Prioritizing Your Teaching Life (Part 1)

Article by Christy Vacchio

Misconceptions in the public abound when it comes to the life of a teacher. Things like having summers off, 2 weeks at Christmas, Spring Break, and working a 7 ½ hour day are part of most public education contracts. However, as most teachers know, that is not the reality. As teachers, we did not go into education for the pay. We entered into this prestigious field for the love of children. And to love them, we will give them all we are in order to see them be successful.

But does it have to be that way?

New Teacher Burnout

In the first 3-5 years of teaching, it seems more teachers leave the profession due to burnout than any profession requiring a college degree. When you are beginning in the classroom, there are procedures to teach, papers to grade, content to learn, meetings to attend, committees to serve on, lunch and recess to monitor, parents to call, and on and on with multiple responsibilities. Oh, and yes, there are children to teach, too! Did I mention lesson plans to write? With all of these responsibilities, it is easy to see why most teachers are overwhelmed in the first year and if there is not a strong mentor, it can be daunting to even think about coming back for a second!

Too Much Too Soon

In an effort to shine, many teachers will sign up for too many things too soon. While professional development is important, as a new teacher, you need to protect your time and make sure the PD you are attending is worth the investment. If you are teaching Science in elementary school and it’s not your strength, a course on using Inquiry in the elementary classroom would be more efficient than a course in writing across the curriculum. I’m not saying it’s not important, but it can definitely be moved to your second year of teaching if you don’t have time for it in your schedule right now.

Remember our purpose: to teach children and to instill a love of learning. Arriving at 6 o’clock in the morning to clean the room is something that can be delegated to students.

Teach Student Responsibility

Don’t do everything for the students. Part of learning in school has to be learning responsibility for their environment. Picking up after themselves, cleaning out their cubbies, and putting things in the right place can be worked into routines and procedures. It should not be your job to stay until 5 or 6 o’clock at night to clean up the room and straighten up the desks. Having 30 students do it for you would be far more efficient than you doing it by yourself after a long day on your feet. What takes a tired teacher 30-45 minutes to do would take 30 energetic children less than 5 minutes just before they line up.

Put the students to work on making your room run more efficiently. If the papers you need to grade are in a messy pile, it will take you at least a couple of minutes to straighten it out. But if the students have a specific procedure of passing the papers across rows by placing one on top of another with the papers in the same direction (name at the top right, facing up, etc), the work is done automatically for you.

Do a few minutes really make that much of a difference? If you grade papers 3 out of 5 days a week, multiply that by 2 minutes and you have 6. But over the course of 36 weeks you have just saved yourself over 3 ½ hours of time! If you save yourself little bits of time like this over other areas, you are talking weeks! Better yet, save yourself from grading some of those piles of papers by grading as you teach! (But that’s a topic for another post…)

What are the things you really need to do?

• Lesson plans – take a backward approach and plan your entire year with an outline
• Assessments – we have to check for student mastery and use those assessments to guide future lessons
• Grading – every single piece of paper does NOT have to have a grade
• Parent Communication – this should start out as proactive; don’t wait until there’s a problem
• Logistics – we all have to collect the field trip money, permission slips, attend professional development and staff meetings so plan for it

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