Save your weekends!
Take Back Your Weekends!
How many of you leave school on Friday, knowing that SOMETIME that weekend you have either a ton of lesson planning or preparation still to do for the next week? The weekend seems to have a lot of time available from the Friday afternoon perspective, but somehow Sunday evening comes way too fast with nothing done. And you’ve spent your whole weekend with that task hanging around your neck, dampening your weekend feeling.
This year I unexpectedly came across a way to free up my weekends so I can leave Friday afternoon with nothing on my plate except what I want to do, not have to do. And it came about in an unwanted fashion. For the past 3 years, the specials teachers (music, art, and PE) have had our prep period in the middle of the day just before our lunch. It was a nice break in the middle of the day and gave us time to prepare for the upper grades in the afternoon. I also used the time to have students come in during their recess times to pass off recorder songs. In the month of February, I gave up all my prep time to have different groups come in to get extra practice for the looming performance at the end of the month.
So when our principal announced that she was moving our prep period to the first period of the day, we all howled big time! I even sent her an email stating that students would no longer be able to come in to pass off recorder songs as well have extra practices for the performance. I was sure my argument was rock solid and student performance based! She was insistent and would not budge on her decision. So we grumbled at the end of the year, and grumbled more at the beginning of the year. Surely this was another injustice thrust upon us teachers!
Lo and behold, after about a week into the school year, we started talking to each other. Hmmm. Maybe it wasn’t so bad after all. We had time to really get ready for the day. As for me, I was getting 2 hours of (mostly) uninterrupted time before my first class. I was getting so much done that when my first class showed up at my door, I was more than ready. And I’ve settled into a nice routine that has let me skip out of school on Friday afternoons with nothing hanging over my head for the weekend. How do I get 2 hours? Now let me make it clear that I used to stay up late at night and I don’t like early mornings. But last fall around November I decided to get to school 30 minutes earlier with the hope that I could leave earlier in the afternoon and beat the traffic. It definitely helped. Because I arrive at school at 6:45 a.m., I get the 2 hours before my class arrives at 8:45. Then it’s nonstop teaching of 10 classes with a 30 minute lunch half way through. But the day seems to move pretty fast once the teaching starts. And I have been leaving earlier than years past too.
My Secret Weapon
This is the routine I’ve started so I am completely ready for the following week:
Monday – get ready for all the new lesson plans (every grade has a different lesson plan) making sure I have all electronic materials set (YouTube, PowerPoints, Sibelius boardwork, iPod) and all physical materials ready. I also try to take care of extra tasks that always comes with the occupation (documents to sign, professional goals, PTA to join, etc.)
Tuesday – create next week’s Kinder and first grade lesson plans and get ready for choir rehearsal that afternoon. (Even though I haven’t seen K and 1st grade for the 2nd time by Tuesday that week, I’m pretty good at gauging how it will go for those grade levels.)
Wednesday – 4th and 5th grade lesson plans (I see them only once a week and by Wednesday morning I have seen 2 classes and know what I did or did not get to from the current lesson plan.)
Thursday – 2nd and 3rd grade lesson plans (I see K-3 twice a week and by Thursday I have seen each grade level class twice to give me a bearing on how far we got on both lessons.)
Friday – I make the PowerPoint slides in Google slides for each grade level that I show the following week for each class.
After school – meetings or I work on choir rehearsals. I do not work on lesson plans during that time. I find that during the morning I am much more awake and focused than I am later in the day. This week I have duty from 7 – 7:30 so I have been arriving at school at 6:30 so I can almost have my 2 hours of interrupted (oh well) time.
Set Small Goals
Having designated tasks for each day helps me bite off a little at a time, not putting it off until Sunday night. And it feels wonderful to be in control instead of feeling like I’m just barely hanging on. Choir starts next week as well as collecting money for recorders so I’ll let you know if this schedule is sustainable through the year now that the rubber will be hitting the road. I’m really hoping it will be because I feel like I’m rocking life right now.
You can make it work!
Even though you will probably have a different schedule or maybe cannot get to school early, just setting those small goals will help tremendously. And be mindful of time wasters. Make your tasks your number one focus and the other things will take care of themselves at the appropriate times.
Last but not least, get enough sleep!
I’m quite the hypocrite for writing that, but that has been my focus a good part of this year. It’s hard to stay healthy, let alone have enough energy to teach (or plan) without the sleep. I would usually run on 5 – 6 hours a night in the past, and I’m shooting for 7 hours every night these days.
These steps: coming in early, getting more sleep, setting goals and staying focused on them has made all the difference in my school year. The little things are getting taken care of much quicker and sooner than in the past as well. Let’s face it. We don’t get paid overtime, so why not enjoy more of your time off you do have? Don’t work harder, work smarter.