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Time-saving tips and tricks for teachers to use in the New Year

As we start a new year it’s often helpful to sweep away the metaphorical cobwebs of the last year, set goals and priorities and plan ways to meet whichever resolutions we have made. Very often we decide to “get organised”, determined to create more time for ourselves, and find an optimal plan and schedule that helps us get more things done, more efficiently.

For teachers this is particularly true. The daily life of a teacher has many “moving parts”, and keeping track of what needs doing, as well as creating time to reflect on what we are spending our time on is a powerful and necessary resolution.

Time-saving tips and tricks for teachers

Let’s look at some of the tips, tricks and tools other teachers are using to get the most out of their day, and time.

Bullet Journals

In previous posts I have waxed a bit lyrical on my love for Bullet Journals. The Bullet Journal concept was developed by Ryder Carroll, in New York. Ryder is a normal guy, a digital product designer, who over the years has developed an efficient, analog system of thought organisation - using a simple journal and pen.

Through word of mouth, and a crowdfunding project, Ryder eventually managed to produce the ultimate bullet journal, available online, but truly it can be done using any blank, or lined page journal. The technique allows for a wide variety of adaptations, and can be as simple or complex as you need it to be.

Naturally, there are a host of BuJo applications for teachers, and a number of BuJo teacher fans who are sharing their journal layouts and techniques online. Alexandra Plans is a YouTube channel with a specific teacher video that has many great ideas for a teacher BuJo, including a teacher dashboard, and Bloom’s Taxonomy page.

Email folders

Folders, folders, folders. Taking the time to set up rules in your Inbox is well worth the effort. In this way you are not assailed by a heaving inbox every time you check your mail; emails are automatically filed according to sender or topic, allowing you to address parent, staff, student, PD and district emails in batches once you have scheduled the time. Responding to once-off emails throughout the day is a guaranteed time drain.

I have found my email software is also, in fact, a powerful backup/archive for conversations. True story: I never delete an email - I archive everything. I have set up a storage function for all of my emails, and they are archived from my deleted folder every few months. I cannot tell you how often I have needed a document, or detail from a year or more ago, and have been able to call up that email string swiftly and easily.

Emails are some of the smallest files on your computer, don’t be tempted to delete them forever, as I have found that archived conversations can be a very helpful resource to remind me of projects and conversations.

Find tips on Outlook archiving and Gmail archiving here and here.

Assessment overload

Undoubtedly one of the biggest time requirements is assessments. However, utilizing a few tips and tricks uncovered by other teachers may help you to streamline the process.

  • Turn off the Editor: When marking essays or long-form assignments it may prove difficult not to correct every mistake made. But resist the temptation - it’s has been found that notating or correcting every error doesn’t help either the student or the teacher. The Walvoord and Anderson grading model suggest that grading in this way gives students the impression they need only correct what you have edited. Students lose ownership of their work, and a valuable teaching moment may have been lost, since students should be able to review their work and find the errors themselves.
  • 100 points or Bust?: Not every assignment needs a 100-point grade. There are very many occasions (reading logs, homework, discussion boards and forums) where a four-point, or even three-point scale can work. Changing your grading to four-points (1 = no check, 2= check minus, 3 = check, 4 = check plus) or three-point scale (1= unacceptable, 2= competent, and 3 = outstanding) will save a lot of time. It also places a greater burden on students to reflect on and review unacceptable work on their own, without demanding detailed guidance (and more time) from their teachers.
  • Dial down the comments: It can be disheartening for students to receive back a final paper or project, covered in red ink. All that red ink also took quite a bit of time out of the teacher’s schedule. Walvoord and Anderson suggest that extensive comments on final papers are less important than quick comments and discussions in the draft process. These comments also become time savers, as when you review the next iteration of the project or paper, you can quick-reference your previous comments, rather than reviewing the whole paper again.

Closing thoughts

Many teachers struggle with the sheer volume of work and preparation required to give students a great learning experience, as well as meeting required standards. However, with a bit of online research you will no doubt find the tools, tips and support you need to make better decisions around the time you spend on certain aspects of your teaching day.

I’d love to hear your time saving tips in the comments below.

May your 2019 be a happy and productive one.

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