A few years ago, I made a personal goal to find a happier balance between work and life. I was constantly feeling overwhelmed. I was mentoring a new teacher and while working with her, I figured out some crucial things that also made me more efficient. I want to share these tips with you, to help you have a little more time to do what makes you happy, beyond teaching those wonderful students!
THEN: I dreaded every Sunday. I always had 5 files folders stuffed with papers to grade. I used to think “Oh, that will go fast because I just have to check that they completed it.”
Practice is practice. Why make it a permanent “grade book” grade? I think of my piano playing days. I wanted to be able to practice, with feedback from my teacher Mrs. Hensley, before I had to “perform” the song for her (aka get a sticker on my music sheet for performing well). She didn’t have to “grade” me every time for me to improve.
NOW: I want their grades to reflect what they can do in the language, not what they completed. So PERFORMANCE, instead of COMPLIANCE. With that in mind, I try* to only grade their unit assessments. (Read “How Many Grades?” for an example of my first attempt at this)
I still give ongoing feedback along the way, but just no grades. (Read “Warm-ups that Work” for an example) Students can self-assess along the way too. That’s a important use of my Stamp Sheets. Students know what they need to master by the time the assessment comes. A good reflection question for them (and you!) is “Did you participate and complete the activities in class and the homework? Did the assignments in class prepare you for this assessment?”
*Some schools have required categories like “Homework/Quizzes/Assessments” so I had to make it work. Which leads to the rubric…
THEN: I spent too much time figuring out how many points things were worth, how much to take off for errors and then weighting it so little assignments were not worth more than big assignments.
NOW: I use a proficiency-based rubric for everything that is graded. I let my grade book categories do the weighting for me.
THEN: I found I wasted a lot of planning time creating activities. I decided it was more important to spend planning time finding relevant resources than typing up worksheets.
NOW: I mainly use “adaptable activities.” Most are *Just add Authentic Resource* ready! HUGE time saver.
I also struggled with finding past activities quickly, which led to more wasted time. I organize these in folders so I can edit quickly if needed and project on screen to save some printing time too.
THEN: During project and assessment times, I used to spend a lot of time creating rubrics and detailed guidelines of what they needed to include. And I always forgot something!
NOW: I already have the proficiency-based rubric which explains language expectations. Done! Now I have THEM decided what should be included. These are problem-solving skills that they need to do, not me! I do find it’s important that they have seen examples of good ones before I ask them to do it, which happens in the practice.
This includes more than the one example I mentioned here. Can a student do this? Is this a skill they should be able to do? – I found more times than not, the answer is “Yes.” I still believe that I should always model or show them a model, but I don’t need to do all the work.
THEN: I loved my school and I would do just about anything extra. I chaperoned dances, was department chair, participated in professional cohorts, completed National Boards, sponsored after school clubs, went to sporting events, and oh yeah, wrote blog posts daily. All of these are very valuable, but it was TOO MUCH!
NOW: I stick with the ones that I’m passionate about and the ones that improve my classes. Here’s a nice little trick I learned if saying “no” is difficult… If admin or someone asks you to do something extra, say “Sure! But to do it well, I will need someone else to do ____ for me.”
This also includes those “just” tasks your admin or district asks for. Will you “just” turn in… It is “just” one extra… “Just” record… Definitely do what they ask, but limit your time spent on those.
Well there are 5 tips from one teacher to another. It’s all about being efficient. I REALLY hope this helps. Teachers work hard and deserve their play time too! What helps you to save time?