If you’re like most teachers, you look forward each school day to your planning period; then, when it arrives, time is up before you’ve gotten anything done (much less started). As a teacher, there are constant distractions all around, from paperwork to parents, duties to discipline, students to staff, assemblies to fire drills. Here are five tips on how to make your planning period more productive, and get a lot more accomplished during that daily break:
Tip #1. Avoid going to the office or mailroom unless necessary – Establish the routine of checking your teacher mailbox at the beginning and end of each school day, and not during your planning period. Unfortunately, even a “quick check” of your mail often turns into finding something new that needs to be filled out or turned in immediately, or you run into a parent or staff member that suddenly takes up your whole planning time.
Tip #2. Avoid the teacher’s lounge – If you need a mid-day pick-me-up and are craving caffeine or a snack, avoid going to the teacher’s lounge during your planning period and try bringing your own refreshments, soda or coffee. As most teachers know, the teacher’s lounge is a productivity-killer, and every good intention you had to work on classroom tasks dies out when the opportunity to socialize arises.
Tip #3: Set goals by keeping a list – Whether it’s a “To Do” list or a “Stay on Task” list, keep a notepad and pen on your desk, and jot down the goals you want to accomplish during your planning period. When your break arrives, be more productive by tackling the longest, most difficult or most tedious tasks first.
Tip #4. Make use of volunteers – There are often a number of highly-involved parents that good-naturedly say “If you need help at any time, just let me know!”, but rarely do we take them up on that offer. Call these parents to help you be more productive during your planning period (or even trustworthy, hardworking students who have free time) by cutting paper, washing brushes, grading quizzes or making copies.
Tip #5. Hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your classroom door – If this seems far-fetched, consider how many productive planning periods are cut short by other teachers that want to vent about a colleague, use the paper cutter, borrow scissors, glue or a stapler, want you to design a poster, help with a bulletin board, or any other request that depletes your time and resources. Let the staff and students know that your planning period is actually that, a time for you to focus on your own work, and requests should be made before or after school.
Using these tips will help teachers save that extra time spent in the classroom after school or on the work brought home at the end of the day. Make a goal to be more productive and use your planning periods just for planning, and enjoy your nights and weekends all to yourself!