Time Management for Teachers by sandra luna

Time is precious. Time is money. Time is something we often struggle with. The lack of time.

For teachers time is precious. We need to estimate how much time each activity we’re planning will take. We need to consider fast finishers, then the ones who need this little extra time. We need to remember we might not start our lesson on time because of latecomers and all the time it takes kids to sit down…

And then there’s our own time. Time for ourselves, time for our families, which sometimes turns into time to mark papers or prepare lessons. I’ve found a number of teachers who struggle with time outside the classroom because they want to find the perfect exercise and because they don’t want to keep using the same materials over and over again.

This along with so many other demands from the job leads to stress and when we can’t think straight, things tend to get worse.

I found this article “Top 10 resources to help teachers manage their time – The Guardian”  quite interesting. It’s got some suggestions and resources which teachers can use.

My own tips for time management? Here are a few.

For your lesson:

  1. Write down your lesson plan. It does not need to be a 10 page lesson plan, but do write it down. It helps you to be more aware of what you are going to do in class and how long you’re going to need.
  2. Think about your lesson aim. If you have a clear lesson aim you’re more likely to be able to organize your lesson better and make it more time realistic.
  3. Estimate how long an activity is going to take, but allow some extra time. For example 5m – 10m. Plan your total lesson time bearing in mind the maximum time for each activity. If at the end of the lesson you find yourself to have covered everything play a game like “Hangman” as revision for the vocabulary in the lesson or from previous lessons. The next lesson try reducing the estimated time per activity and including one or two more.
  4. Observe other teachers. Talk to your DoS or one of your colleagues and ask if you can go in and observe how they manage their time. Pay particular attention to how lessons start and finish and to the amount of work given to the learners throughout the lesson.
  5. Observe yourself and your lesson plan. Deliberately plan your lesson as if you were going to be observed and then, during the lesson, observe how long each activity is taking and whether your estimates were accurate enough. This way you’ll be more aware of time for the coming lessons.

Outside the classroom:

  1. Be realistic about the amount of homework you set to be taken home for marking. If learners complain it is too much, chances are it is going to be a lot for you to mark, too. If possible use online platforms like Moodle, where you can include some fun, interactive activities (and which you can build cooperatively with other teachers in the school) which give immediate feedback once the answers are submitted.
  2. Are you volunteering to participate in every activity the school promotes? Then chances are you have too much on your plate. It’s OK to say “No” you know, even if it’s just now and then.
  3. Recycle lessons. And if you’re using a coursebook, use post-its to plan your lessons on the book so you can use it some other time. And use the Teacher’s book. It doesn’t have the answers only. It can help you with time and staging so that you don’t spend ours looking for material.
  4. Don’t spend hours looking for materials.
  5. Sleep. Go to bed early and enjoy weekends and your days off. No guilt about those essays you need to mark. Just remember you need to rest and relax just like everyone else.

After all we are super teachers, but at the end of the day we’re just human beings.


Learning? Sorry, not interested. by sandra luna

It’s funny how over these 20 years the number of “challenging” students in my classes have increased. It’s not just in my classes, I know, but after a while you kind of think “Why me?” They’re grumpy and annoying and their whole body language is screaming out saying “I don’t want to be here!”. However, they do stay and they do interrupt our lesson 1 million times in 10 minutes and they make us lose our patience more often than we like to admit.

Does this sound familiar?

Unfortunately, I think it’s a reality for most teachers.

So what do we do? One thing to always bear in mind is: It’s not you, it’s what you stand for. You stand for rules, objectives, knowledge. Sometimes misbehaviour is just a mask to hide their own fragilities, the things they don’t know. Sometimes they don’t want us to be aware of all their learning difficulties. If they are unpleasant enough, they’ll keep us away. Odd? Yes, but true.

Different teachers deal with these situations in different ways. In my opinion, you can’t give up on kids. I know we won’t be able to reach every and single one of them, but if we try we might get to one. There are no magic tricks but if you are having problems with a group/student try one of these tips.

  1. Turn off the lights. Use natural light instead of the lamps on the ceiling. Most of the times we can teach without the lamps on. The room becomes cosier, less aggressive so kids are more likely to calm down, too.
  2. Greet them at the door. This is your room. You don’t greet your guests while cooking in the kitchen, do you? So it’s the same here. You can’t be getting your desk ready and expect kids get in orderly. Meet them at the door, showing them a smile and a nod or a warm “hello”. This way you’re letting them know a) you appreciate the fact they are there and that b) this is your room and you’re letting them come in.
  3. Personally I don’t like telling students off in front of the whole class. I’d much rather ask them to step outside with me for a minute and calmly ask them if they are feeling well. “Do you need to go to the toilet and wash your face?” “Do you want to grab a cup of coffee quickly?” Show that you care. There might actually be something happing that triggers their behaviour.
  4. Praise behaviour you want them to have and ignore misbehaviour (as much as possible). Why? Most of the times they just want attention. If you get close to a student and you say “You’re really making an effort today. I just wanted you to know I’ve noticed.” you’ll see the difference. Especially if they’re used to being told how bad they’re behaving. If you praise enough they’ll want more.

But remember: miracles don’t happen overnight, so you might expect things to get worse before they get better, or that halfway through the year you might have problems again. The key is to keep on trying and eventually we (and they) will get there.