
7 time-saving tips for teachers
Whether you pick one tip to implement or try them all, you’re bound to save time that you can use for other things, whether that just keeps you from falling behind or actually taking time for some self-care.
1. Get organized.
Are you always looking for the papers you need or the game that you saved that would be perfect for your new unit or the homework you copied? Do you find yourself moving things out of the way all the time or moving around an awkward layout? Is the thing you need always on the other side of the room?
Organizing your stuff takes time, but once you do it, having an organized classroom and storage of supplies and resources not in use makes life so much easier. Start by noticing what isn’t working. Rearrange or create a system to improve that.
2. Create a schedule that works for you.
I’m a planner. I like to have a good overview of the year, a breakdown quarter by quarter. Then I fine-tune that by month. Each week I create a plan, and then every day I have a to-do list. The big picture planning helps me create shorter-term planning and daily to-dos that make sense.
How you organize your schedule is a personal preference. An electronic calendar helps with reminders, but I also love a paper planner. Maybe you have a planner you love for teaching or one that covers your whole life. Maybe you like to scribble your to-dos for the day on a sticky note. Do you need to write it out minute by minute? Can you just have a list and get it done? Most of us need some structure. How much is up to you.
3. Know when to multitask.
Most of us multitask too much, and it actually slows us down. There is the benefit of focusing on the task at hand, but there are times when you can make excellent use of your time by multitasking. One tip I got from another teacher was to grade while doing 1-1 conferencing. While students are doing independent work, call students up one at a time. Read their work and give a grade right there. You don’t have to grade later and students get immediate feedback.
If students work well independently, try to do tasks like filing or prepping for an activity for the next day.
4. Streamline your to-do list.
Is your to-do list unrealistic? I know mine is most of the time. That means I never get things done and feel like I’m behind all the time. What if you created a to-do list for the day that was realistic about the time you had available to you? If you feel like you can’t just cross things off the list (or not put them on in the first place), try prioritizing your list. Put a star next to the top three priorities for the day. If you get those done, call it a good day.
5. Let go of perfection.
We all have ideas of how things will be. How our classroom will look, how to pull off a new idea. We want it to be perfect. Try letting go of perfection. You can even let go of parts of your plan if they aren’t essential—even if it would be really cool or students would enjoy an activity or the way you present it. Letting go of your expectations and making things simple saves you time and energy … and that might end up making the difference in the lesson or in your overall mindset.
6. Say ‘no’ more!
Do you say yes to meetings, to committees, to staying after to help a student, to mentoring another teacher, to … What can you say no to? What doesn’t serve you, or to put it another way, what takes you away from your prime mission? Where can you say no in your professional or personal life? And if you feel like you can’t say no, can you put a boundary on it? Yes, I can meet for 30 minutes (and stick to it).
7. Have a go-to source for great resources.
I love creating new activity sheets and games and other tools to help my students (or myself as a teacher). Not everybody does, and even if you love it too, sometimes you just don’t have the time or energy to create a CVC game or math task cards or alternate spelling cootie catchers. Knowing where to go to find the resources you need is a great time saver.
The Top Notch Teaching Members Club is a one-stop-shop for teachers. You’ll find activities and games appropriate for the classroom or homework, lesson plans and projects, decor, classroom management, and organizational tools. All ready to download, print, and use. Remember when we talked about streamlining your to-do list? You can save time creating, or even searching for quality resources. With the Top Notch Teaching Members club, they are right at your fingertips.
What is your favorite time-saving tip?