Teacher Time Management is Not a Paradox

Our teaching lives can demolish our personal lives.

Author: Heather Iseminger

If allowed, teaching strips away the time we have for ourselves. Our task lists are endless. Between grading, lesson planning, direct instruction, dealing with behavioral issues, and completing paperwork, we have precious little time left in our days.

Exhausted, Sleepy Teacher

What do we do? How do we manage our careers and our lives with wisdom? While I haven’t perfected the work-life balance, there are some practices we may find beneficial.

Tip 1: Determine Your Hours and Keep Them
Teachers work far more hours than our contracts specify. Though this may never change, we can cut back on our extra hours by defining a personal quitting time. Intentionally decide a time you will be done each day and adhere to it.

When we stick to specific quitting times, we often make better use of the time we do have—we become more accountable. By forcing ourselves to clock out mentally, we are choosing to have a life outside of the classroom. Nothing is wrong with that choice. The papers will be there tomorrow.

Tip 2: Grade Efficiently
Want to know a veteran teacher’s trade secret? You do not have to grade every single paper. I promise. By choosing when and how to offer feedback, we can make better use of our time.

Here are a few tips:

  • If questions and answers on an assignment are lengthy, choose a few to grade with feedback. Skim the rest.
  • Use rubrics for subjective assignments.
  • Grade only according to a lesson’s objective.
  • Quickly walk around and check for completion. Then review the assignment while students check their own work for instant feedback.

Tip 3: Utilize Resources
The internet contains a wealth of information. Use it. There are plenty of free resources out there. Social media often offers groups specific to your grade level and content area. Don’t reinvent the proverbial wheel. Scour the internet. The lessons are out there.

Tip 4: Volunteer Sparingly
I’ll admit I often weigh myself down with more responsibility than necessary. I have a powerful urge to volunteer assistance when I think I can do the task more efficiently. I do this even when the tasks have nothing to do with me or my classroom.

Think through why you want to assist. There are times to say yes, but saying no is important too. Don’t add to your busy schedule needlessly.

Teaching in the 21st century is a difficult calling. Burnout and disillusionment can hit us quickly. We are better teachers when we give ourselves permission to have personal lives. When we do, we are more rested and far more capable of handling the daily grind of the classroom.

Sometimes our battles are more than just time management. If you are facing the deeper anxiety that can result from the demands of teaching, consider taking a look at this article on anxiety.

About the Author

Heather IsemingerHeather Iseminger is a self-proclaimed hoarder of words and caffeine addict. She holds a BA in English Writing from FSU, as well as a Masters in Education. She and her Prince Charming, Mike, have been married almost 25 years and have two children, Ella and Caleb. Five days a week Heather’s in her high school English classroom with coffee in hand, surrounded by the students she adores. When she’s not juggling family and teaching, she’s an award-winning freelance author and blogger. You can find her heart at Petals of Joy on Facebook.

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