Sometimes we feel that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do all that needs to be done. When you are a teacher, lessons, marking, prep work, eating, even going to the toilet are all done under the ticking hands of the clock. Teachers know that this profession truly does have too much work for the number of hours a day. However, it is possible to manage this situation with good time management skills. With effective time management skills, teachers can increase their productivity and provide a better education for their pupils.
Here are a few tips that will hopefully help those looking to improve their time management in the classroom.
Stop the lesson 10 minutes before the bell rings. This will leave you with enough time to tidy up and to get that plenary in. This can be easier said than done because we teachers like to squeeze in as much time as we can to continue with the lesson. However, the plenary should not be discarded – this is the first thing to go if you are running out of time. Plenaries are an integral part of the lesson which allows the teacher to assess the learning that has taken place within that lesson, as well as to allow for revision and consolidating learning for the children.
Create a to-do list for the day. No teacher should be without a to-do list unless they have the memory of an elephant. While on the one hand, to-do lists are invaluable for the much-needed reminders, on the other hand, if they are not used wisely they will consume every minute of your non-teaching time, and some lists will never come to an end. For this reason, it is important to prioritise the tasks. Tick off the ones you have completed. This will give you a feeling of satisfaction and what is left to be done will be clear.
Keep a clean and tidy desk. This one is a hard one for me! Sometimes my desk looks as if it has been hit by a bomb, but on the days that it is tidy, less time is wasted looking for things. A cluttered desk may sometimes be unavoidable, especially during the busy school day. However, always spend some time to make sure it is organised for the next day. This way you will start every day more organised, with a clear desk and a clear mind.
Stick to the lesson plan. It is easy to get sidetracked during the lesson by pupils’ contributions. This can sometimes be a good thing, as it is important for children to share their ideas and for productive discussions to take place. However, always try to bring the lesson back to the plan making sure your teaching objectives and learning outcomes have been covered. Then go on to adjust the next lesson accordingly, if you need to. Sometimes it is inevitable that you will have to move away from the lesson plan, but don’t make this into a habit.
Use timers for independent activities and group work. This is an effective strategy to keep children on task and on time. Children in the primary years have little to no concept of time. So, saying you have ten minutes to complete this task can mean absolutely nothing to them. That is why a visual aid is helpful when it comes to managing time within the classroom. A visual aid helps children to manage their time effectively and learn to work under time constraints, it also helps you, as a teacher, to allocate the planned time for the specific tasks, pair work and helps you manage the timing of the lesson in a very efficient way. There are many timers you can find online for free, just do a simple search and choose your favourite ones.
Use your non-teaching times wisely. Again, another hard one to master, for which teacher doesn’t wish to use their non-contact time to interact with other colleagues and have adult conversations. This is important for teacher well-being and, of course, is necessary. However, choose how to best use your non-teaching time. On the days you have a busy schedule then yes, use them for downtime. However, on lighter days use them together with your to-do list, to get some more things done. Marking just a few books a day will help keep your marking under control and you will feel better for it.
Adjust your marking strategy. In an ideal world, every single piece of work should be marked thoroughly and given back to the pupil immediately. Although this sounds good in theory, in a real classroom setting it is impossible. It’s unnecessary to grade absolutely everything that is handed in. Check with your school’s marking scheme policy regarding minimum guidelines, then adjust your marking strategy accordingly. Oral feedback could also be given to pupils, and that can be just as effective as written feedback, in some cases even more so. Meaningful feedback is important, just don’t feel the need to painstakingly correct every single thing you receive.
Effective time management is all about working smarter and identifying ways you can work less, yet more productively. These are just a few of the things you can do to improve efficiency. Hopefully, you can benefit from them and improve your productivity as an educator. No one is going to manage your time for you – it’s your responsibility to make those adjustments and do what works best for you. You will be surprised as to how simple it really is.
Peppi Orfanogianni @savedyouaspot is a teacher with 20 years of experience. She has studied in the UK and is currently working in a British School, in Greece. Peppi writes a successful education blog, ‘Saved you a Spot’ at savedyouaspot.com