Time Management

Here are a few tips for making the most of the school day while finding time for yourself:

Look at the day as a whole rather than as segments. Plan your instruction around themes and integrate the curriculum wherever possible. Also, look at what activities could be combined to save time.

Remember that lessons don't always have to be taught "by the [text]book." No one expects you to cover every page.

  • One idea is to plan a week at a time, in general rather than specific terms. Perhaps your one-week strategy is to cover Chapter 9. During that week, you can plan numerous activities connected with Chapter 9, though not necessarily in a rigid sequence.

  • If you are an elementary teacher, you might think of your classes as belonging to three groups: communication, problem-solving and life skills. Give blocks of time to each area.

  • If you don't finish today's objective today, don't worry about it. There's always tomorrow.

Think of your "to do" list as an "I did it" list. Start each week with a general plan, broken into the tasks to be completed to accomplish your goal. Prioritize the list and as you complete each task, check it off. At the end of the day, allow yourself to feel a sense of accomplishment as you look at the visual reminder of all you did get done.

Use templates whenever possible. One time saver to use when making out your schedule is to make up one chart at the beginning of the year, grading period, or semester, with all "givens" (such as lunches and special classes) already marked on it. Then make enough copies to last you for the term.

Set up routines at the beginning of the year. Routines are especially helpful for maintaining order and saving time at the beginning of the day and when coming back from breaks.

  • Elementary teachers might want to have a "Check-In" board. Student names are listed on the board, with two library card envelopes pasted next to each name. Each student has two cards: one for attendance and one for their lunch preference. The attendance card is marked "In" at one end and "Out" at the other. The lunch card is marked "Hot Lunch" at one end and "Milk" at the other. Each morning as students come in, they simply "check in" at the board, at the same time indicating whether they will be buying lunch or just milk.

  • Once you have your final student list in alphabetical order, assign a number to each student. Make it clear that anything the student hands in needs to have his or her name and number on it. Graded papers can then be easily put in order for quick recording in your grade book.

  • Try using an "answer column" system to make it easier to grade quizzes and tests. The student marks a column on the right side of the paper. All answers are then written, in order, in the answer column.

  • Have "finished work" boxes on your desk. These can be color-coded or otherwise marked to indicate group or subject.

  • Post a list of activities students can choose to engage in when they have completed an in-class project or test early.

  • Try having an extra chair next to your desk. Students can then sit quietly while waiting for you to acknowledge them.

  • Set up a class cleanup time. Assign tasks to teams of students and set aside the last five or ten minutes of each day for getting the classroom in order

Practice the art of stealing time. While time in the classroom belongs to your students, correct papers or complete reports while the class is working on individual activities.

  • Try making a list of routine jobs and assign them to students. Rotate jobs.

  • Make grading papers a learning activity by having students correct each other's work during the class period. Immediate feedback to students is beneficial at all levels.

  • Assign "proofing buddies." Each student is responsible for checking his or her own work as well as that of their "proofing buddy" before papers are turned in to the teacher. This gives students the opportunity to correct careless mistakes and can end up saving you a great deal of correcting time.

Enlist the help of parents. Make a list of your routine clerical tasks as well as the average amount of time required and frequency of each. Post this at your first Open House and ask for volunteers.

Take advantage of the experience of your colleagues. Make it a point to get to know one or two experienced teachers in your building. Learn from their mistakes, listen to their advice and ask them about some of your more difficult classroom problems. You'll feel less alone and more able to cope.

Build relationships. Take the time to say hello to other important people: the librarians, secretaries, counselors, school nurses, cafeteria workers and custodians.

Some things to do for yourself. The classroom should be set up not just for the comfort and convenience of your students. Since it is where you spend most of your waking hours, try to make it as comfortable and pleasing to you as possible. Here are a few ideas:

  • Try enlarging your work area by putting another desk or a table next to your desk.

  • Bring a small radio to listen to when students aren't present.

  • Keep plants or flowers on your desk.

  • Post pictures and poems or sayings that have special meaning to you.

Carve out some time for yourself each and every day-at least an hour. Don't take loads of work home if you don't have to. You'll be more productive and less tired if you come early or stay late and leave the evenings for yourself, your friends and your family  

7 keys to managing your time