Sunday, February 14, 2016

Overcoming the Dreaded February Funk

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” ~Carl Sandburg

The signs of February Funk are obvious: you find yourself flipping calendar pages counting the days until Spring Break, petty workday annoyances multiply, routine paperwork turns into overwhelming stacks, and each school day threatens to become drudgery.

If February finds you struggling with February Funk, you are not alone! Many teachers agree that even though the calendar may say differently, February is really the longest month of the year. Winter’s gloom seems to last forever as leaving your warm, snug bed each morning to face a chilly classroom becomes a harder-than-ever challenge.

One of the best ways to overcome February Funk is to be proactive in how you spend your time at school. Gaining control of the time you spend on your school chores will enable you to be productive through the dreary winter days of February. When spring break finally arrives, you will be able to relax and fully enjoy your hard-earned vacation.

Tips for Managing Your Time at School

Overcome your February Funk with these tips for gaining control of the “coin of your life." (Most of them have been adapted from First-Year teacher’s Survival Guide.)

1. If a task will take less than three minutes, do it right away.

2. Plan how to manage routine tasks such as taking attendance or making lunch and other counts. While you may have to tweak your plan occasionally, routines will save time, increase accuracy, and decrease stress.

3. Keep you calendar or planner in an accessible spot so you can refer to it often. Use it to record tasks, appointments, and other information you’ll need to remember as you plan your workdays. Be diligent in writing down your tasks and you will soon be more efficient.

4. Use a “To Do” list to keep your days organized. If you would like a template of a list other teachers have found useful, please email Julia with your request.

5. When you plan a unit of study, make up the tests, quizzes, and other handouts as quickly as you can so that you can photocopy them well in advance of when they are needed.

6. Assign each student a number corresponding to the number on your class roster. Teach students to put this number beside their names when they head their papers. When you are ready to grade papers, just put them in numerical order so that recording grades is a simple task.

7. Remember to use your biological clock whenever you can. If you are not a morning person, don’t set aside time in the morning to accomplish detailed work. Do it later instead.

8. Create a template for parent contacts so that you can record the details of each contact right away. If you would like a template that other teachers have found useful, please email Julia with your request.

9. You don’t have to grade every single paper your students complete.

10. Deal efficiently with mail. Act immediately on items that require a written response. Throw away or recycle junk mail. File catalogues for later use.

11. Few things are as tempting and as time-consuming as checking email. Work out a schedule where you check email only at certain times of the day. Most teachers find that checking email three times a day is enough to stay informed without wasting time.

12. Set up equipment early just in case there are problems.

13. Share materials, handouts, tests, and other instructional resources. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Find instructional materials and lesson plans on the Web or talk with your colleagues about what they have used successfully.

14. When you need to distribute different types of materials, spend time before class begins filling containers (plastic bags, plastic cups, coffee cans…) with the materials so students can pick up a container with all the materials at once. They can then get started right away without fuss.

15. Be sure to use electronic files to save time and paper whenever you can. Being able to electronically edit and then reuse handouts and tests will save you hours of time.

16. Consider keeping a binder in which you store your hard copies of lesson plans, handouts, and other materials for each class. If you have this all together, you won’t have to waste time searching for missing papers among your scattered files.

17. If you have daily class routines that require verbal instructions, put the directions on a transparency so that you do not have to repeat them each day.

18. Delegate as much as you can. Even very young students can accomplish many routine tasks such as putting up posters, distributing materials, tidying the room, emptying pencil sharpeners, or keeping the supply area clean.

19. Use your planning time well. Group your tasks so that you do not have to make repeated trips to the copy room, office, media center, or other areas.

20. Reward yourself when you set and achieve your goals. Too often teachers are so busy taking care of their students that they overlook the importance of taking care of themselves. Celebrate your achievements!

If you have a time management tip that you would like to share with your colleagues everywhere, please feel free to submit it! Just click on the Discussion page to get started.

Use Small Blocks of Time Wisely

One of the frustrating aspects of a teacher’s life is that there is never enough time to accomplish everything. While the general shortage of extra time seems to be a problem, large blocks of time are in especially short supply. Interruptions and schedule changes fill a teacher’s days.

You can cope with this by learning to be an expert at accomplishing much in small moments. This is possible with determination, preparation, and practice. Those minutes add up.

Still not convinced? Here are just some of the things a focused teacher can accomplish in just a few minutes.

In fifteen minutes you can:

• Grade the objective portion of a set of test papers
• Create a quiz
• Create a review sheet
• Answer e-mail
• Create anticipatory sets for the entire week

In ten minutes you can:

• Call a parent
• Write a lesson plan
• Grade some essay questions
• Average grades
• Check homework papers

In five minutes you can:

• Create a dynamic closing exercise
• Write a positive note and send it home
• Use the hole punch on a set of papers
• Write a positive comment on at least five papers
• Review key points in a lesson

In three minutes you can:

• Record grades
• Drill your students with flashcards
• Put stickers on a set of papers
• Praise a class for good behavior
• Have students write an evaluation of the day’s lesson

In one minute you can:

• Erase the board
• Display a cartoon about the day’s lesson
• Have students tidy the room
• Select the student of the day or week
• Write an inspirational message on the board