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Testyteach Testyteach is offline
 
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Advice for the weary...
Old 03-17-2019, 04:29 AM
 
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I've been on the hamster wheel for so long now, and I truly would like to find a better balance so I can have more of a personal life. My question for those of you that actually only work a few hours after contract hour per week, what is your secret to staying organized, and ready for the day? I truly spend 60 hours per week, if not more, trying to stay on top of the demands. I teach elementary, all subjects, and the state testing year. What gets me the most is it appears that other teachers with less experience in the grade level and teaching, get to school at most 20 minutes before school starts and leave when the last kid exits the classroom. It's my quest to figure out how they do this. I sometimes wonder if I'm just not savvy or talented enough to pull it off like they do. I can't help but feel less than adequate at times. What has helped you to trim the excess off your working hours? Do you have any must read or must do resources that you can recommend?


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Old 03-17-2019, 05:58 AM
 
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I have heard people here talk about a thing called 40 hour work week. I haven't looked at it though.

What do you spend most of your time doing? Grading? Making copies? Planning? Finding stuff?

I started tossing extra copies. I don't need to take my time putting them away. Too wasteful of my time resource and the clutter starts to drive me crazy.

I have a crate that my copies and things I need at hand are stored inside hanging files. I have 2 weeks worth of materials for classes (copies, read aloud, answer keys) are stored Monday-Friday. I have some drawers marked by subject that I store copies that I have made or bumped that I still want to use, so that I know where to look when I am needing them. I have a couple of binders of other types of copies that I use regularly (math fact pages) and different forms that I reuse.

Kids turn things in by subject and things stay in there until I grade them or grab them to see who has or hasn't turned things in. I use folders to store them in (graded, to be graded, return to students, reteach to students...) I have student helpers who file the things that go back to students in an accordion file.

I try to get/keep all the things I use on my computer so I don't have to go physically through things at school to find them. Then I can look for them whenever convenient, not just when I am at school.

I don't do bulletin boards very often. Lucky if I hang things up on the wall a couple of times a year - mostly when we have events that will invite people into the school.

I usually go in about 30-45 minutes early and stay for up to an hour. This year my time has been pulled because I have a new to my grade level teacher who needs support. I spend a lot of time sharing things with her and/or answering her questions. Then I still need to do my own work. I don't mind it and I know it will come back to me in the end (next year).

Grading takes the most of my out of hours time. If I can, I try to have the kids grade things. Some quick and monotonous things I have a parent helper keep me up on. Some things I hold on to because I don't want to grade them, and then I end up throwing them away instead of grading. I try to take a lot of short exit slips to grade or observational grades often so I have data.
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I usually do the 40 hour week...
Old 03-17-2019, 06:23 AM
 
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though not "The 40 hour work week" by the blogger--I've read some about it.

I usually get to school about 45 minutes +/- before start time and leave 15-20 minutes after the kids.

Organization is key. I color code as much as possible. I follow a lot of what was mentioned above. I do not grade every single thing-but do not let them know.

I try to steal usable moments throughout the day. If some random free time comes up, I use it as much as possible. There are lots of small tasks that can fit into just a minute or three.

Most importantly, when I begin to feel overwhelmed (or first notice it,)instead of speeding up and doing more--I slow down for a moment. I take a minute or 5 to collect myself and calm my thoughts. I admit that plan does have it's problems when several overwhelming moments come close together...

Good Luck.
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Old 03-17-2019, 07:22 AM
 
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I think it depends on the demands of your type of school. Some schools/administrators expect you to be working with students at all times. For example if you arenít teaching whole group you should be teaching small group. If you arenít working with students in some capacity you are written up if an administrator walks in. It makes it difficult to get jobs done throughout the day. Our specials have been taken up by mandatory PLCs and team planning. We each have 1/2 hour a week to prep. Any other prep work must be done before or after school or on our own time. Some things that I always thought were important went by the wayside. I had to let go of some of the fluff. Anytime I can have my Kindergarteners organize things I do. For example when collecting papers I call them in alphabetical order so when I grade I can input easier. When new stations are introduced my students are the ones who organize them. At the end of the day the students clean and make sure the classroom is tidy. They clean the tables and clean the floor. While I still work extra hours Iím not working 60+ hours every week. There are times like the beginning of the year or during conferences that I will work that many hours. Iíd make a list of the things you wonít compromise on and a list of things you can let go. It is helpful to see what is truly helpful to learning and what is fluff. Good luck!
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Not everyone...
Old 03-17-2019, 07:23 AM
 
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...but this is me. I used to get to school early and stay at school late. I found that people would pop in to chat as I was near the exit. Now, I go about in about 20 minutes before the bell and MOST days leave fairly soon after students. I lug it all home. As I age, I find I'd rather lug it and work in my PJs.


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Old 03-17-2019, 09:05 AM
 
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Quote:
Anytime I can have my Kindergarteners organize things I do. For example when collecting papers I call them in alphabetical order so when I grade I can input easier.

7more you input grades for Kinders? One of the best parts of teaching K (for me) is no grading!
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Old 03-17-2019, 09:08 AM
 
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Since time spent depends on your P and district expectations, I’m fortunate things aren’t crazy in my building.
Since we get a daily prep, I use every minute of it. I do go in about an hour early, when traffics is light, building is quiet and I’m ready to roll. I do leave soon after students. Overall, what I can only do at school I do—making copies, filing, most planning since my materials are there, etc. If it can be done at home, I do that—grade papers, input grades into computer if I haven’t done it at work, some looking over new materials for planning. I do keep this to a minimum though. I’d ratherbe at home with my cup of tea, relaxing at my table working on things than at school.
I also keep chatting and socializing to a minimum. I’m not anti social by any means but I see so many, just chatting away after school for the longest time or wasting a prep just talking.
I also eat lunch in my room. I need the quiet to regroup for the afternoon but I also am checking in homework, reading/writing emails, gather things for the afternoon if I hadn’t done it before school for some reason.
I also try not to reinvent the wheel with curriculum. I have monthly files and curriculum files. When that skill/strategy comes up to teach, I go to my files and pull what I used last year, if it still applies. If not, then I tweak it.
I just don’t have the stamina or time available to put in an entire Saturday or Sunday in addition to what I already do.
Good luck freeing yourself . I hope you find your little areas to consolidate things.

Last edited by Violets2; 03-17-2019 at 01:09 PM..
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Old 03-17-2019, 11:28 AM
 
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Start by tracking your time. How much time are you REALLY spending on schoolwork? I know for me, when I started tracking, my "I spent my whole prep time and didn't get anything finished" turned into "Wow, after trying to find the lost papers, getting sidetracked chatting with a colleague, reorganizing my desk for the 10th time, rummaging through my desk for chocolate, and perusing Facebook for a little bit" I wasn't getting that much actual work done during those precious minutes. Track your time.

What worked for me was getting SUPER organized. I know where everything is and can find it quickly. I have a lesson plan template that is easy to edit for each new week. I have streamlined systems for everything from classroom management to grading. I don't do busy work, like putting up pretty new bulletin boards every week. I found that for me, things like nightly homework grading and assigning classroom jobs were massive time-sucks with very little payoff. I make ALL the lists, and stick to them. I prioritize in order of importance, so what might look overwhelming at first glance is really just "Oh, I have five minutes right now, what can I do that's at the top of my list in these five minutes?" Five minutes isn't enough time to switch my leveled books out, but it's plenty of time to make a quick phone call to a parent or wipe down the counters or take those papers to the office to file. It's about maximizing efficiency at school so you're not staying after or dragging tons of work home every night. I do get to school about 45 minutes to an hour early every day, and I almost always have a little work to do at home, but I leave when the kids do, and it's nice to be home watching Netflix if you're stuck grading papers after school. I'm very lucky that our Specials schedule has my students out of the room basically the last 45 minutes of the day on M,T, and F, so I have that time to prep for the next day. Friday is especially a godsend, as I can set up for the following week and have very little work to do over the weekend.

I did join the 40-hour workweek club, and I'm on the fence about it. Many of the tips, like writing lists, are just kind of "duh". There are some excellent resources that can help keep you organized, like class list generators (type the names in once, print off every list imaginable, from parent sign-ins to fire drill checklists), but many of these are available on TPT at low cost. The greatest benefit to me has been connecting with other overworked teachers on the private FB group. I've gotten so many ideas from them and it's nice to just be in the company of people who are tired of working 80 hours a week and neglecting themselves and their families. I'm not "sure" I got $200 worth of value out of joining (plus $50 or so to join the "graduate" program after the first year), but I'd semi-recommend it just for the support of other teachers in the FB group.
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I would say my biggest time savers are
Old 03-17-2019, 12:00 PM
 
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1. I know the standards and pacing guide for my GL almost inside and out.
2. I am no longer a perfectionist ( haven't been in yrs.)
3. I do go an hr before the kids get there, but usually only stay late if someone I like starts chatting w/ me or we have a meeting.
4. If the kids can do it, I let them. ( In some countries kids clean the teacher's desk even.) haha I don't go that far. Kids do BB's though.
5. I grade about 1/3 of the kid's work. The rest of it ( practices mostly) goes in the garbage or gets a comment ( spotcheck). Also, as I wander, I check when the kids work on assignments. ( I mark where I stopped so it is easier to go back and check the rest later.)
6. It took me yrs to learn that despite my best intentions, I do not bring any work home w/me. It seldom made it back w/me and ended up wasting my personal garbage bags. It was easier to let the custodian take it out then and there...
7. My top 2 priorities are academics and student behavior. I take both seriously. My kids make very good progress most of the time. I do care about my kids and think of fun ways to do some things, but fun and fancy are not my top priorities.
Also, I think a lot of it all is grade level dependent. I have been in the same lvl for many yrs. My time savers prob would not work as well for a K-3 teacher as they do for grades 4-6.
Also, it is school dependant. I seldom do this, but have put grades in the computer, graded papers, and completed meaningless paperwork during class time when needed. ( I worked at a school before that they might say something if you got caught doing that.) I am at a point now that I would respond if called on it with, " Well, quit giving me this meaningless stuff or up my prep time."
Working contract hours is something I have tried to do for many yrs. ( Not always successfully!) It helps mental health and sends a message too. Admin needs to know we are not slaves.
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Old 03-17-2019, 03:02 PM
 
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I sometimes wonder if I'm just not savvy or talented enough to pull it off like they do. I can't help but feel less than adequate at times.
I'm sure this isn't the case! We could all spend countless hours at school - there's always something else that can be done. It's a conscious choice not to do it.


I have learned to let a lot of things go. I also reuse a lot. My bulletin boards are super easy and stay almost the same all year long. One is for writing and I just slide in a new writing assignment and slide out the old one (paper clips). One is for art - that one changes once a month but it's just putting up art, nothing else fancy. It's not boring, just simple and clean. I never change the borders or anything. Most of my center work is reused year to year, and organized so that I can just quickly switch it out when we get to that unit or skill.



I focus on one thing a year that I really want to change/revise/refine, and keep everything else the same. Some years that's dictated to me because we have a change of curriculum or some other big "thing" we are doing as a staff, some years it's personal and what I feel needs changed.


I get everything prepped and ready for 1-2 weeks at a time so that when things pop up I have time to make those copies or deal with it.


I don't do things just because everyone else is doing it. My motto is "less is more" and theirs seems to be "more is more". I pick and choose carefully.


It's beneficial to write down how much time you are spending on things and really look closely at your time management. Start with what you are spending the most time on and find a way to pare that down first. Are you spending time on unnecessary tasks? Are there things that the kids can do to help?


Good luck!


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Old 03-17-2019, 04:07 PM
 
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I am one of those teachers who sticks mostly to contract hours. Honestly, part of it is that I read/write/process very quickly. I have very few "special skills" but this is one of them. I've always gotten tasks done more quickly than others.

My teammate works 80 hours per week. Among a myriad of other issues, I was flabbergasted one day when she told me she "can't get work done at work." Imagine my surprise when every other teacher we were sitting with said the same thing. She just can't focus and get anything done during planning/lunch, before/after school during contract time, etc. What are you doing during these times?

Here are some of the things that work for me:

1) I use every moment of free time. I have a running to do list constantly on a sticky attached to my laptop. If I have one minute before kids come in, I'm doing something. If I'm sitting in our PD room waiting for a staff meeting to start, I've got my laptop and I'm doing something. I use every second of my plan time and before/after school contract time. During lunch, I stop to eat with my teammate, and then when I'm finished actually eating my food, go back to working. As I'm walking kids to lunch or whatever, I'm planning out in my head what I need to get done as soon as I drop them off.

2)I started planning fewer days at a time. I used to plan for the whole week and then found that halfway through the week, I was spending so much time "tweaking" plans due to unexpected schedule changes, kids moving slower/faster than I thought, needing to focus on a different area than I thought, etc. that I was basically doing the same work twice. Now I almost never plan more than 1-2 days out.

3) Figure out what is a "must do," what is a "must do but not really important" and what is a "nice to do." For example, for me a "must do but not really important" is a service log my district makes me do. I have to document every time I see a student. My teammate spends forever making these logs detailed, yet if anyone looks at them at all it's only to see that they're complete. I type in the required info and then copy and paste "small group direct instruction" under the "treatment" for all of them. This is something to get done as quickly as possible, not something to spend time and effort on.

Cut out your "nice to do" stuff. This might be cutesy props or projects, cutesy decorations, etc. I put nice paper and borders on my bulletin boards at the beginning of the year, put up some information students will always need, and then fill the rest with student work or anchor charts created in class. There is no need to do cutesy holiday themes or change out decorations. My teammate rewrites all of her anchor charts after kids leave to make them look perfect- waste of time.

Figure out what's eating up your time and if it's an absolute "must do." Are you grading too much or spending too much time giving super specific feedback most kids won't read? Are you spending tons of time contacting parents, some of whom are probably more bothered by this than pleased? Figure out the parents who want this type of communication and spend the time on them. Contact others only when it's truly needed.

Also consider the structure of your lessons. Are you spending lots of time trying to come up with dog and pony show type activities? My class is very routine based and this honestly benefits students A LOT. It majorly cuts down on behavior issues because it's a predictable environment and they know what to do. As a bonus for me, it also makes planning a lot easier.
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Lots of good advice
Old 03-17-2019, 05:36 PM
 
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You have been given a lot of good advice. As a special educator, I have a ton of paperwork. I was doing a lot of it at home and using up most of my Sundays on my students instead of enjoying the time with my family. Once I started to stick to my guns about only working my contract time (unless I felt the need to work over it) then I found I used my planning more efficiently.

It became a mindset for me. I did was was required, but only within the confines of my contract time. I had someone tell me last week that I could just finish up my IEP at home. I replied back that when they came to clean my house, I would gladly do the IEP. They never showed up to clean and I finished the paperwork on my next work day.

Find where you are comfortable with your time. Look at time that may be wasted. 1-2 minutes here and there can add up quickly. Do you have to go to the copy center to make copies or can you send it via your computer (I loved this!!!). Do you have to make copies of notes for parents or can you send a quick email instead? Do you have to check folders for all kids or can you take 5-10 minutes a day for them to check folders/backpacks?

I wish you much luck in finding that balance. It's not easy, but when you find it, guard it
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Old 03-17-2019, 06:20 PM
 
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I had someone tell me last week that I could just finish up my IEP at home. I replied back that when they came to clean my house, I would gladly do the IEP. They never showed up to clean and I finished the paperwork on my next work day.
OMGosh, I love you!
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Old 03-17-2019, 06:29 PM
 
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I’ve got my routine down to a science. I work scheduled hours and rarely more. We only have 40 minutes for prep 3 times a week. I use that, lunch, 20 min during silent reading, and 35 min at the end at the end of the day to work quickly and efficiently. I teach 5th and use our curriculum maps to keep me on track and and help me efficiently write lesson plans quickly. I start writing next weeks lesson plans on Monday and pull material as I go. I finish my plans by the end of the day Monday, or finish Tuesday at the latest. I am not a fly by the seat of your pants type of person. End of the day Tuesday, I quickly edit my newsletter and forward plans and newsletter to my Principal. This gives me Wednesday and Thursday to grade. (We work M-Th 7:30-4:30). My students eat a snack they bring in and read for the last 20ish minutes if the day.). During this time, I write the next days scheduke on the board and pull materials. If I realize I need copies of something for the next day (rarely) I put it on my clip board and walk straight to the office to copy once students are released. Another thing I do is have a student if the day. They check signed newsletters and planners while I do lunch count and attendance. They take folders and notes to the office first thing. If I need a ream of paper or other supplies, they get it for me. They choose people to help quickly clean our lunch area. Also, during end of the day reading, they collect trash cans and put them by the door, empty pencil sharpeners, wipe counter, etc. when students are absent, student I’d rhe day pulls an orange folder and leaves it in absent student’s desk. As we move through our day, any work that is passed out goes in orange folder. It’s easy for me to glance through at the end if the day, and easy to send to the office if parent wants to puck up work. All wirk is returbedvin orange folder. I immediately pull out work that’s for a grade and try to grade and enter missing assignments or fix and return work quickly. During the week I keep an eye on who is missing assignments. I send reports gone for parents to sign and give a second copy if needed. This saves me for end of quarter. Rarely any missing assignments. When students turn in work, it goes on a numbered clip but keeps papers in number order. I put a half sheet on top with student names. I put comments like “absent” next to names. Once I grade, I put name of assignment, date, and points value at the top Bahia allows me to throw grades wirk in a bin that students file in student folders while i keep slip if papers to enter in grade book. Never leave for the day without being set up for the next day. Don’t give your time away for free. No one appreciates it. Not your admin. Not parents. Not students. Your work will never be done. I did the same as you for the first 10-12 years. My own children cane in last since. Felt like I always had to be working. I regret every free minute I gave away. Some teachers are martyrs when it comes to them working all the time. Don’t be one of them. Sorry this is so long. Typing on phone. Sorry for spelling mistakes.
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Grading
Old 03-18-2019, 04:58 AM
 
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@Zia. Yes, unfortunately we are mandated to collect Data and report it weekly during our PLC meetings. We must input at least 10 grades in our grade book weekly.
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Old 03-18-2019, 09:43 AM
 
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I did a lot of what Kahlua said. My biggest help was getting in a routine of what I did on what day of the week. I keep everything for the week in a folder so I can just grab and go to make copies. This cut down on my Planning tremendously. Also, I used things on TPT to were multifaceted. It would work on sight words, reading, handwriting, and sentences at once. I didnít take a million grades throughout the week. We would complete it and then go over it in class or we would do it as whole group and work along. This was feasible for me since Iím in lower elementary.
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Old 03-20-2019, 07:41 AM
 
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Stay out of the teachers lounge at lunch. Funny how the smallest rooms are the teachers lounge. Sometimes teachers stay late and spend more time chatting with other teachers. I've been guilty of that.
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Organizational Tips
Old 05-04-2019, 04:45 PM
 
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Hello,
I am a new special education teacher and need some advice about how to organize data for IEPs throughout the school year. This is an area in which I struggle. Also, how do you do your lesson plans?
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