Simplify your teaching; simplify your life! Avoid teacher time traps associated with grading, committee work, planning, decorating, and more. It’s time to work smarter, not harder. Then you can attain a work-life balance.
Ms. Sneed Gets Overwhelmed
Like all new teachers, Ms. Sneed did the dirty deed. Yes, our favorite fourth grade teacher bit off more than she could chew. Her work-life balance – well, what work-life balance? All she did was teach or prepare to teach. Something had to give.
Ms. Sneed’s mentor, Mrs. Brown, noticed the dark circles around her eyes. And she noticed how her smile was fading. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
“All I ever do is work,” replied Ms. Sneed.
“Ah, it’s time we had a little talk,” her mentor said kindly (but firmly).
Enjoy Teaching with Work-Life Balance
The next day, the two teachers sat together in the conference room. Instead of a discussion, it was pretty much a one-way conversation.
“As you may know,” Mrs. Brown began, “I believe you must take three steps to survive as a teacher: organize, plan, and strike a work-life balance. Otherwise, you’ll drown in the minutiae. After you’ve got that down, you can learn more about effective instructional practices to become a master teacher.”
” Notice,” that survival requires you to find a happy medium. And you, my dear, need to simplify your teaching.”
Simplify Your Teaching by Limiting Grading
Without even taking a breath, the mentor dove right in. “First, we are teachers, not graders. Therefore, it’s time to limit grading.
“The purpose of grading is to keep your finger on the pulse of the classroom. Think about ways you can shift daily instruction to better assess student progress and move away from collecting so many papers.”
Simplify Your Teaching by Joining Selectively
“Second, you don’t need to be on every committee. Choose one or two that really interest you.”
Simplify Your Teaching by Collaborating
“Split the work with a colleague or two to simplify your teaching and theirs. To get work-life balance, teachers can share:
- Planning – Each of you can plan one subject or unit. Share lesson plans, student materials, assessments, games, and more.
- Instructional materials – When you find something that works, share it with your colleagues. Ask them to do the same.
- Students – Most classrooms have students who are too high or low to benefit from the pace of instruction. Cluster students with similar needs in one classroom to make differentiation a snap.
- Ideas – Sure, teachers can be stingy with their ideas. Some think that it’s bad for others to copy what they’re doing. I disagree. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
- Moral support – Regardless of experience, every teacher has bad days. Share your highs and lows with other educators. Knowing that others experience the same things you do is comforting.”
Want a Work-Life Balance? Enough with All the Decorating!
Finally, Mrs. Brown paused to take a breath. “Now here’s a funny story,” she said. “At the beginning of the school year, I was hanging out in that big fourth grade Facebook group. You know what was going on? Teachers from around the world were marveling at the beautiful decorations in American classrooms. Sure, they thought they were beautiful. However, quite a few comments centered around how much time teachers in the United States spend decorating.
“If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: Learning is #1. Therefore, teachers should be spending time on that – not decorating. You can save lots of time and money by limiting decorations.
“Instead, hang student work on your walls to celebrate learning. This will simplify your teaching and provide evidence of learning. And don’t worry, these displays can be quite attractive.”
Streamline Daily Demands
Now the mentor sat back in her chair. It looked like she was winding down. “Finally, embrace routines. Plan ahead. Be systematic.
- Get to work on time. Then go to your room and get some things done.
- Organize your daily schedule to maximize instruction and minimize minutiae. If administrative tasks (like attendance or collecting papers) are taking too much time, seek creative solutions.
- Keep certain parts of your instruction, such as spelling or vocabulary, the same each week. It’s a real time-saver, and students will know what to expect.
- Plan ahead. Have a system for developing lesson plans, copying papers, etc.
- Arrange your meals and wardrobe ahead of time. Make a menu and do your grocery shopping over the weekend. Pack your lunch and set out your clothes the night before. Stick a roast in the crockpot so dinner’s ready when you get home.
- And above all else, leave the paperwork at school.
“To put it bluntly, stop trying to swim against the tide. It’s time to simplify your teaching.”
Without a doubt, Mrs. Brown was preachy. But Ms. Sneed knew that she was right. The young teacher vowed to scale back – and strike a work-life balance.