Ahhhh…. It’s my favorite time of the day. Late afternoon after a hard day’s work. My students are on the right track. We worked our butts off today learning about the something-or-other and I couldn’t be happier about my day. I’m just gonna sit down on the couch, put my feet up, crack open this beer, turn on the TV, uncap my red pen and start grading for the next three hours. Well…that took an unpleasant turn!
Raise your hand if this sounds like a normal night to you. (Don’t worry, I may be pretty savvy with technology, but I’m not tapping into your webcam right now to see if you raised your hand.) First things first: You’re not doing anything wrong! This happens to all of us, including many of our non-teacher friends. There just isn’t enough time in the day for us to do everything we need to do to be the teacher we want to be.
Or, is there?
No, there isn’t. But, I digress.
There are ways to limit how much you bring home as a teacher. Well, I suppose I should say as a good teacher. If you were a bad teacher, you just wouldn’t bring anything home ever. If that last suggestion sounded good to you, you can probably stop reading now. And just leave. You can’t sit with us good teachers.
So, here are some basic strategies that I have developed in my early years as a teacher that have helped me immensely in this arena. I mean, I want to have a social life. I want to have personal time. I want to have some semblance of sanity. If you agree, read on.
Strategy #1: Find creative times to grade things.
I have found that with a little forethought and creativity, almost everything that I would normally take home can be graded at school. It really helps to be able to multitask while doing this, but it’s not a requirement. Some examples:
- During morning tutorial. Have your room open for students before school. I find this immensely helpful in so many ways that I cannot even begin to list them all here. Students are able to come in to ask questions, parents appreciate my willingness to put forth the extra effort, and my colleagues know that I am one of the good ones. But, when it comes down to it, I don’t have a kid in my room every morning. So, I can usually punch out a dozen or so tests in the time I would normally be sitting down with a kid to explain that thing that I spent an hour explaining the day before. (It’s not her fault though; she was having a really important text conversation with her friend about something that her other friend tweeted that made her mad so she retweeted it with a snarky hashtag and then her other friend thought it was mean so she defriended her on Facebook AND unfollowed her Instagram. Sorry…PTSD moment.)
- During lunch. On those rare days that you get to sit at your desk or in the workroom and actually eat lunch, why not get just a few tests out of the way? I suggest pulling up Pandora and rocking out a bit while doing so, of course, but it really does help later to have those extra few tests done. I also grade while eating and talking with colleagues. Trust me, students don’t actually care when they get their papers back with cheese on them. They just throw them away, anyway.
- While helping students with classwork. Ok, this one has the most potential to make you look like a bad teacher, so be very careful while trying this one out. The key here is to not ignore your students. What I do is walk around—like I normally would—answering questions and checking for understanding, but I do so with a clipboard full of items to grade. While I’m walking from one student to another I can grade a paper or two. You’d be surprised how many papers or tests you can grade by doing this! Plus, it kinda looks like you’re writing down vital statistics about the kids or something. Bonus!
Tip: That last one has the potential to be a bit dangerous, unless you have more than two eyes. Ask students to make sure the space between their desks or tables in completely clear of backpacks and other items. After all, you don’t want to be that teacher that wears a neck brace. That’s social suicide.
Strategy #2: Find a planning buddy.
Ok, for those of you that are the only one that teaches a particular class, it sucks to be you. Don’t get me wrong! You’re probably awesome at it and all, but us folks that teach the same classes as others really have an advantage. We get to work together!
So, this is my second suggestion that will enable you to go home unburdened with manila folders: Find a planning buddy. Work together with someone to plan your curriculum and write lesson plans. I know this is probably a no-brainer for most of you (and in some circumstances it is mandated by the administration), but it really does need to be said! You can cut your planning time in half if you let someone else lend a hand.
The way I suggest is this: You plan a unit, they plan a unit, and keep alternating in that fashion. You get to use the same materials, the same project supplies, the same labs. You even can take it a step further and make each other’s copies. That would really save time.
The key thing here is that you have to trust each other. That coworker you pissed off on the first day by asking when she was due? Yeah, probably don’t ask her to be your planning buddy. And return those green booties.
Strategy #3: Live in the Clouds.
Ok, disclaimer: This one isn’t so much a time-saving strategy as it is a convenience one. It’s more about not physically taking stuff home.
I have never taken my school laptop home. Ever. It’s not that I don’t need the files that are on it to work on at home (from time to time). I just don’t like the strain on my shoulder from the brick that is the school-issued machine. So, how then do I get all my files home? A flash drive? Not likely, with the 15GB of files that I have in my school folder. Plus, I always break those things.
What I do instead is keep everything on my school laptop synchronized in a Cloud service. That way, I can access my files anywhere, even on my phone. There are many great services out there, like Dropbox and Google Drive, but I prefer SugarSync. SugarSync keeps all my files in sync, without ever having to think about it. Very cool. Very smart. Here is a link to sign up for a free account (which gives you 5GB of space!): SugarSync
The real point here: be creative! Find times during school to do what you would normally do after school. Also, share the load. If you are a perfectionist, try to let loose a little and let others help you out a bit. You will be happier because of the adult interaction and the lightened workload. I cannot tell you enough how much my coworkers help me keep my sanity on a daily basis. And when I lose it, they are there to explain my craziness to others by making up some story about me eating a bad egg roll or something.