Friday, March 1, 2013

Year 3: Week 22 - The Teacher Who Does Everything

You know those teachers who do amazing things in the classroom and seem to be doing everything else on the planet at the same time?

I’m talking about that teacher is who is on multiple committees, is a department head, is active in the teacher association, maintains great parent communication, present at conferences, has kids at home AND still has time to hang out in the office and socialize with other teachers.

How do these teachers do it?

When I first started teaching, writing lesson plans, preparing to teach and doing grades took up all of my time at school and also a lot of time at home. I marveled at these teachers who seemed to have so much free time on their hands while doing all of these other things.

Seven years later, I find that I’m doing so much more than teaching. I’m on committees, I presented at a conference last year, I find time to meet with other teachers and I have a more fulfilling life then I’ve ever had outside of school. While my plate is getting more full, it’s still not at the level of other teachers who do even more then I do.

I initially thought that teachers who managed lots of things in school were superhuman. What I’ve realized is that there are a couple specific things that happen in the a teacher's development that allows them to have the time to broaden their life as a teacher.

Banking Lessons: When I first started teaching the vast majority of my lesson plans were new. Now that I’ve been at this for a while, I reuse a lot of lesson plans. Maybe half of lessons I taught this year  are from lessons I’ve previously taught. Using old worksheets and presentation materials save a lot of time. Even if you change the lesson plan, having something to work off of makes the process move a lot quicker.  Now there is a danger of overdoing and reusing too many old lessons and not adapting them, however there is no shame is using the exactly same worksheet, if it continues to fit the needs of your students.

Prioritizing: I worked very hard when I first started teaching, but I didn’t necessarily know how to prioritize. I would spend a lot of time on remedial tasks that I could let my students do during class and then I would run out of time to do more important things. Prioritizing is a difficult skill to learn because it requires that you don’t get everything you want to get done in a given day. This is something that comes with time as the voice in your head that says “it’s okay if this doesn’t get done,” becomes stronger.

Taking Care Of Yourself: One of the best ways to get more time on your hands and be more productive is to take care of yourself. Sleep, eating well, socializing and having a life outside of work, makes the time that you do work far more productive. It seems like a contradiction to spend time not working to get more work done but it does make a difference. In the context of the school day, this means spending time socializing with other teachers, eating lunch with students and making sure to have fun at work.

If you want to become one of those teachers who do many different things or our frustrated that you don't have enough time as a teacher to do what you want to do, first off, relax.  A lot of this comes with time and you just have to let yourself develop as a professional.

If you've been a teacher for a long time and you don't see your time easing up then try something different.  Change the way you lesson plan and do assessments.  Look at the way you do grading. More time does not necessarily equal better results and more meaningful learning by your students.

I'm still in awe of my colleagues who do so many great things every day beyond simply teaching in the classroom.  I'm beginning to realize that all teachers have the potential to get there with a healthy does of perspective, some patience and a willingness to evolve as a professional.

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