I became a teacher because I wanted to work with students, and I am sure a lot of you are teachers for the same reason. Teaching is the best part of the job. It's why we do what we do. But, in order to teach, we have to plan and prep. And unfortunately, this usually means several hours of work after the kids have gone home. Planning was one of my least favorite parts of being a teacher. Planning can eat away your time if you let it, especially for new teachers. So, here are some things that you can do to help yourself have a life outside of teaching.
1. HAVE ROUTINE LESSONS
Now, what I mean by routine lessons is that you follow the same basic layout for the weekly lessons in a certain subject. Look at your weekly schedule and decide what subjects you can have a routine for. Some easy subjects to do this for are phonics, writing, and vocabulary. Here is the routine I had for phonics:
Pre-Assessment: Each Friday, I give a reading quiz to assess the phonics sounds for the coming week.
Day 1: I introduce the sound and we work on reading isolated words with the pattern. The students do a word sort on their own.
Day 2: We review the sound and practice identifying the sound pattern in sentences.
Day 3: We read a short story and highlight the sound pattern in the story.
Day 4: We play a game involving the sound pattern to review what we learned that week.
Post-Assessment: Each Friday, I give a reading quiz to assess whether or not the students have mastered the sound pattern for the week.
And this is what phonics looked like in my class every week. I had a routine, so I could easily and quickly plan the week of phonics lessons. If you have a routine for a couple of your weekly lessons, it will greatly reduce your planning time, and you will have one less things to stress about.
If you try to come up with an original idea for each lesson, you will go insane. Having a routine for some of your lessons is okay. It will save you so much time, and students actually like to have structure. Now you don't always have to stick to the routine. If you come up with a fun activity for one of the subjects that you follow a routine for, use it! It is good to spice things up occasionally. But, don't kill yourself trying to constantly come up with new activities.
2. GET YOUR MATERIALS READY EARLY
There is nothing worse than rushing to school to make your copies for the day only to find that the copier is out of toner or is broken (this always seems to happen when you need it the most). So, get in the habit of getting your materials ready for the coming week on Friday. I had a drawer in my class were I had 6 folders: 5 folders were labeled with each weekday, and 1 folder was labeled "Extra Materials." I would make copies for my coming lessons and gather any other materials, like picture books, or game boards, and put them in the corresponding folders. Then, all I had to do, was come to school, and grab the folder with all of the materials for the day.
I used the "Extra Materials" folder to put copies and materials for lessons we didn't have time for. If something with another lesson went wrong, or if we had extra time, I had these lessons to turn to. I rarely had to use this, but it was worth it to have peace of mind.
Now I realize that it can be unrealistic to have your whole week of lessons completely planned because things change, and some of the time you have to change your lessons depending on how the kids are doing with the content. But, you can at least gather the materials for your routine lessons like we talked about above and you can surely get everything ready for all of your Monday lessons. Trust me, putting in a little bit of extra work on Fridays will save you so much time and stress during the week.
3. SET A TIME LIMIT
It is so easy to spend hours and hours getting your lessons perfect. But the thing is, your lessons don't need to be perfect. So, allot yourself a certain amount of time to spend planning each lesson, and if you need to, set a timer. And be sure to stick to it! If you want to spend time making one of your lessons amazing, that's great. Give yourself more time to plan that lesson, but then spend less time on the others.
Once that timer goes off, it is time for you to go home. Don't let teaching consume your life. I know it is hard because you get attached to your students and you really want to help them, but you also need to remember that this is still a job. And just like any other job, it is only meant to be a part of your life, not your whole life. So, if you had a goal to be out of the school by 5, when 5 o'clock rolls around, you'd better be on your way out the door.
Teaching can be the greatest job in the world if you let it be. But, spending all of your time prepping won't make you love your job. In fact, it will burn you out quickly. Be the best teacher you can be, but also know when to stop. It's okay if every lesson isn't exactly perfect. I promise, your students will be just fine.
Hi! I'm Mackenzie. Teacher, wife, and Washingtonian. Check out my blog to get ideas and products for your class.
© Mackenzie Allen 2016.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.