So You Think You’d Like To Teach Part 2: Time Management

Here’s part 2 of the So You Think You’d Like to Teach School series. The idea for this series came out of some questions I’ve gotten from folks interested in making teaching their profession.

Time Management

My first couple years of teaching were intense and exhausting – mentally and physically.  Changing my career in my early 30’s meant I had something to prove {at least to myself} and so I set out to be the best teacher ever.

The first few months of my new career I went to every single afternoon, evening and weekend teacher training offered because I wanted to, no, needed to KNOW IT ALL – NOW!  As a result, I worked a ridiculous number of days in a row without a break.

Something like 62. Completely nuts, I know now.

I assigned loads of homework and stressed out about the mountain of ungraded work quickly filling my otherwise empty filing cabinet. {I ended up just tossing it all in the recycling bin ungraded at the end of the year}.

Days started before sunrise and most nights I came home ravenous after dark.

I agonized over lesson planning, parent interactions, and special education plans.

Even though I had a mentor and was married to a teacher who kept telling me to slow down, to take care of myself and to understand I was still learning, I just kept going and going and going.

Looking back, I’m not quite sure how I survived.

I set out to be the best teacher ever and instead I got strep throat by Labor Day and pretty much stayed sick all year.

Strawberry Twizzlers were consumed by the pound.

I gained weight, slept horribly and developed an enviable case of stress acne.

My stomach was constantly in knots, as was my back.

My students were nervous around me, by winter break I was convinced I didn’t have the energy to finish the school year and someone’s mom called me a bitch at Open House {true story}.

Why am I telling you all this?

I hope you can learn from the mistakes I made my first years and learn how to take care of yourself while you are becoming the best teacher you can be.

How much time did I put in to teaching my first year?

All of my time. I wouldn’t let myself have any fun. I just worked. I barely had time to groom myself because I was completely obsessed with school work.

My friends told me they felt like school year widows because they never saw me anymore.

Would I do it like that again?

I would hope not! Old perfectionism habits are hard to break, but my aim would be to not run myself ragged.

Here’s the thing, teaching is like a marathon – slow and steady really does win the race. It is physically, mentally and emotionally impossible to sprint a marathon.

Time Management Tips for New Teachers

Do not expect to know it all right away (or ever). That is ok. You are human and a beginner. Be nice to yourself.

Look beyond your school for help and community. You may find kindred teaching spirits online, so develop your tech muscles. Twitter has changed the way I think about teaching. I no longer feel completely dependent on those people I know in person to give me some direction in my classroom.

Ask for help in your classroom – what can you delegate to parents? Some really do want to help.

Suggestions for things in the room and ideas for things for them to take home:

  • grading quizzes
  • filing your papers (if you choose to handle your papers like this)
  • updating your class website or blog
  • updating classroom bulletin boards
  • writing your class newsletter (edited by you, of course)
  • making copies
  • making academic posters for your room
  • organizing class parties/field trips/class speakers/libraries
  • teaching art lessons
  • coordinating the garden project you’d love to do, but simply don’t have the time to do all by yourself
  • reading one-on-one with students
  • running a math center station
  • tutoring students with specific gaps – addition/subtraction facts, fluency.

Ask yourself what can you do LESS of? Grading homework? Having perfectly crafted bulletin boards may look lovely, but it is worth your sanity?

Decide what you how you will handle your papers before you get your classroom keys- I was astounded my the sheer volume of papers coming into my classroom. Please for the love of god, whatever you do, don’t just pile it on the corner of your desk or dump it in a filing cabinet. Take it from me, you’ll want to make it a priority to only handle papers once. Also: get a huge recycling bin.

Seek out a mentor who you admire their work/life balance – again, you may find this person online rather than at your school site.

Set a time limit for the number of hours you will work each day and then stop. Finally in my third year I decided I had to leave school by 4:00. I could work a little at home and on the weekends, but 4 was my school limit. I found after that I was just spinning my wheels, chatting with other teachers and generally not getting much accomplished anyway. I promise, the work will wait for you.

Exercise daily. Can you combine obsessive teacher talk (we’ve all got it at some level) with a brisk walk? One of my friends walks every morning before school with her grade level partner thus killing two birds with one stone.  Absolutely brilliant if you ask me!

Go to bed early. About 5 years ago while trying to battle yet another illness, I started going to bed in the 9 o’clock hour instead of 10. Changed my life! So much less need for caffeine and sugar when I am properly rested.

+++++

Did I miss anything? If so, leave me a note in the comments.

Stay tuned for upcoming topics in the series: Classroom Management, Taming the Homework Beast, Parents: Friend or Foe?

3 thoughts on “So You Think You’d Like To Teach Part 2: Time Management

  1. These tips are all golden! I am student teaching right now, and this is super helpful. I am trying to learn these tips now so that I *don’t* run myself ragged my first year. My mentor frequently reminds me that this whole thing is a marathon, so I am working at pacing myself.

    He’s got a pretty good filing system going, and we keep a big bin for recycling and use it regularly. Being pretty anal about keeping your classroom tidy really helps. And we both like our evenings, so we usually leave by 4 with the occasional staying until 5 (maybe once a week at most) to play catch up if we got in the weeds.

    Like you, my husband is a teacher too. And he is the calmest, most centered teacher I know. I am hoping some of him rubs off on me. Perfectionism kills in teaching. The greatest thing to learn, I think, is to know where the balance is between good and good enough. You don’t want to phone it in all the time, but it’s okay to not have every lesson be perfect.

  2. Don’t forget to have a good sense of humor about things. Not all the lessons will go as planned (yes you do need to make sure to plan lessons, even 9 years later). But that usually informs your next lesson if you’re wise. I try to remember at least one funny story about my day to share with my husband as a reward for us both amidst the sad and frustrating stories.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s