Avoid Teacher Burnout

As any educator can tell you, the beginning of the year is the most time-consuming, crazy-busy time there is. It’s like moving in to a new house, starting a new job, finishing up your Master’s thesis, and hosting a big party all in the same week.

I’m not sure there’s any way around it. Everyone is busy the first six weeks or so, and everyone puts in extra hours – even educators who’ve been at it for years. But for some, the busyness becomes more manageable as the year goes on, and for some it doesn’t. And you don’t need me to tell you that the first-of-the-year level of activity just isn’t sustainable, especially if you want to have what’s commonly known in the non-teaching community as “a life.”

So how do you convert the crazy-busy time into a sustainable schedule? I believe it all comes down to habits – actions we take automatically in response to a situation.

Play Video ThumbnailThe cool thing about habits is they don’t require a lot of thought once they are learned. They just become what we automatically do. That’s why I believe the most important thing to do in the first six weeks of school is teach the students (and ourselves) habits that will automatically save us time. If we do this, we will eventually have a sustainable schedule instead of a burned-out-train-wreck schedule.

Think about it. If the students have the habit of running around for 15 minutes before class starts, you will be wasting time getting them to settle down – time you could be using to take care of all those little administrative tasks you need to do, like checking in homework.

If the students instead have the habit of putting away their things, preparing for the day’s activities, and getting started immediately on the first learning task, you won’t have to use your prep time for the administrative tasks. And the students will feel more in-control and successful, too.

So use these first weeks of school to create good habits and enjoy the benefits for the rest of the year.

Now go create a great day for yourself and your students!

Katrina Ayres, PositiveTeachingStrategies.com

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How to Get Your Students to Stop Wasting Time

Students Who Waste TimeDo you feel like your students never get anything done? Here’s how you can help them stop wasting time.

Have you ever wondered how a student can work for 3 weeks on a project and have nothing at all to show for it? Or even 3 hours. Heck, what about 3 minutes? Shouldn’t there be SOMETHING?

Some students seem to have a knack for wasting time. And this can be very frustrating when we have so little time to teach them so much. Another frustration is the activities students pursue when wasting time (like talking to their neighbors or re-purposing paperclips) can be disruptive to those in the class who ARE trying to work.

Students who waste time because of poor time management skills may underestimate how much time an assignment will take and decide they have time to go to the bathroom and talk to seven friends before getting started.

Why Students Waste Time

Students waste time for many reasons, including inability to do the work, lack of  motivation, or poor time management skills. As teachers we are familiar with strategies for differentiating instruction (shorten the assignment, work with partners, accept shorter answers) and motivating students (give rewards, offer choices.) But many of us assume our students know how to manage time – and many of them don’t.

Students who waste time because of poor time management skills may underestimate how much time an assignment will take and decide they have time to go to the bathroom and talk to seven friends before getting started.

Or they might take way too much time drawing a chart, choosing the perfect font, or coloring an illustration. It’s not that they don’t want to do the work – they just don’t know how to use their time effectively.

Practical Ways to Teach Time Management

If your students struggle with wasting time, here are a few practical ways to teach them time management.

  1. keep-it-snappyUse a timer for short daily activities, such as warm-up assignments, and allow the same amount of time (such as 3 minutes) every day. Afterward, talk about how much they were able to finish. This practice will help students learn how long 3 minutes is, and how much they can expect to finish in that time. (Bonus: Timers are also motivating for many students, because beating the clock becomes a game.)

  2. Before starting on independent or group work, have the students estimate how much time each part of the assignment will take. For example, if the exit ticket is 10 math problems and we have 20 minutes to do it, you have about 2 minutes to spend on each problem. Use your timer again to let the students know when 2 minutes have passed. Let them know it’s okay if they haven’t finished, but it’s time to move on and try the next one.

  3. When students are working independently, have them mark how much they got done in 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and so on. This will help them become aware of their own ability so they can make a better estimate.

  4. Help them figure out the most important part of the assignment. Talk about it before giving them the assignment, and encourage them to complete that part first.

  5. If your class (or a few students) really struggle with time, you can break down the assignment into parts for them and move from part to part at the same time, done or not. Then provide a “catch-up period” at the end for them to finish up anything they didn’t complete.

Kids (and many adults) waste time because of poor time management skills. Making the effort to teach our students effective time management skills will serve them well their whole lives.

Now go create a great day for yourself and your students!

Katrina Ayres, PositiveTeachingStrategies.com

PS – Would you like more practical classroom management strategies that work? Check out the Monday Morning Sanity Boost archives. If you like what you see, you may want to gain access to even more strategies that I only share with Awesome Teacher Nation members. You can join here. It’s free!

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