For the new school year I will be returning to the classroom as a mum and as a leadership member. Being organised is going to be essential so that I can maintain my work-life balance. Here are my top tips for being organised when taking on multiple roles;
Top Tip 1: Go Digital
In this last school year I found a digital planner to add to my collection. Gone is the binder or planner book and in comes the Goodnotes app and a digital planner. My day book, class lists assessment book and more are all digitally stored on my iPad which I can carry anywhere with me and can access when needed. I keep meeting notes digitally too so that I can reference them when needed. Now all of my programming, lesson planning, notes, to-do lists and teacher tools are digital. This means I can access what I need anywhere and at any time, ensuring that I am on top of everything.
My personal preference is Apple with Google; with these, all my emails, lists and files are synced across my devices. I make resources and store everything on Google Drive so that it can be accessed from anywhere and from any device. I also use Trello and Google Keep to manage lists and files. The best part about going digital is ease of access and it tremendously reduces my paper usage. The downside is when wifi access drops or if something happens with your device. To combat these challenges I always ensure my phone data is available and that I have multiple devices (with Google Drive I can access everything on my phone, my iPad, my MacBook or from any other school device with internet).
Top Top 2: Plan Your Time
Teachers in NSW receive 2.5 hours of release a week. I spent some time in the NT, and teachers there receive 3 hours. Whether you have this amount of time or more, at the end of the day, this is the time you have been allocated and it's important to make the most of it. Some will argue that teachers do not get enough release time for the work they have to do. I’m not for or against this; on one hand I could always use more time, but on the other hand, I believe more time out of class adds to the workload. If you are as devoted as me you love opportunities to plan for your class or attend professional development, but this means leaving work for casuals, catching up on curriculum or assessment that was missed and having less time to know students which adds to the already heavy workload.
So my key to time management is to plan your time and stick to it. To-do lists are great so I work with my grade partner or team to create a list of things to complete during each of our release sessions. It’s important to be realistic and consider how long it takes you to complete a task. For example; with my experience and my collection of teaching resources, I can plan and program for a week of maths in about 30 minutes. However, someone with less experience, especially someone new to the grade, may take longer to plan and program. So in my release time I allow about 60 minutes for maths and literacy planning each week, then another 60 minutes to complete any tasks that have deadlines such as curriculum letters, excursion preparation, writing awards for assembly, marking assessments etc and then leave the remaining time for interruptions or anything that may arise needing my attention. If nothing arises then I have time for other things.
With my new leadership position, I will receive extra time each week for planning, preparation and mentoring, but it remains important to plan this time out as well. For me, restricting classroom planning to my normal teacher release will be crucial so that the time doesn’t overlap. I think that if it was to overlap and carry into my leadership time or vice versa, I would begin to lose time and lack organisation in one of my roles.
Top Tip 3: Delegate Where Possible
I’ll be honest; this is a tough one for me because I like to control everything and ensure it meets my personal standards and expectations. However, we are not superhumans and cannot do everything, otherwise we reach burnout very quickly! With planning and programming, discuss ideas and a general outline of the unit together but then split the programs equally between you and your grade partner or team. For example; taking turns each week to program maths or at the end of the term one programs for HSIE and the other programs for Science for the following term.
In my leadership role, there are tasks that I will have to complete myself such as reading reports and checking programs for compliance. But there are tasks that I can delegate to other staff members or people with greater experience or skills in the area such as decorating for a school event that I’ve planned, preparing resources for a staff meeting or practising singing or mass parts with students.
Top Tip 4: Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
There are stacks and stacks of resources out there; you just have to find them! However, memberships to sites that have these resources are usually very expensive. So, I choose one membership site such as Twinkl or TopTeacher (some of my personal favourites) for the year. Once you have been teaching for a little while you get to know the places or sites that have the best resources or ones that suit you and your teaching style. I personally do not like a lot of worksheets and prefer sites that have a range of resources including games. It also depends on the grade you teach; K-2 usually do not have 1:1 devices and require more hands-on activities, whereas 3-6 resources are more digital.
I enjoy making resources for school and have recently dropped all the prices of my resources in my TeachersPayTeachers store so that you can enjoy them too. But even though I do not like reinventing the wheel, if someone has made it and it meets my needs or my students’ needs then I’ll use it. Usually, if I don’t have the resource I need or if I cannot find it online, then someone I know will have something.
I also believe that if something has worked in the past and it works for your students’ needs or classroom, then why not do it or use it again?!
Top Tip 5: Use lists
Whether they are digital lists in my phone notes and on Google Keep or physical lists on post-it notes stuck to my laptop and folders, I find lists a key component to being organised. Being a wife, mum, classroom teacher and now a leadership member, lists keep me on track and help get everything out of my brain so I can focus on things that take priority. I have lists for things I need to purchase or items being delivered, I have lists for things I need to do, I have lists for upcoming events or plans, ideas about things I want to make or try and lists for my daughter and home life.