Work Less Time, Get More Done


Every quarter of the school year, I try to set some professional goals. This quarter (Q3), my goal was to work less. Not get lazy! Don’t worry, that’s not what I’m about! Instead, it was to go home at a reasonable time, every. day. Easier said then done, right? I’ve been making a huge effort to get out of here at a decent time every night. The rules are simple – three nights a week, I have to leave by 4, and absolutely no working on weekends.

And how has it worked? Splendidly!

Well, that was a lie.

It’s made me have to think smarter about how I’m using my time, and how I’m managing my classroom. Three easy things that I went through to optimize my time and go home to my family.

1.      How much of your time is spent grading?

This is where I cut the most time. I was spending forever doing grading. The kids were passing something in every day that I was looking at. That’s 6 classes of 35 kids, 5 days a week. Of course it was taking forever! The first thing I did was switch to more informal checks. I carry my gradebook around more and make a checkmark instead of having them pass things in. I give less homework now, and instead incentivize things like taking notes. I also made the homework easier for me to grade. Each class has a weekly homework assignment, and it takes me 15 minutes a class now, just once a week, to get through all of it.

Tests? I highly recommend Zipgrade. It’s $8 a year, but it’s saved me literally dozens of hours in grading. Anything multiple choice? Onto the zipgrade. The kids can even scan it themselves using my phone (I attach it to a stand, and they just put their quiz right under it!

I’ll admit, this isn’t perfect. As a science teacher, labs and projects still take up a huge chunk of my grading time, but it’s definitely been a lot fewer hours of me sitting at my desk with a pen in hand.

2.      Can the lesson planning be simplified?

As both a broke young teacher, and a teacher trying to figure out a new curriculum, I’ve started doing what I can to shortcut some of my lesson planning. The advice I have here, that is free (teachers pay teachers can get expensive!), is to use the resources that your school is already paying for. Did your textbook come with a test maker? How about included powerpoints? I don’t use these straight out of the box…they’re wordy and confusing, but it’s easier and less time consuming to edit and enhance a powerpoint than to start from scratch. Again, this cut down my test creation time and notes-slides creation time to less than a third of what it was.

3.      What can the students do to help me?

Our biggest resource in a classroom is our students. Are you setting up labs every week? Collecting papers? Doing all the grading? Not anymore! Have some students do that. Have them do a paper swap to grade less-important papers, so that you just need to check over them and slap them into the gradebook. Trustworthy students can put away and set up labs and projects, and they can all pass things in. I have an instant alphabetizer that I homemade to make adding things to the gradebook even easier. I’ll see about creating a tutorial and posting it.

Your turn…what have you done to save yourself some time and get home to your family? Or your cats? Cats are family too, right?