Summer Blogging Series 3: 5 Ways to Make Next Year Better
Alright y’all: the Summer Blogging Series continues! TIP NUMBER ONE for how to make next year better was to set your goals each month, but break them down into bite-size chunks. TIP NUMBER TWO was on using timers to knock out tasks more quickly, and stop procrastinating things.
And up today: Tip 3!
Teacher Productivity Tip #3: Prep for Tomorrow, Today.
So, I think I’ve hinted at how strongly I feel about this one in both of the previous blog posts in this series. This is another daily practice for me in both school life and small business life at home (and it even trickles into my mom life sometimes!).
Before you leave school, or before you go to bed, think through how you can prepare for tomorrow, to make your life easier. I have a few suggestions. :)
Make that list.
I know for sure I mentioned this last time, but before you leave school, you need to have a list on your desk of the biggest priorities for tomorrow. This is critical to utilizing every second of your planning time well, and if you’re like me and like to get to school a few minutes early to get ready for the day, a list keeps you from wasting any precious kid-free minutes.
I would sit down and make the list, and leave it out on my desk, on top of my laptop. That way, before I could open my computer and get lost in a sea of emails that would derail me from my goals for the day, I would walk into my classroom in the morning and think, “hmm. What should I use these 25 minutes for? Oh yeah! My list is lying here with a stack of math center work that I told myself I would grade today.'“ And then I would sit down and get started right away.
I know a lot of teachers who use their morning time to scramble and get ready for teaching THAT DAY. Sometimes, I’m that teacher too. But I’ll be honest with you: if you’re utilizing every second of your planning time well, you get to a point where you are planned and prepped, not just for tomorrow, but for the entire next week! Living day-to-day is the most exhausting place, and I don’t want any of y’all to stay there for long. Work smarter, get ahead, and enjoy teaching more. That’s the formula, I promise.
Just a note: This method works extremely well with business, if you are a TPTer or have another from-home hustle. Now that it’s summer, I go into my office each night and create a list on a fresh sheet of my notebook (where I keep all of my product ideas, blog topics, lists, etc.) I write out what I know I want to get done, and I attribute blocks of time to it, so my list may look like this:
-Draft blog (before kids get up)
-Respond to emails and questions (before kids get up)
-product creation (nap time)
-photo session (nap time)
etc. etc. etc.
I think the best way to jump right in and get started on your task list without missing a beat is to have a clean work space. And let me tell y’all something: in my classroom I do not lift a finger on cleaning the kids’ work areas, because I most certainly did not mess them up! I assigned all of my classroom jobs around the idea that I wanted my classroom to look perfectly clean when I walked in the next day.
I had a ‘center inspector’, so after we cleaned up from math or reading centers, that person was to ensure that all bins were arranged with labels facing out, things were put back where they were supposed to be, etc.
I had a kid in charge of changing our Specials calendar. (We are on a 6-day rotation, and I had a clip that was moved from one specials sign to the next)
I had kids in charge of cleaning out the cubby, cleaning the floor, emptying the recycling bin, stacking chairs, etc.
That freed up my mental space to think about doing 3 things:
-Change out my I Cans/the date (I only did this because it was written so high, I didn’t want kids to fall of a chair trying to do it)
-Put everything on my desk/teacher table in its place
-Write my list
With only three things to do every afternoon, I basically could walk out the door with the kids, and know that when I came in tomorrow morning, the room would be clean and ready for me to immediately do whatever was on my list.
***I also do this in my home office. I keep it uber-organized, so it takes about 5 minutes of my evening to put everything back where it goes. I’m a creative person when I’m working, so messes happen! But I can’t pick up and get going the next morning with clutter on my desk, so I take the time to put it away.
So, when you’re clearing your workspace, I can not overemphasize the importance of having a spot for everything. I know Marie Kondo has made this a popular way to live, but the Sutherlands have been doing this whole minimalist/If you own it you better use it and have a designated space for it life for as long as we’ve been married.
I do not keep things in my classroom/office/home/kids’ rooms that I do not have a place for. If there’s no place for it, why do I own it?
With random staff meeting papers-did what I just get need to be filed somewhere for future use? If you get a lot of staff meeting documents you may be asked to pull out later, literally create a file folder for them and keep them out of your way until you’re asked to use them. After that school year, if no one asked you to use them…please recycle.
I had a student teacher this year, and I told her my biggest piece of teaching advice was “Smile and Recycle”. Do not hang onto random paper in this digital world. There are very few things that happen in my classroom that I could not re-print, and the less random masters of things I hang onto that I know I’ll never touch, the less places I have to create for things, and the less cluttered my room looks.
Also, just a note: do not feel the need to create space for other teachers’ stuff. Just because someone gave you a master copy of something, does NOT mean that you need to use it. You don’t need to save it,. You don’t need to create space for something you didn’t want. Team planning has created a culture (at least in my experience) of everyone feeling like they have to use everyone else’s stuff, and it’s not always best for your teaching style or your kids. I am heartless about this, and I can’t tell you the number of times I took something from someone, and dropped it in the recycling can as I entered my room. If you think you’ll use it: great! Create a spot for it. But DO NOT put it on the corner of your desk in the hopes that you will find time to use it. Putting it in such a forgotten place means that you most certainly will not use it. Taking the time to give it a place means you will remember that you have it later. Works that way with everything. :)
As you move towards your school year next fall, you may need a planner that helps you make those daily lists. I have just the one for you! My Teacher To-Do List planner is now in my TPT store! This planner will keep you organized, well-planned, and on top of your goals for this year!