It’s almost time to think about New Year’s resolutions. Now, I’m not here to talk about losing weight or cutting your spending. Those are things you can decide for yourself. I’m here today to bring you some totally doable TEACHER RESOLUTIONS!
Wouldn’t it be great to have your weekends? To not work every night? To be healthy? To really improve your teaching? These are things all teachers want, but how do we do this? Read on!
Resolution 1. Don’t work all weekend.
First, let me say that I worked all weekend for many years. Sunday was spent locked in my office, grading papers, putting in grades, planning lessons, cutting apart manipulatives, and even, at the beginning of my career, turning my hands blue, green, and purple washing overhead projector pages. Yes, my first teaching job had no projector to hook to my computer. I didn’t even have a whiteboard to write on. I had a screen with an overhead projector, and every single lesson I taught had to be written on these pages. Sigh….
In the end, I realized that I was working so hard that I could not continue at that pace. I began to get burned out. I would bring papers home, but I could not make myself grade them. And guess what? My students still learned even if they had to wait one more day to get their homework back. They still scored so well on their assessments. They still took the AP test and rocked it. So, what can you do to not work all weekend?
1. Stay late one night a week to grade and plan.
I was a coach, so on game nights, I would stay after school at 2:30 until the game at 7:00, grading papers and planning as much as I could. It wasn’t all bad. I’d get my favorite take-out and watch Grey’s Anatomy on my computer. I’d also gain 4 hours that I would have been working on the weekend. 🙂
2. Grade some papers together in class.
Do you have to actually grade every single paper? I don’t think so. Do you think each student looks thoroughly at every correction that you have made? They don’t. When you have 150 students, as I often did, and if you give daily homework, which I usually did, that equals over 1000 papers a week to grade. Who has that kind of time? I say that we should make the grading count and make sure the students understand the corrections.
At the beginning of class, when students are doing a bellwork activity, have them put their homework on a corner of their desks. You can take attendance and do all the other things required of you, then do a quick walk-by with your favorite stamp, marking pages completed on time. Then you can take five minutes to grade the homework together, pick it up, give a completion grade, and you have saved yourself time, explained the answers, and assigned a grade.
Want to make it even easier? I give packets for each unit. We grade the assigned page, and I pick up the packet at the end of the unit. Students have the packet to study from, and I assign less grades. You can pick it up weekly if you feel like you want to have more grades. Does that allow for lazy students to cheat? Sure, if they have that inclination, but they will find a way anyways. In my class, assessments count for 60-70% of the grade, and homework counts for 10%, so they know better than to cheat. If they don’t master the material, they won’t get a grade that says they did.
Yes, this takes time on the front end, especially if you have to do the laminating yourself, but once it is done, all you have to do is open the file cabinet and pull out the resource. So, what can you laminate? Speaking cards, task cards, board games, or anything else that students don’t write on. Your future self will thank you.
4. Formatively assess.
You need to know how your students are doing, but you don’t have time to grade all of the time? Use individual whiteboards. Use the whiteboards to formatively assess students on verb conjugation, vocabulary, math facts, or anything else that you are working on. You know what they need to practice, they have fun, and you don’t have grades to input. You can buy a set, or make your own. A set from a teacher supply company is about $30.
To make your own:
Go to the hardware store and find white panel-board. It comes in a large board, but most large stores will cut it for you in 12″ X 12″ or 12″ X 16″ for a few dollars extra. Total cost for 24 boards is about $15.
5. Let technology work for you.
Have you tried Boom learning yet? At Boom, you’ll find digital task cards that kids love.
It is awesome, because you can find already-made activities by fellow teachers, kids love the technology aspect, and the activities are self-checking! I love to use them for my son at home, and he thinks the practice is a lot of fun! Want to try out a free deck?
Resolution 2. Take care of yourself.
Every year, just before or after a vacation, I get sick. I push myself so hard, and eventually I collapse. I spend the vacation sick in bed, rather than enjoying my family and friends. So, what can you do?
Yes, that is easier said than done, but it is so important! Make sure you are getting enough sleep and not pushing yourself to the max all of the time.
2. Make the most of your weekends.
Make sure you are getting some quality downtime doing something you love. Whether it is going to the movies with your kids, getting dinner with an old friend, or simply taking a walk, make sure you are taking time to do something you love. If your weekend consists of grading papers, lesson planning, grocery shopping, and laundry, you won’t be ready to go back to work on Monday. Take some time, even if it is one hour, to do something just for you.
3. Find the joy in what you are doing.
Look for a few fun ways to teach your subject, and then build a resource library with some of your favorites. Once you have done an activity once or twice, guiding a class through it becomes so easy, and kids get so excited when they come in your room and see a favorite activity. You are in your room all day, maybe even doing the same activity 5-6 times a day. Shouldn’t it be something you want to do? When you and your students are having fun, learning happens naturally, you’ll find yourself smiling, and the day seems to fly by!
4. Celebrate your successes.
Benchmarking, constant assessing, and endless paperwork can make teaching become so much less personal than it should be. Sure, when your class scores well or your principal comes in at just the right moment to see a great lesson, you can pat yourself on the back, but don’t forget the small things. Did that student who has struggled all year have an Aha! moment? Did you find a new activity that your class loved? Did you lead a great community service project? Did you make a child who never smiles share a big smile with you or someone else? These are all worth celebrating. Test scores are important, but they are not why we became teachers. Don’t forget why you are there, and celebrate the little things you do that make you a good teacher.
5. Become a better teacher.
Take classes that help you focus on what you love about education. Learn new technology. Visit other classrooms or other schools. Ask for help. Have a colleague observe you or ask your students for feedback. Growing as a teacher never stops unless you stop trying.
Resolution 3. Don’t be afraid to say no.
You want to help. I get it. For several years, I was a full-time teacher to 150 kids. I also finished my Master’s, coached, wrote curriculum for four courses, and served as the district Foreign Language Chair. In my spare time (as if), I tutored a family on the weekends. I just never said no to anyone, because I knew I was capable, and I didn’t want to let anyone down. I also needed those extra jobs, because I was paying for my degree on a teacher’s salary. In the end, I got the work done well, but I lost touch with some of my oldest friends. People just don’t understand the demands of teacher life. When I realized how much I missed certain friends, or how long it had been since I had done some of my favorite hobbies, I said, “Enough is enough.” Ten years later, I have stepped down from so many roles, and I’m a lot happier. Sure, I have been offered some positions that would be great on a resume or make me feel like I’m more accomplished professionally, but I turned them down. I don’t feel bad explaining that my family comes first. Does it make me a lesser teacher? NO! I am better than ever now, because I am not pulled in twenty directions. I’m dedicated to creating meaningful lessons for my students, to connecting with each and every one, to being the best me I can be for everyone I love in my life. I make time for my girlfriends. I take hikes with my family. I attend every activity my son does, and I’m loving where I am in life! 💖
So, what about you? What do you want to do in this year?