Life as a teacher is busy, busy, busy! I don’t think you truly know until you have been there with a to do list a mile long, deadlines looming and 30 little bosses in the classroom all wanting something from you (I say that in the most loving of ways!)
Productivity and efficiency are two very important things for me as a teacher. Even though I love my job (and I really, really love it), I don’t want to be spending all my spare time on all the teacher things. One thing I pride myself on is getting things done quickly and well. And I think one of the keys to longevity and success in our chosen vocation is that we learn to work smarter and not harder as teachers.
So here they are, my top (quite lengthy) tips for teacher efficiency and productivity:
1. Mark student work as you go
This one is self-explanatory but have that pen and stamp out wherever you go. Whatever you mark in the moment will save you time later. Also remember, whatever you mark on the day is something that won’t end up on your to do list later on!
2. Record dates, deadlines and to do’s
I record EVERYTHING in my planner! That way it is all in one place and things don’t get lost. I also write anything that is due or required of me in red on the day it is due (and I even record a little reminder the week before it is due too so nothing creeps up on me).
3. Do things straight away
I learned this tip from one of the best. My second grade-partner was the queen of efficiency, and her secret was to do things as they came to her (no room for procrastination!!) In a staff meeting, if we were asked to try something new, she would do it the next day. She responded to emails on the spot, sent data to the principal as soon as it was asked for and started writing her reports early. I’m sure her to do list was never too long because she just got stuck in there and did stuff!
4. Rank Tasks
Not everyone can be like my grade-partner, some of us end up with loads of things on our to do list (don’t fret, I can relate!) Try looking at your list and ranking the tasks according to importance, relevance, time limitations and impact on student outcomes. It will help you see where you need to invest your time to begin with. My mum, another amazingly organised teacher, uses this strategy but she gets all the easy, quick jobs out of the way first so she can focus on the big job at hand.
5. Create a filing system
We end up with loads of loose papers and bits and pieces as teachers. Dedicate some time to create a filing system that works for you (this also includes digital files). I try not to keep too much paper anymore but my motto is I have 2 choices: file it or recycle it! I had another awesome grade partner who had the simplest filing system ever and it worked! She kept a plastic folder in the bottom drawer of her desk labelled with the term. Every spare worksheet she had went into it. That way she could always grab spares for students or teachers that needed it and she only had one folder to file away at the end of each term. It was super easy to go back and grab the folder the following year and just sift through for anything that was worthwhile.
6. Keep displays
Classroom displays take so much time to make and put up, save yourself the work year after year! I laminate most things so they will last and pack all my displays in large snap lock bags. I label the bags and they are super easy to store but also easy to find again later. This has saved me so much time over the years, especially when I have changed and swapped grades.
7. Record all assessment data
Being efficient throughout the school year will most definitely help you when it comes to writing reports. My biggest tip for report writing efficiency is to grade all your student’s assessments as you mark them and record them in a central place. It makes it so much easier and clearer when it comes time to assigning them a grade on their report (plus you have the evidence to support your decision!)
8. Allocate ‘homes’ for EVERYTHING
This is something your students can help with. Allocate a place for every single thing in your classroom, teach the kids where everything lives and insist on things being returned. Not only will this save you time when pulling out resources for a lesson but you won’t be left with chaos to clean up yourself, taking you way from more important jobs at hand!
9. Systems for emails
When I first started teaching, emails weren’t a thing (yep I am feeling like a dinosaur right now!) Emails are an important part of our work now so it is vital you find a way to keep on top of them. I like to organise my emails with everything that is ‘unread’ at the top. I even mark emails as unread if I need to action something and can’t do it straight away. Filing useful emails into folders can be helpful. I’ve even been known to send myself a cheeky email with things I need to do so I can get them off my mind while I am out and about.
10. Post box
Create a place in your classroom (it doesn’t need to be a post box) that students can put notes, anything for the office, permission slips etc at the beginning of the day. It will free you up while everyone is entering the classroom but it also means that everything will be in one central place for you to sort through.
Being productive and efficient can definitely help you can help you become a more successful teacher. The trick is to keep your mind open and ask others how they do things. This is by far the best tip I can give you. I have learned my best tricks from more experienced teachers around me. What are your favourite productivity and efficiency tips?
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