There are a few traits that most teachers have, which truly just make us even better at our jobs-we are teachable, we are helpful, and we like organization. I truly cannot think of one co-worker I have had over the years that was not teachable, helpful, and organized in some manner. But despite these traits, a few of us did something else together–we never left school until it was late. I am talking like sun has gone down kind of late. I began looking at how other teachers managed their time and picked up a few things. I wanted to know how to leave school before dark!
Do the top 3-5 things.
A wise man I worked with, Mr. Guzman, once said, “There will always be a to-do list. You make your list, do the top 3-5 things that must be done for the next day, and then go home.” Gosh, it sounded so simple, yet I struggled with it. He was right though. Does the to-do list ever truly go away? No, it doesn’t. There is always another stack of papers to look through, RTI information to fill out, parents to contact, lesson plans to write, books to return, and on and on. That’s just the nature of teaching. But not EVERYTHING has to be done right this instance. I had to learn to be okay with that.
Invite people to join you.
I know you have been there–Your little learners have gone home for the day and you just need 5 minutes to catch your breath because you were singing, dancing, encouraging, correcting, modeling, reading, and going all. day. long. I noticed that when I did this in someone else’s room, that my 5 minutes turned into 15 minutes. Instead of staying in place, invite someone to join you as you walk to get a drink, make some copies, return library books, or whatever it may be. Sit and chat, but stuff folders. Cut out those little things you need for tomorrow’s lesson or even organize your things for tomorrow’s guided reading groups, but do it while you chat. Invite them to join you!
Cute is great, but engaging is better!
I always wanted my classroom to be adorable, displays in the hallway to be cute, but that stuff takes TIME. Sometimes too much time. I had to let go of “cute”. Cute classroom and cute activities. Instead, I focused that energy on engagement. Sometimes engaging activities happen to be “cute”, but not always. Instead of spending 30 minutes changing my display outside of my classroom, I worked ahead on lesson plans for the next week. The last few years I even had a wonderful parent volunteer who would change my display. She did a wonderful job and I was thankful that it was done. Remember, leaving before dark was the goal.
Teach your students to help.
I spent a lot of time focusing on creating a classroom community. In a community, there are many workers who help the community function every day. Our classroom was no different. I taught my students how to help and that was HUGE. They filed their papers in their mailboxes. They played treasure trash and cleaned up the floor at the end of every day. They helped me sort books back into book tubs when needed. They took ownership of our classroom and they helped.
I don’t think staying until dark is always a bad thing, but I do think that taking care of yourself and your family is important. Even if you don’t have a family, you have friends! Invest in those relationships! You will simply be a happier person with a balanced life. You deserve it because we all know that teachers work hard!