There are a lot of struggles when it comes to teaching in any educational establishment and I have found a few workarounds when managing time. Here, you’ll find some helpful advice on how to manage your time effectively whilst teaching, when you’re in your free periods or after work, and on the weekend.
Time Management in the Classroom
Time management is one of those subjective things that are wholly dependent on the class that you are teaching, i.e. what ability level they may be, what style of learners you are teaching, what the curriculum tells you to teach and in what way, whether their language complicates their translations of the English language, etc. However subjective time may seem to you, within a classroom setting, try to be as objective as possible about it.
Always give a time limit on each task and voice it to your students. Use an online timer, stopwatch or something visible/tangible so they can comprehend how little/long each task might take and what is expected of them. This way the students are under pressure enough to think clearer and what the best way to go about completing the task is for them individually. Be warned, though: too fast a time limit will discourage your students because they could not adequately complete something, whereas too much of a time limit will cause disruption once the task is completed. As a general rule, if they start becoming chatty or boisterous and you haven’t prepared any extension work, get them to feedback what they have already completed – chances are they’d finished the task and want to move onto the next one. The pupils won’t let you know if they’ve finished either (and this is cross-cultural), so always be on the lookout for individuals who look as though they’ve completed the task.
Write a time frame for each lesson within your lesson plans (and, if you like, have a running total of how much time you have spent). If you run over the time limit because the task is harder for your students than you anticipated, ignore the timer and add on extra minutes. If it’s too slow, reel them back in and get the feedback to show they’ve definitely got the gist of it. Oh – and a piece of advice – always remember to leave time for your students to feed back what they’ve learned. I used to forget adding this in a lot of the time, so sometimes I would have to roll the last lesson into the next lesson. Click the link below for an example I made with timings).
Keep up the pace in the class. Nobody enjoys sitting around in silence or focusing on one or two tasks for the whole lesson. If you have a big task that needs working towards, try and make the building blocks compact and fast (maybe 5 minutes max per task set). Doing this allows no time for disruptive behaviour and it becomes more engaging for the students. Some really good activities that I’ve used in the past are table-switching, carousel, speed-dating, Chinese whispers/telephone line, popcorn, countdown, musical chairs, ball-throw-questioning, etc. Basically, anything involving kinaesthesia with a fast-paced lesson will almost always work.
If you have a free period, your class is having an assessment, or you have set them a long writing/reading task, then get on with your paperwork. The more paperwork you get done at work means less paperwork to take home with you afterwards or at the weekend. Obviously, don’t sacrifice precious class time for marking or planning or policy stuff: ensure the students are all doing the task right beforehand. Give support to your lowest ability students, offer guidance with your middle abilities, and provide higher-level and complex ideas to your highest abilities.
Time Management out of the Classroom
As aforementioned, if you have any free time whilst at work, try and mark books, plan lessons, create resources for other lessons, policy paperwork, homework, etc.
Try and always stay ahead of the game. This means that if you have to have a few sleepless nights for the first couple of weeks to get ahead by a couple of months, do it. It’ll save you a massive headache in the long run. Then, keep on top of the workload so you’re always ahead by at least one week. Doing this also allows for any hiccups to not interfere massively with what you have planned for the next week.
Find out how to do everything the right way from the very beginning of the year. This will minimise your workload tenfold because you won’t be having to figure everything out on your own, or constantly messaging colleagues back and forth on how to do something. Learn how the marking policy works and how the syllabus is marked (and same for the homework you set), learn how to input information and data accordingly on the internal systems, and attend all the CPD you need to (unless you’re a trainee, where it is usually mandatory). By doing this, you know exactly what you’re doing and how to do it properly. This way you’ll have less stresses when it comes to working from home, which is obviously where you want to relax, not tear your hair out.
When you’re at home, try not to procrastinate (he says, whilst procrastinating…). Give yourself time to make food, go to the gym, play your games, watch a movie, or whatever, but always keep in mind that you still probably have work that you could be doing. Look to the future and think of how much stress-free free time you’ll have near the end of the term/year. Give yourself maybe 3 hours of leisure time and 2 hours of work time; that way, you’re still getting stuff done with more time spent on doing what you want to do. Sometimes, it’s best to just stick some music or the TV on and do both at the same time, tricking your brain into thinking you’re not doing as much work.
Resource creation is a CHORE, no matter how much you want to sugarcoat it. Do not create something really time-consuming from scratch. TeachIt and TES are great sites that allow you to type in whatever it is your students are learning, then a whole list of resources will be available for you to take, providing you have an educational email address. Teachstarter is useful and similar, too, but you don’t need a subscription or login to access some of the stuff. Pinterest has some great teaching ideas if you don’t want to sift through TeachIt, TES, or teachstarter (or any websites similar). Also, do not spend loads of time searching for something that can be easily created. You have a brain so use it!
Always ask for help in the best way to time manage. Chances are someone who you work with has found a far more effective and time-saving way to do a lot of the things you’re attempting to do yourself. They might even have resources available to you that you can utilise with your classes, allowing you to skip the drudge of sifting through numerous websites (or blogs).
If your students did not manage to complete a task due to lack of time or from their own disruption causing the work to be incomplete, set it as homework for the next day. Use that homework instead of the starter you had (hopefully) prepared and use this time for adequate feedback and mistake corrections. This way, you’re not wasting precious time in the lessons and the work is still getting completed. If there are issues with students not completing homework, you have to remind them that there are school rules, and sanction them accordingly. Ensure them in an advisory manner that, should the homework not be completed, they will fall behind in class and then that will ultimately lead to a lower score or failure entirely – make it about them and their learning, not about how you are going to punish them if they disobey.
Time Management at the Weekend
RELAX. A LOT. This is your chance to sleep in, your chance to stop thinking about work so much, your chance to actually enjoy your own free time.
You may still have work to do at the weekend, but this is where you need to organise your free time with your work at a ratio of 80:20. Personally, I think it’s better to get up, get showered and dressed, make breakfast, then sit down and get all of the work I need to do out of the way. That way I have the whole day and night to do whatever I want. AND, should the work take longer than usual, you’re not staying up and panicking or rushing to get it completed.
Unless you have something of vital importance, for example an observation or a marking check, then don’t stress. If you do, then split your time 50:50. If you give yourself 1 hour to watch an episode of House or Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, then give yourself 1 hours worth of work to complete after. Either that, or complete both simultaneously, even – that works.
That’s basically it, really.