Saturday, August 13, 2016

40 hour work weeks???

Good morning colleagues! I was scrolling through Twitter this week when I stumbled across a post about teachers saving time.

I thought the article was quite good, and it made me think about how I've learned to save time over the last ten years of teaching. 

Once I started teaching with iPads, my work life balance went completely out the window. I felt like my teaching career was going down the drain (i.e. I had concerns that I was going to get fired), so I put more time and effort into my job to be the best teacher I could be. That meant that I was working 10-11 hours a day through lesson prep, teaching, and grading/feedback. I was trying to do it all, and I was burning myself out quickly. I really had to take a good look at what I was doing to find a healthy balance and cut out what I didn't NEED to be doing anymore. Having 1:1 technology in my classroom worked in my favor to make these changes. 

This last week, I was still working 10 hour days, but that was because of meeting with teachers who needed support in their class. Hopefully this next week slows down. But here are some things that I'm doing to support myself in having a life outside of my profession. 

  1. This summer, I finalize my flipped learning. Part of this was to get it posted on Teachers Pay Teachers, but part of it was to simplify my life. I realized that I was having the students take quizzes, create sketchnotes, post reading discussions... and I couldn't keep up with all of the grading. The reason I was doing flipped learning was to ensure that students were accessing content information, and a quiz could easily tell me if they were paying attention. Schoology quizzes aren't perfect, but they work fine for what I need and it grades the quizzes automatically. Problem. Solved. Now I just do a quick check every morning to make sure students are completing the quizzes, and then send weekly missing assignment notices and D/F e-mails to keep parents informed (Infinite Campus is not the best, but their messenger functionality is top notch! Such a time saver!). Keeping parents informed is incredibly important as it sets a tone that I communicate with parents and care about my students.
  2. I've started using Socrative in the classroom a lot! I've heard of Socrative for five years now, but never understood the hype and never really gave it a shot. Last year, I would use Kahoot as a formative assessment, but ISTE and GAFE hit home why Kahoot is not all that great. Yes, it is fun, and I will still use it for fun in my class, but some students are slower processors. Why am I punishing them for not being a fast clicker? Anyway, Socrative is amazing as I can do quick checks or exit tickets, or can do full on quizzes or a Space Race. I can then download reports of their answers, and now I am in the process of moving the information to a massive Google Sheet to show their growth over a unit. I am finally figuring out how to progress monitor, and have data that I can show my evaluator!
The blog post also listed five ways to save time, so I thought I would break those down as well.
1) Eliminate unintentional breaks.

I've realized that I cannot have much going on in the background when I work. I definitely CANNOT have the tv on as background noise because I will watch whatever's on tv. The best thing for me (and my coffee addiction, but not my wallet) is to go to a coffee shop and work for 3-4 hours. This also ties in to #5 below as I have a set time where I work.
2) Figure out The Main Thing and do it first.

I'm pretty bad at this one as I do all of the simple tasks first to avoid what I really need to get done. The big thing that I procrastinate the most at is grading, so I need to make sure grading gets done at school and use weekend time to plan for the next week of school. I have started to schedule meetings with people, so I don't let them do a "fly by" to my classroom to ask me a question. "Need video, blogging, Google help? Let's find a time this week for you to come by." This way I am using my plan time for what I need. And if a teacher doesn't want to schedule that time, then the question probably was not that important. AND this sets boundaries with my colleagues so they know I am not always available (plus I am not an instructional coach anyway!)
3) Work ahead by batching and avoid multi-tasking unless the work is mindless.

I am pretty inefficient with batching work. The best example of this is that I leave my e-mail open all day and reply to e-mails as soon as I can. I need to close my e-mail so that I reply to all e-mails at the beginning or end of the day where I'm focused on the task at hand: e-mailing.
4) Look for innovative ways to relax any standards that create unnecessary work.

I am a perfectionist when it comes to my classroom and curriculum, so I need to relax my standards. Step one for this this year was to allow flexible seating and make my students clean up the classroom at the end of each day. I do not need to do this for my students - they can be responsible for moving a chair to a stack in the classroom, or putting a yoga ball under the table. AND not everything has to be perfect at all times; I have to decide what the priority is and focus on that.
5) Use scheduling to create boundaries around your time.

I am started working on this last year, and am trying to amp it up this year. I told myself, leave school at 4. 7 am - 4 pm is a 9 hour day. I don't need to work more than 9 hours a day. I will have days where I leave later, but I should not have to take more than 9 hours to get a task done. That requires me to create boundaries with my colleagues, and requires me to schedule weekend time to get extra work done, but I need to have free time myself. I am a teacher, but that is not the only thing that I am. 
Wow, this was a rather lengthy post, but I felt like it was important for me to think about the changes I am making and how I am growing as a teacher. I hope some of this advice is useful, and some of these thoughts spark some ideas for your own classroom. 

Thanks for reading! I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel
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