So…I got a lot of great feedback from teachers and other professionals on my “Teacher Time-Savers” post. Many women were thankful for the idea of pre-made salads and easy hair tutorials.
Then, it occurred to me, through a friendly comment from a male colleague, that I also have a male readership as well. In fact, I have been fascinated by the amount of men who actually take the time to read through my 1500+ word essays every day and send me messages privately to tell me that they read my blog and enjoy it. I just assume they’re trying to maintain their street credibility.
To be painfully honest with you, I enjoy every. single. positive. piece. of. feedback that I get from all of my readers. It renews my spirit. With each, “I read your blog every day and I LOVE IT!” it confirms that everything I am pouring into this little blog is totally worth it. So THANK you to my loyal readers: from the bottom of my heart.
One of my readers reads my blog so intently that he wanted to take a stab at writing his own teacher time savers post…just for men. Enjoy the advice from Coach E as he divulges his secrets for minimizing the unpleasantries of education and maximizes family time and the intrinsic payoff of being a full time educator and coach.
As I thought about the time saving tricks I’ve learned over six years of teaching, I realized that efficiency has literally been my #1 priority from Day 1 of my career. My interview was the day after Labor Day; by the time my papers cleared and I stepped into my classes, the students were four weeks behind schedule. And so began the 12 week delivery of a 16 week (actually 24 week in my accelerated sections) curriculum. That first year was full of late nights grading, creating assessments, and… driving. I was happy if my afternoon commute took less than an hour. That first summer, I moved into an apartment two minutes from school to get that an hour of my life back.
In the classroom, grading shortcuts sort of depend on what subject you teach. I cannot help you with term papers or creative writing, but the biggest thing is to develop and then tweak a system that is easy for you but gets you enough of a picture of each student’s progress. My students hate busy work, and I hate grading busy work. I’ve boiled my gradebook down to a homework check and a short quiz every week.
For example, almost all of my quizzes are less than five questions, but those five cover the full range of the week’s content, tie in previous concepts, and increase in depth and difficulty so I can properly assess mastery. Sounds good right? Hint within a hint: Learn the professional buzzwords. They get me out of parent conferences in half the time unless the parent is a fellow teacher. That sounds harsh, but in my defense I usually save that technique for unscheduled drop-ins.
Speaking of parent conferences, a good website can win a lot of favor if you work with a student population that will access it. It is a cheap first line of communication and easy way to let the parents learn a little about you so you don’t have to repeat your qualifications 75 times at curriculum night. I added a ‘frequently asked questions’ and a smiling picture to the front page of my site – worked wonders. Not tech savvy? Surely there is a nerdy brown-noser on your roster who would love to make sure he or she stays at the top of your list. Additionally, establish lines of communication with parents of your trouble students early (‘trouble’ could refer to attitude or ability here). Just introduce yourself and mention one good thing about their kid (all kids have one, I swear). It makes the future nasty conversations a lot softer.
Note number 2 about a good website: I have only copied assessments for two years. No worksheets (and my whole curriculum is worksheet based because Georgia doesn’t help much with math resources so I pretty much wrote my own textbook). It is all on my website, and the students are expected to print it themselves. This easily saved me 30 minutes a day because our copiers were jammed more often than not. Lesson plans, syllabus, project rubrics, exam review sheets, extra credit opportunities… just throw it all up there. The trees will thank you.
Let me tell you about my favorite part of teaching: documentation. We had to turn in parent communication logs each semester. Early in my career, I honestly used to avoid communicating just so my communication log was easier to fill out (because who really has time to update your log after every conversation). So here’s how I cheated. Create a special label or folder for parent communication and make sure every e-mail gets tagged or sorted appropriately. If you do have to make a phone call or have a face-to-face conversation, send yourself an email with the details and sort that. At the end of the semester, just take pictures or screen shots of your folder and print them. I did this in my Gmail because I like Gmail’s layout and mobile app better than FirstClass. If you like the sound of that, change your preferences to forward all FirstClass emails to a professional Gmail account, and then setup your Gmail to send mail from a different address.
Outside the classroom… is there time outside the classroom? Just kidding. Obviously the most important time is the morning. Bekah covered a lot of these topics really well a couple weeks ago, but here’s a guy’s version because I don’t see many male teachers walking into work with a sock bun on their head. Dr. Milne might be the only one (with the requisite hair) brave enough.
A big time-eater for me is preparing food, because I eat a lot and need second breakfast, lunch, and second lunch, and then an afternoon snack on game days. I’m a big-time eater, and unfortunately with regards to time, I care about what I eat. I tried the cafeteria food a couple times my first year and couldn’t do it. So here are some ideas.
For a week’s worth of second breakfast, I spray a 9×13” pyrex and scramble 18 eggs with a bunch of vegetables you’d commonly find in an omelet (broccoli, peppers, onion, etc.). I have to add a protein or three because, honestly, by Friday we are talking about week-old, refrigerated egg. That’s pretty much only edible if it contains bacon or sausage. Anyways, in the oven, 350° for 30ish minutes. Let it cool for a bit and then slice it up into five equal pieces, drop them in tupperware, top with salsa. Second breakfast done. If I have a spare minute, I’ll slice up some avocado and dump that in morning of. Add bonus points for cost efficiency here. Eggs are the cheapest protein source at the grocery store, and they are even cheaper if you buy the 7.5 dozen box at Costco.
I do something similar to Bekah’s “salad in a mason jar” lunch without the mason jars – because I don’t need my life to look like Pinterest. Tupperware is fine. I will say that whatever I’m eating, I purposefully try to make my lunch not messy so I can grade while I eat. I avoid drippy salad dressings; I prefer my homemade pesto anyway. (2 bunches of basil leaves, 1 cup walnut or pecan halves, ¾ cup EVOO. Run that through a food processor for a minute and add salt and garlic powder to taste.)
The big point here is, if you care about what you eat, prep it and package it Sunday. Do it. My TV is strategically positioned so that I can watch football while I spend a couple hours of the afternoon cooking, cutting, and packaging. Plus, standing and working in the kitchen is better than sitting on the couch because, in case you haven’t heard, sitting is the new smoking.
The morning’s other time-consuming activity obviously is getting dressed. This used to be cake for me. I came home in the evenings, hung my pants nicely over the closet door, and then they were ready for me to put them back on the next morning. Everything still in pockets, badge and work keys still clipped to the belt loop, belt still in the loops. All that was left was to throw a polo shirt on, slip into my boaters, out the door. I’d get dressed up on Thursdays to change it up. No one knew the significance of Thursday, but the real reason was Thursday is my rest day so I don’t go to the gym and have my morning time to get dressed up. I faced a major dilemma this summer though, because I have to wear a tie to my new job every day. Solution: I took a day this summer with my wife to go through my closet and put together every element of 20 solid outfits, then snapped a picture. Why did my wife need to be there? (a) Because she’s better at making outfits than me, and (b) I don’t take selfies. Now, I’ve got an easy catalog to refer to and don’t have to stand in my closet trying to figure out which tie matches or which color socks look best. If I’m really ambitious, I may even lay out my clothes the night before.
Do I even need to mention streaming TV shows? Everyone knows by now that streaming saves 17 minutes per hour, right? I don’t remember if the apps like Hulu put commercials in, but I stream from a browser with AdBlock extension and don’t have to watch them.
Those are my major time-saving tricks. If you’ve got some good ones, post them in the comments! Obviously the “outside the classroom” set are options for everyone, so I’m sure there are readers out there who are more efficient than me. Share them with us – I want to have more time to spend with my little boy (now you can’t say no).”