I remember when my friend Emma was gifted with her first classroom. She was beyond thrilled, just glowing with anticipation. She told me how her mind reeled with hundreds of ideas for teaching, decorating, procedures, organization—everything involved with the basic care and teaching of young ones.
Emma, like many of us, began her career in those days without children or a husband. Her time seemed limitless. When she was expecting her first child, however, time became her most valuable commodity. One hour of her time was absolutely priceless. She was scared she wouldn’t be able to find balance between a new baby and her love for teaching.
I faced the same challenges at that stage of life—with a young son and a new career, balance became a challenge. I tried to dodge the challenge (becoming an instructional coach) but wasn’t happy enough to keep me away from my own classroom for long.
But I learned some priceless—truly priceless—lessons while I was a coach to other teachers. I observed some of the best and brightest teachers I’ve ever met, and that inspired me to discover some of my own strategies and tools that save me time everyday in the classroom. I shared them with Emma and now she’s more balanced.
Whether you’re an expectant mom like Emma or have young children, there are everyday strategies you can use to help you find balance.
So I’m going to walk you through those strategies, too, They are based upon a compilation of years of research and other teachers’ systems. All the digging has been done for you!
PLUS there’s a nifty download—with BONUS material—to help you with the strategies.
Are you ready? Let’s get started!
Strategy 1. The Time Audit. The first tool in your tool kit is the Time Audit—knowing knowing how much time you really have and how you are using it.
The first step is to record how much non-student time you have on any given day. You might write down your 45 minutes for planning, 1 hour after school, and 30 minutes before school. Use the free download to help you along or you use a sheet of paper.
Then write down what you did during that time and how much time it took. For example, if you took 10 minutes talking about a student with a colleague, write that down. If you spent 20 minutes finding a resource at Teachers Pay Teachers, write it down. Everything that takes up your time should be recorded, including the time spent checking email (5 minutes), straightening (5 minutes), cleaning (5 minutes) and so on.
You can see an example in the download.
You’ll notice a pattern after you do this. When Emma completed the time audit, she noticed how she had wasted valuable time.
The good news is that it’s a huge first step just becoming aware of them! Then you can start making a habit of avoiding them. Or delegating. The next tool will help you with that.
Strategy 2. The Prioritized To-Do List. Creating a prioritized to-do list is what the masters have been doing for decades. Prioritizing is enlightening and necessary if you want balance. Remember there’s a freebie to help you.
For a prioritized to-do list, use the first 5 minutes of your day to create a to-do list of what you need accomplish before tomorrow. Just focus on today, only today. Now look back at your list and put a number by each one in number of priority. You can see examples in the free download.
If you need to make copies for your first lesson, that would be number 1. Answering a parent email should be further down on your list. Student needs come first. You’ll find that some of your items can wait until the next day or are not really a priority at all. After you have a numbered priority list, do the things in the order of importance.
Creating a to-do list that’s prioritized helps you manage the time you have and find balance. And you’ll also discover many things aren’t a priority at all. It’s a win-win.
By taking five minutes each morning to create a to do list, you’ll save yourself so much time and feel balanced. Your list is right in front of you.
Strategy 3. The Stop Doing List. You need to create a stop doing list. It’s basically a list of items you don’t personally need to do but can be a job for your students—check out this blog post if you need help with that —AND those activities you discovered in your time audit that included time wasters—see the example in the download.
Emma found that with the Stop Doing list that she could free 20 minutes everyday with small things her students would benefit doing, such as sharpening pencils, cleaning the room, and organizing. Her students also learned responsibility and problem solving in the process.
Like Emma, you can find balance between work and family. Being a teacher is so rewarding, but so is being a mom. These three simple strategies will help you find more balance in your classroom just like my friend Emma and countless others. You’re here to care for all of the sacred beings, in your classroom and at home.