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Monday, August 6, 2018

How to Avoid Teacher Overwhelm

 Do you ever wonder how other teachers deal with feelings of being endlessly behind and never done?  Whether you’re a first-year or a seasoned teacher, this post has some time-tested advice for you!

How to Avoid Teacher Overwhelm

For the New Teacher:

Most importantly, you need to understand that classroom teaching is different and difficult compared to college, which has set deadlines and a defined“end” with the final project/exam. In classroom teaching, there’s always more you can do or should be doing.

Try to find a seasoned teacher or mentor who is willing to explain what is mandatory and what is “extra”. Always focus on the mandatory first. For example, grading assignments and providing timely feedback, should be top priority since students’ knowledge (or lack thereof) should guide your planning and instruction. 

For All Teachers:

First of all, understand that the to-do list never ends, so you have to make it “end” each day for yourself.  

Make Sure You Differentiate Between Work and Home

If you come home and still work on school things and don't have time to do things with your loved  ones, this sets you up for overwhelm. You have to decide what your "school hours" and "home hours" are. Pick a time for school, say 7:00 am to 4:30 pm. At 4:30, leave school and school work behind so home is home time. Of course, it won't ALWAYS work out that way, but setting personal school hours really helps.

Make Weekly To-Do Lists

Many teachers like to use stick notes to do this so they can either throw the note away when it's done or move the sticky to the next week if they don't get to it. This helps them to prioritize and have a healthy work/life balance.

When setting up your to-do list, think of the daily tasks you need to get done.

Set Up Daily Tasks

For example, Mondays you could have students pass out portfolios and graded papers and then collect portfolios.  Tuesdays, are for grading. Wednesday is for inputting grades. Thursday is for planning your next week’s lessons. Fridays might be for getting your copying done and collecting materials for the following week.

After Your Daily Tasks, Write a Secondary List:

  • You need a clear "do today", "do sometime this week/month", and "do one day whenever the world slows down" list. 
  • Accomplish the “today” list and when you have a slower day or extra time, jump on the “this week/month list”. 
  • Plan out your day each evening/morning and if you have a short today list, add something from your week/month list to "today" 
  • Don't worry about the other two lists. Focus on today. Eventually you will get enough done. And eventually that future list will fix itself on some things and will get shorter.

Assign Class Jobs

If your school allows it, here are some common tasks that students can do to save you time:

  • Take attendance  
  • Pass back papers
  • Help absent students catch up
  • Tutor other students

Just Do Your Best, Always

Don't try to over do it. If you don't get to that one lesson, it will be okay. Some years you will be behind and it's not the end of the world.  If you stick to showing students that you care about them, they will likely learn and retain more anyway.

Spend Some Time Each Day Organizing Your Classroom

I don't like to leave each day until I've at least:

  • Tidied up my desk 
  • Put the to-do list for the next day in a visible area of my desk
  • Put all stacks of papers to be graded in a neat stack in a central location

I have students help me out with the "clean up" portion of organizing the classroom during homeroom.  This includes:

  • Putting back classroom supplies such as scissors, markers, and glue sticks
  • Wiping down counters, tables, and desks
  • Straightening up book shelves

How do you avoid teacher overwhelm?  What would you add to this post?  I'd love to hear your ideas because I still feel overwhelmed sometimes too!

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