It’s that time of year when us teachers head back to our classrooms and begin to get ready for our new class of students to fill our room. If you are a educator, you may have been pinning away activities and room designs on Pinterest. However, as we start this year full of energy and new ideas, it’s also important to start the year off with creating boundaries for ourselves. There are four different ways that you should begin prioritizing when it comes to being a teacher this year.
- Setting office hours– Not all of us are early birds, showing up hours before school to get things done (this is the type of teacher I tend to be), so there are other ways to meet parents’ and students’ needs without spending all your time at school. Whether you like to be at school earlier or later, it is important to find 30 minutes-1 hour a day answering emails and having your door open for parents. Making efforts to respond in a timely manner to parents even if you don’t have the answer by letting them know that you received their email and will look into it, allows the parent know that you are being proactive in their request. My office hours were set for after school because in the morning I liked to get things set up and didn’t want to be bombarded by parent requests. Whatever your preference might be, stick with it and be consistent. If a parent comes in during “non-office hours” let them know that you would be happy to speak with them at “such and such time.”
- Let it go– We aren’t all crafty and won’t all have Pinterest-worthy classrooms (I still can’t hang a bulletin board straight). The amount of time spent perfecting a classroom’s decor and buying supplies can be a waste of time. Shocker, I said it: A WASTE OF TIME. It is absolutely important to create a learning culture that is inviting and communal, but most of that won’t take place until the students are in the classroom creating the culture. That’s why spending a few hours prepping the room is sufficient. You also need to create a system for how you will continue to keep your classroom tidy and ready for the next day. Some teachers at my school prepped the classroom before they left, so it was ready in the morning. Others, like myself, liked to get to school early and set up for the day. Decide now so you aren’t tacking on a additional hour in the morning and few hours after school. As a first year teacher (Pinterest was just budding), I spent so much time scouring and looking for ideas. When I look back, I realize that my lessons and activities in the classroom were more influential than the bean bags I had in the classroom. You can always add to your classroom decor throughout the year…and there will still be sales to get all the cutesy school supplies (my favorite).
- Hand over the control– As teachers, most of us are perfectionists. I too fall into this category, but it is very important to hand the reigns over to your students to help out. Not only does this give them control, which means power, but also it alleviates lots of time doing things for students and stripping away responsibility. Does your classroom have student jobs? Do you have a student to start up the computers? Sharpen the pencils? Water the plants? Turn on the printer? Pass out papers? Collect papers? Do you have a procedure for students to check to make sure their names are on their paper? All these and more questions can help save time for you. When you get into your classroom look around and see what things can students be responsible for. Same goes for when you are creating procedures in your classroom, can they be student-led?
- Me time– I like to exercise during my breaks. During my lunch hour, I would eat a big snack during morning recess and skip lunch and go for a run around my campus. Maybe it’s coloring or reading, but find an activity that you enjoy and incorporate it into your classroom and work hours. I used to have my students run around on the blacktop and sometimes I would join them as a break between lessons. One of my professors loved to draw and after recess she would turn the lights down a bit and have the students draw for a few minutes to help recenter them and provide a transition time from a high energy activity to learning ath their desks.
These are just a few tips and tricks to begin to enforce at the beginning of the year to ensure that you don’t find yourself burning out by October. Make this year a great one and share in the comments a new way that you will be setting boundaries in the classroom to stay supercharged during this year.