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: firstname.lastname@example.org