Work Smart: Tips for new teachers

Things are about to get crazy busy for us teachers. I’d say the busiest time of the year is the first few months. My OTF advisor last year shared that it feels like an uphill battle up until Thanksgiving break. Once break hits, the rest of the year feels like a downhill slope. I recall discussing her comments with another struggling OTFer last year as we both vented and contemplated leaving our schools. To no avail, we both decided to leave.

I’m lucky to be in a happier place now, but I realize these next few months will be tough. To help myself and other new teachers out there, here’s a few tidbits I picked up on ‘how to work’ as my first year progressed:

1. Work hard. But don’t work stupid.

You might find yourself working til the wee hours of the night perfecting and tweaking a lesson. Limit yourself to a certain time limit. Often those extra hours do not add anything significant to the overall scheme of things. Those extra few hours of relaxation will contribute more to your actual execution of the lesson than anything else. It’s all about balance.

2. Limit the Paperwork.

You can get buried alive in all the assignments you’ve got to grade. You can spend hours and hours grading and editing every tiny mistake, or you can choose your battles. In my experience last year, I focused my grading efforts on assessments. I felt that was the best way to guage a student’s overall progress. Homework assignments, classwork, and other gradeables, I simply glanced over and checked. There’s simply too much to go over.

Again, work hard but don’t work stupid. Work smart.

3. Maintain Balance.

I’m a huge fan of the book 4-hour work week. Though the book’s target audience are self-employed entrepeneurs, there are several methods applicable to teachers. In it, the author Tim Ferriss offers advice on how to maximize time and efficiency. In one exercise, he asks the reader: “if suddenly, due to a condition, you were told you could only work 2 hours a day for the next month, how would you work during those 2 hours?”

The purpose is to rethink the way you work. Focus not only on productivity, but also on efficiency. This is why I like to wake up early and this is why I like to stay in my classroom after school. Those early morning hours and those afterschool hours are the hours I’m most efficient with my work.

In a recent interview on men’s journal, Ferriss says: “I want to either be in a complete state of relaxation or productivity. When you end up in the middle, you’ve got neither.” The “work hard and play hard” MO is something us teachers GOT to adapt. In fact, I’d say it’s almost crucial if you’d like to keep your sanity.

4. Stay As Paperless As Possible.

You’ll want to keep EVERYTHING you create this year. I create homework worksheet assignments daily by copying, clipping, and pasting stuff from my textbook. Though it worked out well, those hardcopy sheets are ALL OVER THE PLACE. Create an organization system that’ll help you keep track of anything that’s hardcopy. It’s helpful to know exactly where everything is, everything you’ve ever created.

Everything I’ve created digitally (assignments, lesson plans, slide decks, and other handouts) are accessible right at my fingertips! A quick search on quicksilver and it pops up right there in front of me. Staying as paperless as possible not only limits the amount of paper clutter in your classroom, it helps you preserve all your creations so that you may easily access them in the future (and share with your colleagues).

5. Beg, Borrow, and Steal.

I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but this really works. Do not be shy to ask for help. If another teacher at your site teaches what you teach, ask them for their resources! If you catch a blogger online that posts up some sweet slides, send ’em an email and see if they can burn you a copy. If you meet a teacher whose got anything, beg ’em for it! The beauty of the teaching profession is that we are not in competition with one another. We’re all here for the same purpose, and we’re all willing to help each other out.

I hope this post can help you!

3 thoughts on “Work Smart: Tips for new teachers

  1. this reminds me that i need to go back to school shopping, and for the first time, new clothes is at the bottom of the list.

  2. great tips! you sound like Mr. Harry Wong (The First Days of School) himself. im not sure if that’s a required text for high school teachers, but i LOVE it.

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