It seems teachers are jacks-of-all-trades being mentors, educators, caretakers, and friends to their students. Teachers do everything from creating the lessons (and accompanying quizzes, tests, reviews, activities, assignments, etc.) to grading, giving feedback, doing one-on-one conferences, and outlining new material. And that’s just for the students; don’t forget about faculty responsibilities! Plus, that doesn’t account for parent-teacher conferences, one-on-one interventions with problematic students/parents, responding to parent emails, and anything else that isn’t classroom specific.
What does that tell us?
Teachers spend a lot of time doing their job, and it’s not exclusive to a school day. Things can bleed into nights, weekends, and even holidays – especially if you’re the type of teacher who wants to put the students first. The one class period teachers are allotted for planning is often insufficient. That’s why we’ve come up with a “How-To” guide focused on time-saving tips for teachers in this edition of our blog.
General Time-Saving Tips for Teachers
A lot of it has to do with organization and priorities. Study time, group projects, classroom games, holiday-specific activities, videos/movies, and free periods are typically lower priority than say, test prep, reading time, in-class activities, quizzes, general reviews, and standard lessons. While yes, the former activities are more fun and allow you to free up some class time for yourself, it’s at the expense of the student.
If you’re deliberate about planning, you can chunk up the time so your students still have the appropriate learning time, but you get some teacher time too. Do this by structuring things in clusters. Put lessons and lectures together while you put work time and study time together to allow for fewer interruptions on either side.
You may not notice how much time is sucked out of the day with things like taking roll, housekeeping, and catching up from the weekend. While the occasional Q&A is nice for bonding with students, making it a regular thing can greatly detract from the overall productivity of the day.
One way to streamline attendance, specifically, is to have them do it themselves. It could be with a sign-in sheet you check later or some sort of magnet board that makes it pretty obvious who’s there and who isn’t. Of course, later in the year, you may get better at simply visualizing who’s absent or not as you become more familiar with your students, but in the beginning, that’s a way to manage it.
If you haven’t already, you should also make it known to your students that classroom materials are readily available and accessible. Whether that be by subject or student is up to you, but if you have things you use often (think textbooks, activity folders, and various materials in a designated spot), they can collect their things before sitting down at their seats. If the gathering process is taking up too much time either at the beginning or in the middle of class, you can consider spreading the cubbies/folders/containers in different areas of the room so only a certain group of students is there at a time rather than the whole class lining up.
Color-coding folders not only work for your students, but they can help you. You can quickly begin to identify a certain class, hour, and subject by the colored folder rather than having to look at every single header at the top of an assignment.
Instead of taking the time to pass up papers or assignments, you can simply have your students drop them in a bin as they leave the classroom. It’s the same thing with returning their classroom belongings to the cubbies/shelves/containers; they’ll be eager to do it as quickly as possible after class rather than at the beginning, as they need to get on with whatever is next in their day.
Quick Time-Saving Tips for Teachers
- Grade By Using the Bigger Picture, Not Minor Errors:
- You don’t need to mark every comma splice or misused semicolon unless you’re talking about a lesson on punctuation. Instead, highlight and focus on the errors that align directly with the lesson. If it’s an overall research paper, look for main ideas, themes, and sources, instead of minor flaws here and there.
- You can create a grading cheat sheet of sorts with common mistakes that you feel are important to point out. Then you have an idea of what you’re looking for rather than scouring each project or paper on an individual basis. This can streamline feedback and help you acknowledge errors you might have missed had you taken an hour to grade per student.
- Type and Provide Ample Copies of Detailed Instructions:
- In college courses, many students don’t pay attention on syllabi day, and when they have common questions, professors simply direct them to the syllabus or individual assignment sheets. You can do the same with your students of any grade. This way, you can easily direct them to that document instead of having to explain the instructions any time a student asks. (Of course, if they have specific questions that go beyond the assignment sheet or syllabus, you should tend to them, but this is for the classes you feel you have to repeat everything to.)
- Assign Numbers to Your Students Instead of Sorting Them Alphabetically:
- On the first day of class, you should consider assigning each student a number. Then, on every assignment, have them write that number large in the top corner. You can quickly sort things (or better yet, have them sort things) instead of having to sort them by looking at their last name for every assignment and test. It will automate the grade-inputting cycle as much as possible. (If you get a new student, however, you’d have to rework the system, but reassigning a number is miles easier than alphabetizing something every time you issue and grade an assignment.)
- Utilize Lesson & Email Templates:
- Who says you have to custom-make every lesson and email response? If you know the types of emails you receive often, you can create a template with interchangeable names and room for brief detail, and it could take you five minutes instead of fifteen. The same goes for lessons. If you regularly teach the same course, subject, or age, one year of tedious lesson planning can allow for easier loads in years to come.
- Consider Lesson Planning Websites:
- On the topic of lesson planning, there is available software designed to help teachers have an easier time. Then, if you want to throw together a lesson you didn’t plan on in August, you can, with minimal drudgery involved. You can save slides, documents, spreadsheets, data, etc., and have it all for next time.
- Budget Your Time Outside of School:
- You’re entitled to time off, even though your job makes it seem like you have to be on-call all day, every day. For the sake of your mental health, consider not having your school email logged in on your phone. This way, you’re deliberately designating time to respond to emails, instead of responding to individual emails when they come in at all hours of the evening. Budget time for grading, taking breaks, and planning for future assignments, but don’t forget yourself in the process.
- Cut the Clutter:
- We’re all privy to keeping things that might be useful later on. Think articles, papers, pamphlets, videos, sticky notes of ideas, and so forth. Yet, these things can clutter your desk, desktop, and workspace. If you don’t see any immediate benefit in whatever it is, don’t keep it around. Chances are you’ll be able to find the same information, video, or content later on if you need it. Having a clean workspace and desktop makes it easier to find what you need when you need it, rather than having to sort through individual icons, notes, and papers.
1st Place Spiritwear Knows the Value of Teachers and Time
We know how valuable time is for our teachers. It’s why we wanted to provide some time-saving tips for teachers in hopes that something we found can help out in some way.
Whether these are new ideas or old, you can take this as an opportunity to think of ways to save time in your own classroom. Do you notice yourself doing the same thing several times in a day, week, or year that could easily be automated or streamlined? Do you know what takes up most of your time? There’s no better time than now to figure out what’s causing you to feel like you don’t have enough time to do it all. Once you figure it out, you can implement new ideas and practices, ultimately finding that the time you took to sit down and restructure was well worth it.
Want more tips for teachers?