When I got my own classroom, I had just gotten a new name. I was worried that hearing “Mrs. Carrington” may be a bit foreign to me in the new school year. I had a fear that every time one of my students would ask me a question, I would look behind me for my mother-in-law.
Those fears were quickly put to bed within the first few days of being in front of fourteen and fifteen year old students. I swear I must have heard my name 600 times within the first three days of teaching. Now, when someone calls me by my maiden name, it sounds really strange…as if they knew me a lifetime ago.
When you are a teacher, everyone needs you; at every moment; of every day. On a traditional schedule, I had two planning periods, but my time was filled with questions about rubrics, lectures, conferences, professional development, and departmental collaboration. Sometimes, I’d even have time for lunch or a chat with my mentor.
When I get home from a day at school, I have just about enough energy to lace up my running shoes for a few miles, make a little dinner, and watch the Bachelor. I certainly do not want to miss out on my guilty pleasure because I am too busy making my lunch for the next day. Especially when peanut butter and jelly is the only thing on the menu that seems to be quick and easy enough to take to work.
I quickly realized that my two friends PB&J were not going to give me the energy I needed to make it through another day. Even washing my hair got to be a hassle after a while.
Thus, I refined some “teacher time-savers” that you may find helpful in the coming school year.
First, develop a method to have all parent-teacher conferences student directed. This is a non-negotiable for all teachers. My lifesaver is the student generated portfolio. At the beginning of the school year, students create a chart inside of a manila folder that they populate with grades from different assignments. Each time they get a project, paper, test, or quiz back, the student titles the assignment, records the grade, writes what they could do better and then what I could do to help.
Let me tell you a secret; students are brutally honest: especially when they don’t think anyone will read what they’ve written.
I’ve been in a few conferences when parents walk in barking mad at me for not teaching their student a certain skill, but when we consult the portfolio, the anger quickly gets diverted back to the student after they admit, “I just didn’t study.”
It saves your sanity and your time. This will set you up to completely separate work and home. I cannot overstate the importance of that little manila folder.
Next, develop a uniform. The idea of wearing a “uniform” has never been attractive to anyone, but let me explain. I really enjoy dressing for work. It becomes a little bit of a game for me as I decide what to wear. This is going to sound a little ‘Mean Girls’ (On Tuesdays, we wear pink), but it really helps me limit my time getting ready in the morning. I try to wear pants two days a week, skirts two days a week, and one dress. Anytime I wear separates, I layer with a blouse and cardigan or jacket. Dresses are also layered. That way, my style is season-less and takes very little time figuring out how to style in the morning.
A typical week may look like this:
1. Monday: Black ankle trousers, white pocket sleeveless blouse, coral cardigan, nude flats, gold accessories.
2. Tuesday: Graphic black and white print fitted mock wrap dress, cobalt cardigan, patent black belt, black flats.
3. Wednesday: Navy and cream striped pencil skirt, red blouse, nude flats, silver accessories
4. Thursday: Blue and white polka dot ankle trousers, pink blouse, tan blazer, nude flats
5. Friday: Jeans, school t-shirt, black blazer, Chuck Taylors
The formula is the same: layered and belted separates to give a polished look every time. Adding in your favorite accessories can break up the monotony of the outfits as well.
Also: get a gel manicure. Teachers use their hands all the time, you don’t realize how much you have to look down at your mitts until you’re in front of a classroom. It is well worth the investment and my gel manicure sometimes keeps for over 3.5-4 weeks. A regular manicure keeps for a few days. It is the perfect time just for you and it always helps me feel put together.
Have two or three go-to hairstyles. I have a confession: I do not wash my hair every day. I wash either every other day or every third day (depending on the amount that I sweat, it may be every day). My hair stays long for a few reasons. I like my hair longer better, and sock buns are easier than washing and styling. Seriously.
Dry shampoo (John Frieda or Big Sexy…seriously DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME WITH TRESEMME…I HATE THAT I KNOW THIS) is a godsend. I usually default to a high sock bun, a side bun, or a combo of half french braid, half side bun when my hair is a day or two past washing. Please do not pay attention to my hair in the above photo, as it was washed, but not dried in the morning. Here are some helpful, time-saving Pinterest tutorials.
Have five healthy lunches that can keep for the week. Mine is a “rainbow salad.” I don’t get bored by my food easily. Most of the time, I use dinner as my time to experiment. Lunches can be kept simple. It cuts down on time at the grocery store and allows for more free time.
I start with a light balsamic vinaigrette at the bottom of a tall cylinder tupperware. I layer with diced tomatoes (which marinate in the vinaigrette), then shredded carrots, diced yellow bell pepper, diced cucumber, thinly sliced red onion, grilled chicken, and baby spinach on top. This way, the greens stay fresh and I can make the salads on Monday and have one to take each day of the week. When you are ready to eat, just shake and the dressing and veggies will mix perfectly.
I throw some Greek yogurt and fruit of choice into my lunch bag and I am satisfied. It is a tasty way to stay healthy with the bombardment of sweets that somehow make their way on your desk.
These are just a few time saving tips, but more are sure to follow in the coming weeks. Get ready teachers…back to school is just a few weeks away!