Reclaiming Your Time
Written By: Jessica Gibbs
If there’s one politician whose popularity recently catapulted in 2017, it’s Congresswoman Maxine Waters. From her firm stance on resisting, to her words of wisdom on Black Folks getting controversial, (our resident Auntie) Maxine Waters is not one to mince words. Earlier this year, a video of Congresswoman Waters went viral displaying how she curved the feigned flattery and foolishness of one of her colleagues, meanwhile “reclaiming [her] time” from being wasted. As educators, often times it feels as if there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything you set out to professionally or personally. With responsibilities and to-do lists growing more every day, here are 5 fast fixes to help lighten your load, achieve work- life harmony, and straight up Reclaim Your Time!
1. Utilize After-School Time
How often have you left copies to the last minute, only to find a line, or worse, a paper jam? Have you ever been setting up your morning message or passing out do-nows while kids are trickling in? While these delays seem small, they can actually affect your routines, schedule, or even your attitude and energy, all trickling down to kids. Try making a habit to stay after school just 10-15 minutes to set up for the next day; that way you won’t be as rushed preparing in the morning. What can you accomplish in 15 minutes?
- Changing the date and objectives on the board
Passing out morning work on desks
Making copies for the next day
Making anchor charts or organizing materials
This will not only save you time during the morning that can be spent greeting and engaging with your students, but can also shave off a little time during your planning period as well (#bonus)
2. Classroom Jobs
Depending on the grade you teach, both you and your students should share the responsibility for organizing and running your learning space. Pencils, Passing out papers in mailboxes, re-shelving technology, organizing your library- all of these tasks can be modeled and practiced with students. If you spend time on the front end teaching how to do these jobs, not only will your students feel a sense of pride and responsibility, but you’ll be lightening your own load of to-do’s as well.
3. Parent Volunteers!
We all say we want strong parental involvement that feels like a partnership… but what does this look like outside of parents bringing in those dag on cupcakes every year for their students’ birthday or classroom parties? At parent teacher conferences, ask parents would they be willing to come in and volunteer. This is not an open invitation to observe and judge your teaching, but create a system outlining specific and helpful tasks you can teach parents how to do. You could even have a designated binder, desk, or area in your room where parent volunteers can feel welcomed to work in.
The possibilities are endless, but some ideas for parent volunteers are:
- Making copies or packets
- Checking or grading homework
Stuffing folders and/ or mailboxes
Setting up Centers/ Stations
Arranging and organizing snack rotations
4. Live your life at Lunch!
After my first two years of teaching with working lunches or “not having time to eat”, one of my coworkers got me together real quick. Most educators are only allotted an average of 30 minutes to eat and bond with colleagues. Snacking, rushing through your food to work, or eating in isolation does not fuel your body nor does it give you the mental break you need and deserve. Whether it’s cafeteria food, a perfectly portioned meal prepped days in advance, or even delivery, take the time out to really refuel your body and enjoy what you eat/ who you eat it with. If you don’t think this is something that you could do daily, start small. Pick a day to enjoy lunch bonding with your colleagues. One year, my teammates and I did potluck Fridays every week where the 6 of us each brought in a dish to share. Nothing like lots of good food and laughs to break up the hustle and bustle of the school day.
5. Last but not least, Do Not Disturb Hours.
Some positions such as school leadership require you to be accessible 24/7. Other people enjoy quick access to their work email so they install it on their personal cellphone. Depending on your school’s contact policy, setting boundaries around the times you can be reached/ will respond helps to preserve your time away from work. For example, if your policy states that you can be reached by parents and coworkers between the hours of 8am and 8pm, be kind but clear & consistent about responding only during the contact hours you’ve set. Obviously use your judgement when it comes to your direct supervisor and school leaders, especially if it’s a quick response. But reclaiming your time means not feeling bad about setting boundaries for your happiness/mental health and holding others accountable for respecting those boundaries.
These are just a few quick fixes I’ve implemented in the past which have allowed me to be more peaceful and productive during the school day. Are there any specific solutions you think might make life easier for you? Try it out and let us know, or feel free to comment below! Educators, let’s “Reclaim Our Time” together!
Jessica Gibbs is a typical mid-twenty something and self-proclaimed concrete rose. Originally from upstate New York, she now resides in Athens, GA *blank stare* where she is pursuing her Masters of Early Childhood Education at UGA. This school year marks her 7th year as a full-time educator, including teaching upper elementary self-contained, K-2 reading and math intervention, and K-5 instructional coaching. As a Spelman College Alumna, her passion for urban education is fueled by a spirit of service and strong desire to return to inner cities such as the one she grew up in to pay it forward by further educating, elevating, and liberating students and people of color. When she isn’t teaching, you can find her belly dancing, reading new best-sellers/wine tasting with her book club, and living her best life with her college friends back in the ATL. Twitter: @MsGibbs4kids IG: imjess_sayin5