“Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money but you can never get more time.”
This popular quotation strikes a chord with most teachers. The school bell rings every 45 to 50 minutes. It keeps our day, our students, and our work always on the move. Thus, the most common conversation in teachers’ lounges is about all the things we have to get done!
Time-eaters are the bane of a teacher’s existence, and if we could find ways to better deal with these, it would be a huge gift. So, I would like to propose solutions to five of the biggest teacher time-eaters.
Time-Eater #1: Student behavior
Dealing with rowdy, unruly, impolite, or just sassy students is one of the biggest time-eaters. Most teachers have found a way to deal with such misbehavior, but it still rears its ugly head from time to time. Every minute spent on a misbehaving student takes time away from the rest of the class. What to do?
I would like to suggest that engagement is a productive way to nip this behavior in the bud. The more the students are engaged in the lesson, the less chance they have to act up. This is where the EDI approach for active engagement every two minutes during a lesson is most valuable. Teachers ask the students to pair-share, to use whiteboards, to respond in complete sentences, and so on. They are constantly engaging with the subject matter, and this keeps them focused. We have seen many classroom management problems completely resolved by the application of this EDI delivery method.
Time-Eater #2: Lesson Prep
Teachers invariably spend hours preparing lessons. You have to specify a learning objective, and then match it to your textbook or teacher-created lessons. You have to find examples of text – at a certain reading level – or problems that develop a specific skill. Then, you have to prepare materials for the students. This all takes time. Technology doesn’t make it easier. It still takes time to prepare the lesson – finding the right sites, the right examples, the sequence of clicks, etc. Even if a teacher is just following a textbook, there are still supplementary exercises and tests that need to be created.
One way to help with this time crunch is to use the DataWORKS Ready-To-Teach Lessons. These lessons are research-based, aligned to Common Core, and easy to use. All of the examples and problems are already provided so you can spend your time actually teaching them or working with the students in interactive situations. In addition, we have a new online lesson subscription service that allows teachers to just click and teach. The answers are animated, and the player allows teachers to markup the text with highlighter, pen, or eraser tools. It can be used with any platform and any device. Check out www.educeri.com.
Time-Eater #3: Pacing
Teachers are responsible to make sure they cover all the standards properly within the school year. This requires planning out the whole year, and then adjusting for students’ needs, administrative events, and standardized tests. Most teachers find that textbooks are not all equal. Some standards are missing or not covered in depth. Some districts require more emphasis in certain areas. Weather can disrupt any schedule. What’s the solution?
One thing you can do is to combine the EDI Ready-to-Teach lessons with our annual pacing guide, customized for your school or district. This saves you the time of figuring it all out, and we make sure every standard is covered. We also build in flex time to accommodate administrative, weather, and test-taking disruptions. In any case, a full-year pacing calendar is an excellent tool to keep your classes on track – and keep you from going crazy trying to fit everything in with the time available.
Time-Eater #4: Grading
As a former English teacher, I spent many nights and weekends grading student papers. I felt driven to give them feedback on their writing or return their tests quickly. Yet I know I got behind sometimes. It was just too much to keep up and still do the daily lesson planning.
There is no easy way that I know of to avoid giving this kind of feedback for, but one thing that can help lighten the load is the use of Checking for Understanding during the lessons. By using this technique, which is emphasized in EDI lessons, a teacher can get immediate feedback during the lesson on how well the students are learning. This should eliminate some of the need for other types of evaluations – not all, but some.
Time-Eater #5: Administrative Events
Teachers are always complaining about meetings, assemblies, announcements, forms, and tests that are required by the administrators of the school. This seems to be the nature of the beast; teachers have to work together with administrators to help the school run smoothly. The suggestion that can help here is to take advantage of the patented DataWORKS Classroom Productivity Index.
This CPI measurement gives administrators the tools for accurately measuring what is happening in the school and giving useful feedback to the teacher. It involves five-minute classroom observations, simple commendations or recommendations, smooth coaching techniques, and a common framework for discussing the instructional goals of the school. By implementing this system, the number of meetings can actually be lessened, while giving administrators and teachers the confidence that they are at the top of their game.
These ideas can make a dent in the time-wasting activities that often absorb teachers’ time. They don’t eliminate all the time-eating, but they can narrow it down from a flood to a simple stream. Another factor is a teacher’s own time management system. Each of us has to find ways to stay healthy, flexible, and energetic so we can use our time most wisely. By combining these few things, we can recover some of the time that gets eaten up. That “extra” time goes directly to our students, and we will see our efforts rewarded by more success for our students.
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