Welcome, 2018! In many ways, I like to think of January as the start of a new school year. Both students and teachers have had time to relax and reflect, so naturally, January is a great time to roll out new initiatives and remind students of norms and procedures.
This year is special because I will begin it in a new space. My school has been working on a brand new middle school addition and come tomorrow, I will set foot in my new classroom. While many teachers are dreading unpacking and setting up their classrooms, I’m thinking positively about my new space. With a new classroom comes a new beginning.
In 2018, my mantra is, “Work Smarter, Not Harder.” So often, school administrators and district policies suck every ounce of time and energy out of teachers. Many times, this occurs without supplemental pay and often neglects to include a “Thank you.” I used to say “Yes” to everything. However, teachers are not superheroes and I quickly learned how amazing it felt to say “No” every once in a while.
In order to ensure a work-life balance, a positive mental state, and an active social life, here are some things I intend to do to make 2018 the year I work smarter, not harder:
- Enlist the help of students: Middle school students LOVE to help teachers. When I had to pack up my room mid-December, every student pitched in. My students even emailed me over winter break to ask when they could come to school on their vacation to help me unpack. Allowing students to help with menial tasks takes stress off of me. For example, I often have students spot-check homework. This way, I know immediately who did not turn it in. My students also know my homework “grading” system and they are often harder on their peers than I am! If you are a control-freak (aren’t all teachers?!), learn to release some of it onto your students. Not only will you have more time, but it will curb students from saying, “I’m bored” during those down times in the day.
- Come early or stay late, but don’t do both. I’ve known teachers who burn the midnight oil while in the confines of the school building. I’ve been the teacher who comes in on Saturdays. Warning: Do NOT spend most of your waking hours at school. Since I do most of my work at school, I prefer to get to work by 7:00am (sometimes before). In this hour before students, I am my most productive. Once students leave, I make copies for the next day and I’m out the door by 4:00pm. Yes, this is a 9 hour day, but doing this ensures that I don’t take any work home. If you’re not a morning person, perhaps you stay an hour after school and do your prep work.
- Don’t take work home. Since I get to work early, I don’t take work home during the week. I still answer emails though, which I need to get better at not doing. On the weekends, I usually only allow a few hours on Sunday to grade and/or write lesson plans. Something I want to get better at in 2018 is not checking my work email once I leave work and not doing any work on weekends.
- Give online assignments. This has changed my life. I am a more efficient grader when my students’ assignments are online. I give better feedback, too. Plus, the prep time is minimal (no standing in line at the copier or trying to figure out how to fix the jam!)
- Use Google Voice to contact parents. A colleague recommended this and it’s great. I can now call/text parents and they won’t see my phone number. It’s super convenient and easy for both parties.
- Go to bed early. This one may sound impossible for some, but I find that when I’m rested, I’m a better teacher. I have more patience for all of the middle school drama that occurs regularly and I’m calmer.
- Turn your phone on Do Not Disturb. My phone is on DND from 8pm-6am, so if you email, call or text me during these hours, you won’t receive a response until the next day. One of my friends goes a step further and puts her phone on Airplane mode. You deserve YOU time.
How do you work smarter, not harder? Let me know in the comments.