10 Simple Teacher Tips For Less Stress at School

Over the years I have tried many things to make teaching a little less stressful. Some people thrive on chaos, but I don’t. I can’t think straight when my environment is chaotic. I like order (even though I’m not the most organized person). I want a system in place so that I can teach and not worry about other things. Here’s a list of things that I do to keep me sane. I hope you can get at least one idea that will help you!

Tip #1: KEEP ALL ANSWER KEYS IN ONE SPOT – Seems simple but I did not start doing this until several years ago. I was constantly searching for my answer keys. I now keep every answer key in the same folder in my top drawer. I empty the folder each 6 weeks. This was super helpful the years that I taught 3 subjects. I would still put all the answer keys from different subjects together because then I did not have to wonder where they were. I could go straight to my answer keys and not waste time on making a new one or searching for the one I already had. When a student is absent or I get a late paper, I know exactly where the answer key is and I can grade it quickly.

Tip #2: PREPARING FOR THE NEXT DAY – Do not leave school until you know exactly what you are doing the next day and you have all your copies made and you are ready to go. (Please don’t stay long hours after school doing this. Ideally, get it done during your planning. Decide on an activity and prepare it and be done! Dwelling on what to do will get you no where and will waste your precious home time.) Technically, you should have a broad plan for the year or at least a plan for a six weeks. I get it though. Sometimes you go into survival mode and you end up planning a day ahead or even the day of. I’ve been there and I still have those days occasionally. I feel so much better when I leave school knowing that I’m ready for the next day. I do not like the feeling of scrambling at the last minute. If you are prepared, then you can handle anything that comes your way…even those unexpected things that can happen. Try not to “wing it” very often.

Tip #3: KEEP AN INTERACTIVE NOTEBOOK – You know all of those papers you get at meetings? Put them all in one place. Every meeting that I go to, I tape in the papers that I receive at that meeting. If I don’t, it will go into a pile and I’ll never see the papers again. I’ve had administrators come to me to ask for something that they handed out to the teachers but couldn’t find it themselves. (Oy Vey)

Tip #4: KEEP CERTAIN THINGS IN VIEW – Tape your school bell schedule and school calendar in an easy to see place in your room. It’s for you and your students. Trust me, it makes life much easier if you don’t have to search for these items when you need them.

Tip #5: SEATING CHARTS ARE A MUST – Make a seating chart from day 1 and keep it handy! As you rearrange the room, be sure to keep your chart updated. Yes, students need a seating chart…EVEN IN HIGH SCHOOL. You don’t want to learn things the hard way on this one! I number my desks and that helps too! The more you can control what’s happening in your room, the better.

Tip #6: BE A GOOD NEIGHBOR – Exchange phone numbers with your fellow teachers that are on either side of you. If you are running late, you can get one of these teachers to help watch students until you get there. This has saved me on many occasions.

Also, think about how loud your classroom is. You do not want it to affect the classes around you. If you know you have a loud activity coming or you will be playing a video, warn your neighbors and see if they have a test planned or something you need to know.

Tip #7: “NO” > “YES” – Don’t be afraid to say no. As a matter of fact, say NO more than you say YES. You do not have to be on every committee. Don’t take on a task when you know you don’t have time! It gets easier to say no the more you do it.

Tip #8: DON’T GRADE EVERYTHING – Some items can be graded on completion. Have students hold up their paper and show you both sides. If they’ve done most of it, it’s a 100. If they haven’t, you can be the judge on what you want to do. You could give them a 50 until it’s done or whatever seems best for you and your class. I don’t take up many papers anymore. I don’t want to touch them for one thing. I have students tape them in their journal. I usually let them use their journal on quizzes or even tests. I want them to see the value in doing their work and keeping it. Everything is not about the grade, but it IS about the knowledge!

Tip #9: ROUTINES – Make sure you have a beginning of the class routine and an end of the class routine. At the start of class, students need to know they sit down and start the bell work. (Put phones away, get materials out and start.) Have a paper that they pull out or something on the board for them to do. With 5 minutes left at the end of class, have students clean up after themselves, put materials away and prepare to leave. If you don’t do this, your room will be a wreck. If you don’t want them to stand up until the bell rings, then let each row leave one at a time. I know this sounds elementary, but it doesn’t hurt especially if you have a rowdy group. I’ll say, “I’m letting the cleanest, straightest, quietest row go first. This works so well. If one kid is messing it up for his row, then I hold the one kid back.

Tip #10: TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF! – Do not hesitate to lock your door between classes and run to the restroom or to fill your water bottle. Make sure to keep snacks in your desk or extra money to get that caffeine fix when you need it. Put some Advil or Tylenol, Tums, gum, air freshener, hand sanitizer, deodorant, lip balm and a mirror in your desk. During your planning period, get the calming music going and try to relax for a few minutes before working. Don’t skip lunch. Try not to plan things during lunch. For some teachers, lunch is the only break all day! If this is you, then make sure you take time for yourself and get your mind off of school for a few minutes.

I hope you can take at least one tip and use it to your advantage. It’s important to make your school life more enjoyable. Teacher burnout is real. Set up systems ahead of time and keep a routine as well as you can. Some days will be chaotic no matter what, but the more you can think ahead for yourself, the better.

Don’t reinvent the wheel. If you have a need, then go see if you can find it in my store. If you can’t find it, email me. I probably have something that you can use. I’m just an email away: lisa.hamiter@timefliesedu.com


Small Group Quizzes in Math

I love small group quizzes for so many reasons! Its a win win situation. I cannot say enough about this type of strategy. I’ve done group quizzes for many years, but with the help of my peers, I’ve figured out the way that works best for me. I’ve also discovered that it will evolve the more you do it. You’ll get an idea to try something new or you’ll stop doing something else that’s not working the way you want.

What are group quizzes? Group quizzes are collaborative quizzes that give students a chance to deepen their learning through discussions. Imagine awesome engagement and conversations. Imagine all levels of abilities working together and activating growth. THAT’s what happens during a well constructed small group quiz.

I have 2 ways of doing these quizzes:

  1. Students are put into groups of 4. Each student will receive their own version of the quiz. Yes, this means you need at least 4 versions of the same quiz. Students work together through discussions to complete their own quiz. THE DISCUSSIONS ARE AMAZING! I do not allow students to grab each other’s papers and copy straight from them. That is a big no no…(so you do have to walk around a bit, but I can still get so much done while the kids are working together it’s not even funny.)
  2. Students are put into groups of  3, 4 or 5. All students in the group have the same quiz. Assign each student a letter or a number. They write that letter or number beside their name in INK!  The students work together to complete the quiz. (Again, they cannot grab someone’s paper and copy it.) At the end of the allotted time, the teacher will spin a spinner, roll some dice or use some sort of number or letter picker to decide whose paper will be the one graded for the group. The person that is selected will put their paper on top of the group pile with everyone else’s paper below. The quizzes are paperclipped and turned in. I usually grade the top paper only, but I’ll flip through the pile to make sure everyone was successful. I tell the students ahead of time what will happen at the end of the time. Throughout the quiz I give reminders to not allow anyone to sit and do nothing since their paper might be the one graded for the group. A little peer pressure is ok. I don’t allow anyone to be mean, but I’ve never found that to be the case. If I see that someone actually could hurt the group, then I’ll do something creative so that person doesn’t cause any issues.

If you’ve never tried a group quiz or think that your students are too rowdy for this, then think again. Try it! You will need to put some thought into your groups ahead of time. I like to make sure that I have some high abilities with some strugglers. I try to put some quiet people with the loud people. I never let them pick their own groups. I do not ever put all strugglers together or all high abilities together. I usually go by grades in the gradebook and then I think about who gets along. I use my name plates (we make these at the beginning of the year and it is mentioned in the post: 1st Week of Math Class Ideas) to put people in their groups. I will not let kids enter the room until I’ve place the names plates on the desks.

Hopefully, I have you motivated to try this strategy. If you need some quizzes to use, I have started creating some. I will be making more throughout the year, so please check often. Each set has 4 versions of the same quiz, so you can use either of my two strategies that I mention above. If you will follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, you will know when I upload new resources. They are always 50% off for 24 hours.

Disclaimer: This site contains affiliate links in which I will get a commission if you decide to buy something using the link I provided.

Give Your Students Hope on a Math Test

Semester finals are coming! Of course you will review and try to prepare your students, but time is limited. How can you help your students do better and still keep your standards high?


If you have a 20 question test and you have 20 answers in an answer bank, your test is still challenging but you are giving your students hope which means they will put more effort into trying! That’s what we want, right? EFFORT! 

Will some students guess by using the answer bank? Absolutely! When I give an answer bank, I have two rules:

  • Students have to keep the test for a certain amount of time before turning it in.
  • Students have to show work on all of the problems. 

Try it this year. I think that you will be pleasantly surprised. If students feel like they have an advantage, it makes a big difference in their attitude. Please let me know how this goes for you.

I have two final assessments with answer banks if you would like to try them. (My Algebra 1 Final with an Answer Bank is in the works. Be on the lookout for it soon!)

Finals with answers banks are below:

Help Struggling Students Factor Quadratics

It’s the truth! Factoring is a major topic and somehow, we have to make sure students can do it. Factoring is needed for all math classes after Algebra and for all college entrance exams (SAT, PSAT and ACT) and placement exams (ACCUPLACER and TSI). Algebra teachers have enough on their plate without this pressure, but it’s our job to teach it and hopefully it will be reinforced in future math classes.

About ten years ago, one of my coworkers showed me a cool calculator method that I use with struggling students. Some students have a hard time with their multiplication facts which will make factoring a nightmare for them.

I hate most calculator tricks, but this one is actually a great tool. Let’s say a student needs to know all the factors of 135. Have them go to the graph of the calculator and type 135/x (135 divided by x). Next have the student look at the table. In the table, they will look for whole number values. For instance, across from an x of 1, is a y of 135. That of course means that 1 and 135 are factors of 135. The next set of whole number values are x = 3 and y = 45. When the list of numbers starts repeating, all of the factors have been found.

Look at the sample factoring problem below this paragraph. I have my students multiply the 9x^2 and the -15. The answer is -135x^2. To the right of the problem, they draw a large X . On the top, they write the -135x^2 and on the bottom of the X, they write the middle term: 22x. Next, they start making a list of all of the factors of 135. I tell them not to think about the negative at first…just make a list of factors. If they are not able to do that, then use the calculator to make the list. Once the list is made, then the students decide which factors will multiply to get -135 and subtract to get 22. The answer would be 27 and -5. Those two numbers are written on the left and right side of the X. Next, the original trinomial is turned into a polynomial with four terms. The second step below was 9x^2 + 27x – 5x – 15, before I started the grouping process. The problem is grouped and the factors are found. (Yes, I teach grouping. It helps with this type of problem and it helps with factoring out a GCF. Don’t skip grouping. If you’d like to see more about how I teach factoring go to this Factoring Blogpost.)

Here’s a quick video explaining the same problem:

All students can factor! Believe it, teach it and recycle it!