A 40 hour week for a teacher is almost unheard of. The growing number of teacher-bashers out there have somehow gotten the idea that we work far fewer hours that. And of course, anyone who’s ever worked in the field knows that the time spent at school combined with the time spent on paperwork at home often averages out to 50-70 hours a week…or more.

I believe there’s a healthy balance between the perception of teachers working only from 9-3 and the unfortunate reality of them working 7-7.  As a classroom teacher, my goal in finding a work-life balance was to dedicate 40 hours a week to my job. Sure, I might spend additional time in the evenings looking online for new lesson ideas or making manipulatives while I watched TV, but those were tasks I really enjoyed. They didn’t feel like work to me, and I didn’t do them every day. My goal was to complete my “work-work” tasks during the course of an 8 hour day: grading, paperwork, photocopies, etc.


I succeeded about 90% of the time. The beginning and end of the school year were the major exceptions. At those times, I was always prepared to work as many hours as it took. 70-hour weeks were not atypical for me in August and September (weekends included). And during those years when I was new to the grade level, school, or school system, I sometimes had to settle for alternating 8-hour days and 10-hour days, or spending Sundays working from home, but I did always manage to get to a 40-hour week by late October. Usually, the only time I’d go beyond 40 hours in a normal work week was if there was a special project or event coming up.

So that means I don’t have a fool-proof system that will guarantee you’ll leave the school parking lot before sundown every night. But I do have some tips to share that made it easier for me to work a reasonable amount of hours. I’ve shared seven pages of timesaving tips for teachers in chapter 34 of The Cornerstone Book, Timesaving Strategies: Discovering How to Be a Teacher and Still Have a Personal Life. Here are six additional ideas ideas for lightening your workload:

1) Replace worksheets with hands-on activities.

The more paper and pencil work you give, the more stuff you’ve got to photocopy, organize, pass out, collect, grade, record, and return to students. Not only are hands-on activities more meaningful for students, but you’ll spend less time making photocopies and grading papers. It’s a win for everybody.

2) Make the most of Morning Work or Bell Work.

When your kids come in the room in the morning and after lunch, there should be something on the board for them to get started on right away. While they are doing morning work, you should be able to complete attendance, check all homework, read and respond to parents’ notes, and so on. My goal was to get this done in 15-20 minutes, but typically I didn’t end the morning work time until I finished these tasks–I wasn’t about to leave myself with a messy pile of half-sorted papers and someone’s class picture money just lying out on my desk. I felt no guilt about this because my students’ morning work assignments were meaningful and open-ended: the kids were actively engaged in projects, reading books, etc. When my administrative tasks were done and I was comfortable with beginning our day, we started.

3) Choose bulletin boards that are timeless.

The background paper and border you put up in August can be left there until June. Switch out student work once a month (or every 6 weeks) and choose stuff that’s not tied to the holidays or seasons. (What’s the point of putting up Valentine’s Day work on February 8th when it’ll look dated on February 15?) You can also put your students in charge of the bulletin boards: let them choose their best work, self-reflect on the back of their papers, and hang them up. At the end of the year, their monthly work sample choices can serve as a portfolio.

4) Keep your room neat and clean during the day instead of staying after school to straighten up.

It only takes a few seconds to push student desks back into position and remind students to pick up their belongings that are on the floor before you take the class to lunch. Tape up that poster that’s falling off the wall while students are writing the heading on their papers. Clear or at least straighten piles of papers on your desk during a moment of downtime instead of checking email for tenth time. Tidying up for two minutes here and two minutes there can easily save you a half an hour that would otherwise be spent staying late after dismissal.

5) When you work beyond your contracted hours, try to choose times when few other people are at school.

I was contracted for 35 hour weeks when I taught in Maryland and 37.5 hour weeks in Florida, so a 40 hour week for me meant coming in an hour or so early or staying an hour late. I found that I could remain completely undisturbed for at least forty-five minutes if I came in early, but staying late was pointless because I’d end up hanging out in a co-worker’s room or slumped at my desk in exhaustion. There’s no point in working long hours if you’re not really working. If you’re too tired, someone is constantly coming in and asking you for things, or you’re tempted to wander next door to chat, pick your “overtime” hours wisely…or even complete them at home.

6) Create a self-running classroom that frees you to teach.

I’ve shared a lot of resources on this topic on my website and even more extensively in my book and webinar series. Creating a self-running classroom means empowering students to take charge of their learning and learning environment. It means giving students ownership over the learning process instead of carrying all the responsibility yourself. Teaching kids simple procedures for every task in the classroom will save you countless hours of instructional time throughout the year because your classroom activities will flow more smoothly and have fewer disruptions. Automate your routine tasks so that not a moment is wasted and you can focus on what matters most about your job: teaching and connecting with kids!

Want more ideas for productivity and work/life balance?


Get your FREE eGuide:

Learn how to create a target number of hours to work each week…

and stick to it!



  1. Mama

    These are some great tips. So basic, but so obvious!! My goal is to have a 40 hour week by the end of October as opposed to my 75 hour weeks as of now!!

    • Kim

      Awesome, Audrey! That’s a great goal. Hang in there–the beginning of the school year is tough, but your hard work will pay off.

  2. Jan

    I’m NOT anti-social, but I try to work through many lunches AND keep my door closed in the am sometimes to get stuff DONE and not spend lunches and planning periods chatting away.

    • Carrie

      Great point, Matt. I didn’t really take a lunch break, either–maybe 10 minutes to eat, 5 minutes to chat, and then the last 10-15 minutes working. Sometimes I checked email while I ate. It was worth it to me because I could leave earlier. If I was having a bad day though and was super stressed out, I tried to just unwind during my break so I could be geared up for the afternoon.

      • Sarah

        So you didn’t have to take your students to lunch and pe? What other breaks did you get weekly? For instance counseling and library?

        • Antoinette

          Yes, I had to take my students to lunch and specials and pick them up. I got a 30 minute lunch break daily and a 30 minute planning period daily (while students were at PE, art, etc.) With all the walking back and forth, it was more like a 25 minute break.

          • Louise Dwyer

            Daily preps? Really? At my school we get 3 – 30 minute preps over 5 days. Two days a week I am with the students the entire day except for recess and lunch breaks. But because of the needs of many students I often spend those times with students giving additional support.

          • Anonymous

            In NC, we have three specials/planning times each week and are also required to be at lunch and recess with our students. When I moved here from NY, I thought they were kidding when they told me I had to stay with my class at lunch. I wasn’t looking to have a break during that time, I was thinking I could eat while I prepared for my afternoon Science lesson. Other teachers and I feel our time could be better spent if we weren’t required to go to lunch and recess with our students every day.

          • emiliework

            Yikes, that sounds exhausting. You need that break during the day! I wonder if that is something you can advocate for at the school level–paying someone to monitor the cafeteria for 2 hours a day doesn’t seem like it would be an impossibility, if enough people fought for it. I also wonder if you could work together to trade duties and take turns with this instead of doing it daily.

      • Cassandra Isbell

        In FL I worked as I ate in my room. However, in SC we are required to eat lunch with class. I miss that 15 minutes to check or record grades. sometimes I grade at lunch table but that is my time with chatting kids and lessons in table manners. I do enjoy sitting and speaking with the children at that time too.

  3. Amanda

    Hi Angela … you’ve given some great pointers here! As a high school biology teacher, I also have labs that are required by the state that the students need to complete. I must keep very close track of how many lab credits each student has so that I’ll know when to start “nagging” them, or unfortunately sometimes, inform them that they cannot take the State exam in June that they must pass to graduate. So this all adds a lot of extra administrative and paperwork on top of the “regular” work.

    One way I’ve found of streamlining this is to grade the students’ labs AS THEY FINISH THEM. They bring them to me and I actively grade them while the student is standing there. This way, I can have them fix anything that’s incorrect right away, and the students benefit by getting immediate feedback. When the lab meets my standards I initial it, date it, and file it right away (since we must keep labs on record for 6 months after the school year ends), recording the grade on my checklist. It sounds like it would be very slow, but it really isn’t … and the kids are good at waiting patiently.

    This has freed me from the HOURS of time on weekends that I used to spend grading labs. I hope this idea can help some other science teachers out there.

    Thanks for writing such a great blog!

    • Mama

      Debbie, I really like that method, too. (I used this Quick Skill Assessment form to record the grades: as students brought the work up to me, I marked their level of proficiency on the form, addressed misconceptions, and then sent students off to do either skill reinforcement or enrichment activities, based on the level of understanding they demonstrated during the assignment.)

      It’s cool to hear how that works at the high school level. Thanks for explaining your system in detail so other teachers can replicate it.

    • Nicole

      Hello Debbie:

      I am a Biology teacher but at a school in Honduras, this is Central American country.

      And I would like to have people dedicated to the same activity so I will be able to share some experiences with in the classroom. is it possible that you answer me some mails asking for some advices. I graduated as a agriculture proffesional, now dedicated to teach.

      Thans for your time and attention.


      • Rachel

        Hello Ramiro …

        Yes, I’d be happy to. But I don’t want to clog up Angela’s blog … lol. Please contact me at my blog (just click on my name) and we can exchange ideas.

        Have a great week!

    • Angela Watson

      I really appreciate this method being shared. As a new teacher I find grading takes me way too much time, I figured out it is because I leave feedback notes on each of the students papers. I can’t believe it didn’t dawn on me to grade them as they wait, thereby giving them the feedback verbally and while the lesson is fresh on their mind. Thank you so much Angela and Debbie!

  4. LL

    Great tips! I’m learning that #5 makes a huge difference. I get so much more done in the morning and it sets the tone for my day. Peaceful mornings without the rush yield days with limited frustration.

    • Carolyn

      Mornings worked best for me, too, Erika! I found that teachers who came in early usually just holed themselves up in their rooms so I could work with no interruptions and really get myself prepared for the day.

  5. susanne

    I learned my first year that the easiest way to get copies completed was to come in an hour early when there is no one at the copier. Also, the copier is less likely to jam due to overheating or already be jammed and broken for the day if I am the first to use it. Additionally, if I know that I will be teaching the same course/grade the following year, I will often make my beginning of the year copies at the end of the previous year and store them (to avoid that copier rush at the beginning of each school year).

    As a secondary teacher, I put students in charge of emptying pencil sharpeners and straightening desks. Most are thrilled to help or be out of their seats. I allow students to put up bulletin boards as a reward too. One teacher’s chore can be a good student’s pleasure!

    Thanks for the great advice!

    • Carolyn

      Wonderful tips for handling copies, Nicole! I remember one year the copier situation was so bad that I made all my copies for August/September in June and just prayed that I wouldn’t be transferred to another grade! What a relief it is to go back to school in the fall and know that a huge chunk of work is already done.

    • Nicole

      I find our copier empty on Friday afternoons. I try to copy everything for the upcoming week on Friday, that way I don’t have to worry over the weekend about if I remembered to pull something to run, cause it’s always done and ready to go

      • Paul

        That’s very smart, Thoma. You never know what will happen between Friday afternoon and Monday morning!

  6. Carolyn

    I think this is such an important topic. I get kind of annoyed with teachers who are constantly “so stressed out,” but they don’t put anything into place to rid themselves of unnecessary work.

    I’ve started grading writing with the students so I don’t have to take it home. I think it’s valuable for them to see what I’m thinking as I read their writing.

    I’ve also found that I’m much more productive when I come in early to work, rather than stay late. Also, when I come in early I feel good about myself and empowered. When I stay late, I get depressed and like I don’t have things together. That being sad, I do have 1 or 2 days a week when I decide ahead of time to stay late and finish a report. When I plan it ahead, and it doesn’t happen every day, it doesn’t bother me as much.

    Thanks for the extra tips!

    • PK Ergle

      Well said, Molly! Grading writing with students is a great idea–much more meaningful than just handing a paper back to them with red marks all over it. Grading writing has always been one of my least favorite things to do, too–so time consuming!

      And you’re right, something about staying late always made me feel depressed, too. It created anxiety, like “I SHOULD be out of here by now!” Coming in early just made me feel like I was on my A game!

      • Warren Baldwin

        I have enjoyed reading your ideas about how to not spend so much time at work. I usually work an hour or two overtime most days because I’m a special education teacher and I have to write IEPs and such, but this year I started writing lesson plans for the next week while the students were doing independent work so I was able to leave earlier. In previous years I was walking to my car when it was dark and no one else was around…that’s just crazy! I also wanted to add that I don’t grade any paper with red pen. It has such a negative connotation. I always use green, or orange, or purple…some color they can read easily, but not that dreaded “red pen”.

        • Jake

          I use a different colour pen for each term. We have four terms. It makes it easy for the kids to see when they did a piece of work and how much progress they have made. I mark writing with individuals during class time. When students have edited their work they put their name on the board. They work on things they have not finished or read until it is their turn to work with me. I tend to focus on only one or two things for assessment in a writing piece and that it what we discuss. These things are clearly articulated at the beginning of the writing period. I teach a combined Year 3 & 4 class so I might have them really focus on say ‘using topic specific words’, or using a new line when a new person starts to speak. I talk a lot about baby steps and improving our writing bit by bit. I underline words that are incorrectly spelt and expect the student to make the corrections necessary themselves. I always write a comment that states what the student has done well and the next area the student should focus on. It is amazing to see the students turning to read their comments before they start writing,

          • Miffy

            I believe the word is “spelled” not “spelt.” How ironic!

          • Angela Watson

            Eileen also wrote “colour” rather than “color,” so I assume she’s from another country in which “spelt” is correct.

    • Christy Herron


      Can you explain to me how you grade writing with the students? This overwhelmed English teacher would really appreciate it. Thank you.

      • Laurel


        I teach learning support in elementary school so I’m guessing that not only do I not have as many students as you do, they also are writing significantly shorter pieces.

        That said, I still think it’s a really valuable part of instruction so if you think you can swing it, it would be good for the students and save you time at home!

        I have my rubrics ready and I just pull each student to conference with me. The student reads their essay to me and I go through and explain my thinking as I score each component according to the rubric. Other students are either finishing their essays or doing other independent work.

        Hope that helps. 🙂

        • Chloe Newell

          I don’t see how you can “get annoyed” with people for expressing their discontent and stress when you admittedly have a small group setting which makes it easier to complete work within a given time frame. While that’s a great idea and I’m sure it helps you significantly, you might want to add a suggestion that works for the population of teachers that don’t have smaller groups so that you don’t come across as judgmental. Unless you mean to …

          • Chris

            I’m guessing she meant that she gets annoyed at people who complain yet don’t do anything to help themselves. I, too, teach in high school, so have larger numbers of students to deal with. I didn’t feel judged.

  7. LL

    Great article! More specifics on how to achieve a self-running classroom would be appreciated!!!

    • Teacher

      Hi, Susan! There are some links in the article to places where I’ve shared resources for that–definitely check the Routines and Procedures section of the site to start. My entire Cornerstone book is basically about creating a self-running classroom that frees you to teach. 🙂

  8. Dave

    I love this article. It made me feel better to know that other teachers struggle with getting away at a reasonable hour. Unlike some of those posting here I get my best work done after school. I’m rarely disturbed then, although it would be easier if I could get straight into it as soon as the kids leave, rather than doing 15-20 minutes gate duty, but life’s like that. I also find if I put in one good solid day at the weekend, then I can get away by 5pm during the week, and some days even earlier. That’s still 10 hours, but better than 12 hours!

    I think I need to set a goal about getting away by 4.30pm 3 out of 5 days by the end of October. That sounds doable! Thanks for the great day-to-day tips.

    • Kathleen

      Hi, Karen! Thanks for sharing your plan. It’s cool to hear how different things work for different teachers. I do know people who prefer to work a day over the weekend so the weekday is not so draining. I did that for a short time, actually, when I was new to my state AND grade level. Sundays I worked about 12 hours to plan and prepare, but I was able to get away by 4 or 5 during the week so it was worth it to me.

  9. Nelda Cole

    I’m teaching a new subject, AP government, for the first time this year and I’m finding it impossible to work reasonable hours. The problem is that not only have I never taught an AP class before, I haven’t taught government before. Sure, I took it in college, but that was 10 years ago! It’s not like asking me to start teaching a class on 20th century history or the Renaissance – I’m doing a lot of learning with/just ahead of students. On top the regular work of planning/grading I’m doing all the readings I assign the kids 3 times (skim to preview weeks ahead, read and take notes like they will, read to review just before teaching that section) and also a ton of “research” to find outside resources to bring in because if all I’m doing is teaching what’s in the textbook, why bother teaching?

    That said, the point about grading stuff right then vs taking it home is one I need to remember more often. When I grade things right away, not only does it save me work later, but it’s also more valuable to me than the students. When an assignment sits for a week before I grade it, any feedback I give is pointless to most students and I honestly don’t care as much about it because I’ve moved on with them.

    • Jenifer P.

      Thanks for leaving such a thoughtful response. I’m glad this post is sparking so much discussion about grading things right away–that’s something I really haven’t thought about much, and it’s so important, both in terms of time management and in terms of being meaningful to students. I know your year will get easier as you become more experienced in teaching AP government. Hopefully you’ll be teaching the same course again next year and can reap the benefits of all those long hours this year!

      • JOHN MENYA

        I was lucky enough to receive one iPad for our class this year, and this is one of my favorite uses for it. I use Engrade, which is a free online gradebook, and their app has a really fast scroll-bar for inputting grades. For something like math journals, especially, I find that it’s so much easier to grade an entry as students finish by walking around the room with the iPad instead of collecting all of the notebooks to grade later and then passing them back out.

        I think it would work just as well with a paper gradebook, but as someone who prefers an online gradebook, it’s so nice to be able to carry it with me!

        • Beth J.

          Jenny, that’s a wonderful tip! Thank you for sharing it.

  10. Dave

    Thanks for the great suggestions! It makes me feel better to know teachers outside my school are working as many hours as I am! I live about 5 minutes from the school where I teach. I also like to go in early to make copies or to do last minute things to prepare for the day. I worry about neglecting my own children so I go to school at 5 am and work for an hour or so and then go back home. That way I can get my kids up and take them to school. As they have gotten older , their afternoons are busy with school activities and this is our best time to “talk”. I would love to hear how other teachers are coping with the many changes from the Common Core Mathematics Standards. I have a new course of study, new textbooks, new TI Nspire CX calculators, and new class management software. More to do than I could get done in a 40 hour day!

    • Blithe

      Ah, yes, CCSS, the biggest time suck of them all! I can’t imagine how many billions of hours have been spent by educators nationwide as we learn, prepare, and implement the new standards. I am counting on that hard work paying off, and am hoping it will be for the benefit of students.

      I know many moms who worry about balancing their own kids with their students. Most teachers I know seem to work fewer hours once they have kids. They adopt the attitude of “If it doesn’t get done, it doesn’t get done. My own kids are more important.” I can totally understand that. Sometimes it becomes more apparent how much extra work we create for ourselves and how much we can actually scale back and still give our students a fantastic education.

  11. Maureen

    We all get those kids who come begging to help…let them! As long as you insist that they get outside and have some playtime too. 😉

    I had a group of six kids who turned up at my office every lunch time, and I’d give them the piles of writing books to rule off and be sticker’d. Since I edited and wrote in comments during the writing lesson, by the end of lunch, after ten minutes from my little helpers, the writing books were ready for the next day, saving me a good 40 minutes of work.

    The kids who get to school early (at my school, they’re allowed onto school grounds at 8:15, 45 minutes before school starts, and I always had four who arrived the instant the bell rang at 8:15) love time with the teacher. I saw so many of my colleagues staying late at night to trim art, mount it on other paper, hang it, etc. I would do that in the morning with my early birds. I’d do the sharp bits, they’d do the rest. They felt involved and NEEDED and it was the perfect time for them to share thing they’d been worrying about, since it was in a small group, and they were doing something else at the same time.

    • arlene sandberg

      Glad you mentioned this, Rachel–the students can be a tremendous help in the classroom, if we are willing to let go of our expectations about things being done “our way”! Your tips are great. Thank you!

  12. Lynne

    #5 is so true. As team leader I answer my team’s questions during lunch and recess…I constantly ask them not to wait/worry until our meetings. It gets a lot done, but we also enjoy being together during this time. Many people say they work 70 – 80 hours and have so much to do on the weekends, but those are the people we NEVER see working, just walking around “hanging out.” Many times I pack up at our 3:15 end of day time and go to the public library a few blocks away. I can put in a good hour uninterrupted and be done with my workday by 4:15! Then when I do get home, my teens, my dad, my dogs and my hubby have me as a person and not a teacher still working….

    Thank you for the great post!


    • Simone

      Hi, Fern! You bring up a good point–there’s a big difference between working and being at work. There are certainly people who waste time and hang out and then complain about leaving school late. It’s really important to consider how we use our time and cut out habits that don’t serve us well. I like your idea of working at the library–that way you’re not distracted by anyone like you would be at either school or home.

      • Angela Watson

        I take great offence to that comment of those people working 70 hours are the ones who are not really working. I get in very early,in fact one of the first and one of the last to leave. I shut myself away in the morning,I don’t go to the staffroom for lunch,I mark and I shut myself away after school. Please don’t make such gross generalisations as it is very demoralising for those of us who are putting everything in.

        • Beth S.

          Do you have additional school responsibilities beyond just those for your classroom, Kim?

        • Angela Watson

          With all due respect, working 70 hours is not the only sign of giving one’s all. Such an attitude is demeaning to those who for whatever reasons have priorities outside of the classroom.

  13. Being Inspired

    Great suggestions! I also choose to go in quite early and try to get out the door in the afternoon on time, because I recognize that I’m far more productive early in the morning, undisturbed, than in the afternoon. The phone rings far less often between 6:00-7:00 in the morning than it does between 3:00-4:00 in the afternoon! The periodic cleanups of a few minutes throughout the day really does work, as well. I loved your suggestion that bulletin boards (beautification) should be something you can change out with minimal effort throughout the year, and that students can have a large part in their creation.

  14. Heather aka HoJo

    Our school district is requiring more and more janitorial duties to be done by teachers. Something I’ve done for many years is assign each child a job each week. These jobs range from mailbox supervisor, to desk cleaner, to garbage can specialist. At least the some of the house cleaning is done every day and by students who are learning to be responsible and having pride in the way our room looks. Credits to flylady.net 🙂

    • Angela Piccoli

      Lori, I agree that student jobs can be tremendously helpful to the teacher! You’ve done a great job picking tasks that are actually valuable and not just busywork to make the kids feel like they’re contributing something. (I have more on class jobs here.) Flylady is awesome! Glad you gave her a shout out.

  15. Hroberta

    Hi Angela. I’m a french school teacher and for now I spend often 60-70 hours a week for my work and actually… I’m sick (burning out). So I’m going to try to follow your advice. But in my country (or rather in my city) kids are in class from 8:00 to 5:00 pm. It’s late. Not so much time after the class pour correct, photocopies, etc….

    More : “Replace worksheets with hands-on activities.” : In France we have to do write lots of things to our students which must be check of course. Too bad!

    I already use the advice 2 and 6 🙂 and 4 is a very good idea.

    So thank you and sorry for my english. I hope I’ve been clear…

    • Nicole

      Wow, those are really long days! That must be very difficult. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  16. Jayne

    I think the best way to save time is to make my students as independent as possible. The more they do, the less I do and have more time to accomplish other things. Of course, the beginning of the year is a lot of ME and not so much them. But, believe me, this time of year…I am gladly passing on those duties. Classroom jobs are the easiest way to accomplish this. Also I want to add that it is a good idea to take care of yourself or you won’t be able to take care of your students. BALANCE is key. Start delegating today. They can handle it! 🙂

    • Erik Palmer

      Great advice, Gretchen! I love classroom jobs, too–I would be lost without them!

  17. Angela Watson

    As a high school teacher, when I was looking to delegate a job to a willing student I found the best way to find that willing student was to write the wrong date on the board. I usually just “forgot” to change it from the previous day. The one who comes up to helpfully point out that the date is wrong is usually the perfect person for the job. 🙂

    • charlmarjo

      Hah, that’s funny! I love the way students will naturally start taking over responsibilities in the classroom when they feel a sense of community. There are many times I’ve seen kids just step in and do things that need to be done without being asked. That’s awesome.

  18. Tom

    I’m a first year teacher in middle school and I am overwhelmed with hours. Not only do I have to prepare the usual stuff, I’ve never taught anything before so I have to spend twice as long thinking of ideas, creating materials and copying them! I come home every evening between 7 and 8 with a terrible headache. I can’t make it to bed before midnight and my alarm rings at 6. I’ve kind of given in to the idea that this is how my life will be for a year or two before I can get the hang of it. I just hope I don’t end up changing schools this year!

    • Jerris

      I too am a middle school teacher and I can tell you that other teachers in the building are your best friend. Ask them what they are using and most times they will gladly give you their lessons.Then you can just personalize them and make them your own. It can make things much easier!!

      • Travis Bowman

        Great point, Alexandria!

  19. Kelly

    I am a intern in a kindergarten room right now and it is amazing to hear that I am not the only one struggling. I agree with coming in early to get work done because I have found I am wiped at the end of the day. It gives me the time to get things done so little busy hands can be occupied. After reading this I realized I am presently experimenting with all of these right now and trying to find a balance. As a intern, I really think this is something every intern should read to help and teach us how to find that balance because at the start it is really tricky.

    • Deb Butler

      Hi, Jacqueline! Interning is an exhausting time, no doubt! Keep experimenting and finding your balance. I don’t think anyone ever straightens their priorities out once and for all; it’s really an ongoing process.

  20. Teachers are a special group of people!

    Well I work in Texas. I teach 5th grade science and social studies. Our school day starts at 7:45 am! It lasts until 3:30! I only have a 30 minute lunch and a 45 minute conference time while my students are at PE. I do have kids trade and grade as I review homework. I also utilize bell work although there is no way I could do administrative tasks while they do their bell work. My principal expects us to constantly, actively monitor by walking around. I am required to format all my lessons onto a PowerPoint template that follows the same routine each day. The experiments change daily but throughout the unit we must review the key understandings, vocabulary and guiding questions daily. After the lesson we are required to do small group instruction during which time I will target specific, prescriptive skills with struggling students. This involves keeping a running record of participation, skills covered, progress monitoring etc. for each group. I do get students to maintain their organization and cleanliness. Plus, I rely on student helpers for tasks such as feeding the fish, watering plants, organizing books, and writing the date on the board among other things. Students are always ready to help. I would love to structure my classroom the way I want it, but these are the expectations set forth by my principal. Many times we have prior obligations to attend to during our conferences- such as meetings, parent conferences, or assemblies with the students . After school, I have copies, lesson plans, diagnostic reports, prepping for tomorrow’s experiments, meetings, practices for my academic competition team, PTO meetings and maybe I get a moment to check my email. I always look at the clock around 4:30 and say, “Today I will leave early!” But come 5:30, I am still there, trying to finish up!

    • Angela

      Hi, Olga! That is a long school day–wow. Your principal’s expectations sound pretty familiar. They make sense, but they’re not sustainable for 8 hours a day. You have to sit down sometimes, but you don’t have to sit at your desk. Sometimes when my students did independent work and I needed to do paperwork, I’d sit at a table in the back of my room and have a few students who typically needed extra help sit there with me. That way if anyone walked in the room, it looked like I was either teaching a small group or providing individual assistance to students while they worked. And of course, I was–whenever those students had questions or got stuck, I was right there to help. I think that as a teacher, you have to do what you have to do to keep from burning out and take care of yourself, and sometimes that means coming up with creative solutions. 🙂

  21. Lori

    I am a student teacher in second grade who was just given her own classroom last week! I am taking over a class that seemed to have no structure what so ever and the classroom is a mess! I find myself staying very late to try to catch up. It feels like the first week of school all over again. I am hoping with these tips I can get myself to a more reasonable schedule! Thank you for the advice!

    • Wynn Godbold

      You’re welcome, Marissa! Congrats on getting your own room. I’m sure you’ll be working long hours at first, but it will get better over time!

  22. Sally DeCost

    Regarding bulletin boards, using fabric is an even better time saver. I have used the same piece of fabric for 12 years. Put it up at the beginning of the year and leave it up all year. Use a plain color that will look good with anything you put up – navy blue and black work well.

    • Tracy

      Great tip, Mindy! Thank you!

  23. Amy G

    The biggest time saver I implemented this year was my AM book and buddy time as students start the day. I used to do AM activities but am teaching a 2/3 split this year. My new teaching partner has done book and buddies for ages. After the kids get checked in, lunch card, and what not, we do announcements, then the flag salute and then brain dance. After that they find a buddy and they read aloud to each other, switching after 10 minutes. They get to read any text, and many pick non-fiction. I can get all of my check in stuff done, and meet with kids for RtI time for math. No papers to grade, and it’s simple for subs too! I love it! I try to implement the other stuff you suggested, but sadly, my days are longer due to my commute to work and back (it’s long so I leave early to get to work early and avoid traffic).

    • Mandy

      That’s really cool, Michelle! Sounds like there are great benefits for you, your teaching partner, AND the kids. Awesome!

  24. Tom

    Great article! One way I have saved so much time with planning is to plan each work day as a specific task day. Monday is a day to make sure I have everything made and ready for each day of the upcoming week and putting it in folders that I have marked for each day of the week. Tuesday is my planning day for the following week, figuring out what to do, what I need to gather, make, or copy by making lists. Wednesday is a day of checking off that list. Thursday is to sit down and plan, making sure I have everything I need and know what I want to do. Friday, last but not least, is to clear out the room from unneccesary items, file things away and pick up. Every now and then I have to stay a little late or take things home, but I usually have my nights and weekends free. I do all of this throughout the day, during planning, and usually lunch.

    • Anndee

      Love that system, Nicole! I’m so glad you shared that!

  25. Angela Watson

    I am not a teacher who gives kids work to do and sits at their desk and watches. I am an active teacher who likes hands on activities. However, I have found that that having a class period for the kids to work on their own is a tremendous help to me. I teach four different classes a day (2 grades, but 4 ability levels) and I have found that if each class has one period every two weeks were they work on an assignment on their own I am given a tremendous amount of time to work. The kids don’t mind one period of working on an assignment (like a chapter review) every two weeks, because it is not an every day or even week thing. However, with two classes doing an assignment each week I am given two extra “grading” times each week. I don’t set the day in stone and only give an “assignment” day when it fits into our schedule and I can see an academic benefit from independent work. I have found that this time is invaluable!

  26. Deb

    As a teacher in the UK I’m contracted to work 1265 hours throughout the year. Last year I kept a time sheet of the work I completed at home and at school and I’d completed these hours by the middle of February (our school year starts in September). I achieved this (possibly the wrong choice of words there!) despite scaling back the hours I did once I found out I was pregnant. When I go back after my maternity leave I’m determined to have more of a work-life balance; I don’t want to spend more time with my work than I do with my little boy.

  27. Lisa

    I love this! You have some great tips in this article- many of which go hand in hand with best teaching practices (like more hands-on activities.) I’ll be linking to you in my weekly recommended reading post.

  28. Caitlin

    I was a new teacher and taught for only 5 years. I have “retired” for the past few years to be home with my kids. That said, I was glad to take a break. I did all the management ideas you suggested from day one, super organized, went above and beyond for my students, and firm but kind. All of this was never enough for parents. All of these high expectations and ridiculous new hoops are due to parents and admin. I have not yet returned to the field but learning how to manage parents and admin would help me so I can keep doing a great job as a teacher. I should mention it was not that parents did or did not help in the classroom, the issue was they always wanted more for each student – insisting on telling how teachers do their jobs. Would you walk into a doctors office and order your blood work? No. There is simply a lack of respect these days and parents want things to be customized for them.

    I wrote a huge thesis on Differentiating, which seems to always be a huge expectation. Differentiating lessons for each child every day is simply not practical nor realistic in the real world. A boss will not help you do your job by differentiating. I am concerned for our future, as teachers are blamed when students’ don’t thrive, and yet no one looks at how parents are raising their kids to be so entitled and disrespectful. Every year I would really help my students become better students but more importantly better citizens with life skills by learning how to work with others, be autonomous, being caring and respectful and simply always putting in their best efforts. Although my students and some kind parents praised my efforts, this always seemed to never be enough. I think I still need a break unless you have words of wisdom.

    • Linda

      Andrea, I completely agree with you!!! You mentioned a thesis-do you have your Master’s? If so, consider teaching college. The responsibility is placed squarely on the students’ shoulders (as it should be!). If they are unsuccessful, it is their own fault. No one points the blame at college instructors like they do at public school teachers.

      I teach in a school where 90\% of our students are on welfare (read:coming to school sleepy, hungry, unprepared, no homework completed, etc) and yet my pay is based on their test scores! It is crazy! As soon as I complete my master’s my goal is to teach English at a Community College. Better pay, better working conditions, and far less work!

      • Diane

        I wish you luck, but most community colleges now require PhD’s for anything other than adjunct teaching. You won’t likely get a full time job with only a Master’s degree. The state I live in has gone to a merit pay system for college professors that is based largely on student exit surveys as they are “customers” in education as a business model. The responsibility is being shifted away from college students and onto their professors, modeling after secondary schools.

  29. Kay Durham

    I love the first tip of more hands on activities!

    Here’s another-a teacher once told me, “Never do for the children what they can do for themselves.” I teach kindergarten and you would be shocked at how those 5 year olds understand how to run the classroom! They handle snack, hand-washing before lunch, passing put materials, setting out centers, and even agendas. I do not do one single thing for them that I think they can handle on their own. Once I figured this out, my day went 100\% smoother! PS, subs LOVE my class cause the kids do all the work!

  30. Kristi

    I have taught kinder for several years, and moved to 1st this year. One thing that helps me is a weekly accountability list. I have planned out and given myself a task to complete every day during my plan period. That helps me have a “focus” for that time, instead of wasting it away. I also have a list of which kids I meet with for 1:1 reading and writing conferences. So, my list may look like:

    Monday – plan period focus: alternate math and literacy workstation activities as needed; Reading conferences: Students A, B, C, D; Writing conferences with Students I, J, K, L.

    Tuesday – Plan Period: meet with mentor teacher; Reading conferences with Students E, F, G, H; Writing conferences with Students M, N, O, P.

    Wednesday – plan period: go to book room to gather guided reading books for small groups, conference with same kids from Monday

    Wednesday after school – meet with grade level team to plan together for next week

    Thursday – write weekly newsletter, make copies for Friday Folders and for next week’s activities, Conference with kids from Tuesday

    Friday – Stuff Friday Folders, Make up conferences with anyone who missed out, or with struggling students

    This helps me hold myself accountable to use my time wisely. And I quickly realize if I’ve wasted my time when I find myself having to do these activities during an evening or weekend!

    • Bonnie

      Very helpful–thanks for sharing!

  31. Alisa Grimes

    Thank you so much for these great tips! Do you have any ideas for high school? Although these are super useful, it’s a different dynamic when you have 160+ kids in and out of your room every day.

    Thank you!

    • Heather {LocalFunforKids}

      I teach high school SPED (severe/profound) so my situation is different. Just a thought, have the students switch papers with a peer once or twice a week, go over the homework together. Have the peer put the grade on the top of the page, circle it and sign their intials at the bottom. This will take out some instruction time, but will allow you to see how the students are understanding the information and will save you time after school, all you will have to do it skim the page and insert grades into your grade book. I also used Fridays as catch up days for myself and the students. I would give a short quiz, then if the students had all their assignments in, they got to choose an activity of thier choice, if not, they had time to make up work. At this time you can also have students pass back assignments that you have graded and put into your grade book already. You can also use the quizes to make sure your students have understood the material from the week, if not, you know that Monday needs to be a review day. Hope this helps.

      • Rebecca Montes de Oca

        I realize that this post is a couple of years old, but in our district, kids are not allowed to see graded work that is not their own work, so no help passing out papers. We are also not supposed to let them grade each others’ work.

  32. Angela Watson

    Great post! I am always tidying up! It’s bc I’m obsessed with my classroom looking clean, but it really helps! And my students never leave the classroom for recess, lunch or to go home without cleaning up first!

  33. Colleen Kluber

    You may have addressed this already, but what subject and grade did you teach? Also, how long we’re your periods? I get 50 minutes in 8 periods a day. Not a lot of time can be spent on start of bell work. I find that is the time my students do their forgotten homework.

    • Sarah

      I taught PreK, 2nd, and 3rd (mostly third). You’re right that bell work cannot be very lengthy when you have 8 periods a day. I had 5, and they were flexible because I had the same group of kids all day long.

  34. Denise

    Any tips for how to handle times when co-workers come to complain or hang out because they have student teachers who do a lot of prep for them, while I’m trying to get what I need done? It’s been a real struggle this year and I always feel so behind, while others have time to go out and enjoy their weekends. Teachers who aren’t willing to put in the time to prep seem to be coddled because other people hand over their prep and plans. I’m going to start trying #1 with your creative solution. 😉

    #4 is difficult for me because I have students who will not do their work if I am not watching them around the clock. This leaves little time to straighten up throughout the day. It’s hard for me to not notice and do nothing so that I can do things I need to straighten-even for two minutes. How would you handle this situation?

    I try to get to school at least an hour early daily to make copies and prep for the day, but it is still not enough (#5).

    Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and experience!

  35. Jessica Meacham

    I’m a first year special education teacher still working 75+ hours a week and Im exhausted. Any suggestions? I’d love to do morning work but my students aren’t very independent along with hands on activities. Any other suggestions?

  36. Sandra

    My best friend/co worker and I plan/work several intense days over the summer..At the end of the previous year we make a list of what worked well and our “to do” list over the summer..We meet at the school, or at a coffee shop and plan/ make things for the next school year..We have even gone on a trip and intensely planned..Of course, we always bring our kids everywhere so it is actually fun. Our husbands watch the kids while we plan and we take breaks as needed to take care of them as well..We know that whatever gets changed for the next year has to be planned over the summer..It saves us so much time during the school year..With small kids we just do not work more than about 45 hours during the week unless absolutely necessary..

  37. Sarah


    I love your blog and have been working on a 40-hour-week since switching careers to elementary education seven years ago. My dilemma… How do you write lesson plans during the week? My stumbling blocks… (1) I don’t know what I will have accomplished this week to know where to start next week – especially with my gifted students. (2) Staying after school isn’t effective, because my co-workers would prefer to chat and have called me anti-social if I don’t. (3) By the time I get home and do the necessities there, I rarely have the energy for effective planning.

    Any suggestions?


  38. Sarah

    My favourite way to keep my classroom tidy and organised with little effort from me is the “lucky spot”. At the end of the day I pick a lucky spot and don’t tell the children what it is. It might be a piece of paper on the floor, a box of equipment or a shelf of books that needs tidying, a window that needs closing – anything. We then have our 2-3 minutes of tidy up time and the person – or people – who get the lucky spot get house points or a ticket in my ticket box (I draw out two a week and those children choose from the goody box of little stationery items etc). Of course I don’t tell them what the lucky spot was till the end of tidy up time! Our school cleaner comments on how tidy my classroom always is :o)

  39. Angela Watson

    Hi folks! I can’t say I’ve got it all figured out, but I have a pretty balanced work schedule when I stay 1 hour late 2 nights a week, and put in one strong Saturday a month (3 or 4 hours). Those Saturdays are when I can plan ahead in quiet. I can also write more meaningful responses for their journals (I teach sixth grade English) if I am in a quiet, student-free room. For the weekdays when I stay late, I set a time limit, and whatever gets done by that time, is it. I prefer not to take work home, and it works for me: my time at home is MY TIME. I think the most important thing is that each teacher finds a “system” that works for them. Thanks for all of the very helpful responses, and best wishes for all!

  40. christymorales

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, Angela! Your tips are so helpful! Your work is much valued amd appreciated!

  41. Jenny moftercot

    It’s a first year in a new grade for me, and every day I find myself thinking, “It’ll be better next year.” I have 65 pre-algebra students, 22 Algebra I students, and 20 remedial math. I don’t have 20 minutes to do administrative work because I get a new batch of kids in the room every 45 minutes all day. The first five minutes of class are usually spent taking attendance and dealing with whomever was absent yesterday. I’m drowning in SPED paperwork, ARD’s, dyslexia paperwork, and just when I thought I was going to get ahead, I found out that the Algebra I kids who, on paper, were in pre-algebra last year really only did a slightly advanced version of 7th grade math. They were incredibly unprepared – the first unit was supposed to be a QUICK review of pre-algebra terminology, a foundation of functions unit that was only supposed to be 10 days of instruction. We’re at the end of 20 days, and I’m JUST NOW ready to assess them on it. Because I am building 3 preps from scratch (our textbooks haven’t shipped yet) I am pretty much winging it every day. It’ll be better next year, right? I mean, I’m doing everything I can. I come in early, I stay late, I work through lunch, I work all weekends, and yet, I’m still winging it because I can’t plan ahead while trying to just keep my head above water. Forget using the copy machine – I just bought 3 extra ink cartridges and I’m printing everything at home the night before because even at 6:30 am, there is already either a line for the copier or it is jammed. I got an email today saying “please bring by next week’s work for this student because he’s going to be leaving for Mexico for a week.” Next week? I don’t even know what we’re doing MONDAY. Tonight I stayed up until 10:30 making a test and printing out 65 copies. For tomorrow. It’ll be better next year.

    • BH

      I get it, Jennifer! I guess my best advice to you is to focus on the good aspects of your job. After typing all of that out, I’m sure you felt very stressed and overwhelmed. That’s how we feel when we rehash all the details of our problems. Try to redirect any thoughts you have about the negative aspects of your job, and think about the good moments you have connecting with kids and watching them learn. It takes awhile to develop that habit, but I think you will notice a shift in your mood pretty quickly. Just a few minutes of thinking about all the stuff we have to do can completely rob us of energy. Make good to-do lists and then let all those tasks drop from your mind except the ones that need to be done right now. 🙂

      • Mealsa

        Well, it’s next year. I can tell you that this year is better. Sometimes there is nothing you can do but suck it up and put in the 70 hour weeks, knowing they will pay off later. This year, my tests are made, the worksheets are still good, the Algebra I kids are still unprepared but at least I knew that, going in. So I reread your “advice” this morning and realized that all you said, in an extremely diplomatic way, to be sure, was “I got nothing for you except Qwitcherbitchin.” It WAS an awful situation, and no amount of whistle-while-you-work could change that. I now am in a position to help another teacher on my campus who is experiencing a similar bad time, and instead of demanding that on top of dealing with unprepared students, uncooperative parents, and nonexistent curriculum she also “try to look on the bright side – you’ll feeeeeel better” I commiserate with her, VALIDATE her feelings, and assure her that yes, it’s awful, now, but yes, every single thing you do this year, every 70 hour week you put in, guarantees that next year will be better. Good job, teacher, keep it up!”

        • Angela Watson

          Thanks for checking back in! I was actually sincere in the advice I gave you–your mindset is often the only thing you can change in difficult situations. It sounds like you did just that–you focused on the positive, which was that things would get better the following year. That gave you hope and created light at the end of the tunnel. And now you’re doing the same thing for another teacher–reminding her that the situation is temporary and her hard work is going to pay off later. That is AWESOME! I’m so excited for both of you.

  42. Angela Watson

    Thanks for these great reminders and some new tips. I’ve found two timesavers for grading and it really helps out. The first is for any written essay or assignment that needs to be graded for writing content as well as conventions- when we finish a Writer’s Workshop unit, part of our celebration is us sitting and letting each student have a turn in the “Author’s Chair.” Not unusual, I’m sure many do this, but a few years ago it dawned on me that I can grade for content while they read and then I only need to scan for conventions later. This saves me so much time as the stories are already being read in class and don’t need to be done again in my own time (unless there were a few I was keeping a close eye on), and scanning for conventions is fairly easy. I never have stacks of huge writing pieces to grade now. The other time saver is that we will take timed math fact practices for part of our morning routine to keep facts straight. I have the tests (they all move on at their own paces, so we don’t all do the same tests at the same time) all organized in a crate with answer keys. Once they are all turned in, students sort the tests, I pull the answer keys, and when I have early finishers, they get to grade the timed tests. This saves me from the grading, just the recording of 100\% passers and the students who grade get extra fact review.

  43. Maddie

    I just love all the tips and ideas, and it makes me feel so much better to know others are having the same issues. I work at least 12 hour days, go in early, stay late, and take work home. I have a hard time being productive when kids are in the room. How do you handle a class of second graders who always want to tell you something? The morning is the hardest. Im trying to balance my relationship with them and getting my own work done. I’m trying to take attendance and they’re at my desk to tell me something. Do I just have to be firmer and not allow anyone to come up? I’m in summer now, but would like to start the new year right and get them to not need to tell me everything. I start sounding like a broken record…do you need to tell me this now? Is it an emergency? What can you do to figure this out on your own? I struggle with balancing get to work and letting them tell me important things. I’ll have parents ask if their child told me about an important event and I’ll say no because 10 other kids came up with mindless comments and when i get stern the kids with important comments get shunned. Then I feel bad. Any advice?

    • Angela Watson

      I teach 3rd/4th grade. They do always seem to have something important to share with you. Mine LOVE sticky notes. I greet them all at the door in the mornings with a hello & maybe a hug, but then they have a regular routine to get into. If they have something to tell me about – I give them a sticky note :0) They turn in homework, notes from home, lunch money, & sharpen pencils. Then we do our first Daily 5 session of the day. They have already learned this routine, and they get right to it. No one is allowed to be moving around the room or talking. This allows me to go through all the things they have turned in & any sticky notes that need dealt with right away. Once I’m organized, they are done with Daily 5 & we can start our day. This has been a wonderful, peaceful routine for my class. Hope it helps!

    • Prashant

      Jeanne–When I was teaching Elementary School, I did two different things to allow the kids to tell me what they needed to tell me. First, I hang up a string with clothespins in one corner of my room. The string has a clothespin with each child’s name on it, as well as a clothespin with mine. My kids know–once they are finished with their morning work, they can write me a note or write one to another child in the class, and put it in their clothespin. I only allow them to do this twice a day, and try to choose a time when they are going to be up anyway, such as when they come into the class or during morning work, and when we are coming back from lunch. That way, they aren’t using too much class time to write the notes. I encourage them to write notes to encourage each other, if they see a classmate who needs encouragement, and also to write down anything they want to tell me. This helps them get to know the other kids in the class, they see me reading them while they are working independently, it helps them prioritize information and decide if that’s something they need to say now or later, and also gives them practice with writing and reading. I monitor them randomly, and they get bonus points for using new words correctly, paying attention to spelling and grammar, etc. Students know if they abuse the privilege, they will lose it for a period of time, and they come to take it very seriously by the end of the year. If I have a class of thirty, I choose 6 students a day, and write them an encouraging or complimentary note, so everyone has received an encouraging note by the end of the week. This does two things–helps me build a relationship with them, and also helps them to see themselves through my eyes, so if they aren’t feeling very lovable that day, they still see that someone loves them for who they are. The second thing I do is choose a time, twice or three times a week, when children are working independently, to conference with them, and at the end of the conference, after we’ve talked about work, I give them a minute or so to tell me anything they want to tell me. I’ve also done styrofoam cups in my room, attached to the desks, and students can turn them upside down when they have something they need to say to me. That way, they keep working, and I call them up one at a time, as I can, or I go to them.

    • Tamra

      You can teach kids when it’s okay to interrupt you and when it’s not. I recommend the 3 Before Me strategy–it works wonders!

  44. Angela Watson

    This is so great! As a student teacher waiting for the day I have my first classroom of my own, these tips will be so helpful. I try not to worry about getting to have my dream job, while also having quality time for my young son. I am ever confident that I can be a single parent and still be an efficient teacher.

    • Teacher Alam

      It’s a tough balance for sure! It’s wonderful that you’re planning for that in advance.

  45. Carol

    Great ideas! I like number six, allowing kids to help so time is not wasted. I need to work to incorporate them more.

  46. Grace

    This article caught my attention because I can relate to working long hours at school, then going home and correcting papers until my husband finally asks me when I will be done. After reading this I was able to get some really effective ideas, such as incorporating hands-on activities instead of more worksheets, using morning work time to correct papers, check my school email, and take attendance. I would also find myself staying after school getting distracted with organizing papers or cleaning up, but Angela advised teachers to have the kids help clean up and straighten up and the teachers can spend two minutes here and two minutes there tiding up in class while the children are cleaning. There were more great ideas that I used in my classroom that helped me to work smarter, not harder, thanks to Angela Watson.

    • Selin

      So glad this was helpful! 🙂

  47. Angela Watson

    Wonderful and practical list. I like to think I’m pretty good at keeping my hours in check, but I have an approaching maternity leave and when it is through would like to maximize my mom time. 40 hours would be awesome.

  48. Laura

    I will be student teaching in a few days, in a business high school classroom. Do your tips apply to me? It may be a dumb question, but I don’t take my students to lunch or PE. Thanks for your time.

  49. Angela Watson

    Great post Angela! As a principal, I’m always looking for great articles and tips to send to my teachers to help them work smarter, not harder! I send out something each week, and this is a no- brainer!


    • Diane DaLonzo

      You’re very welcome. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  50. Grace

    I teach first grade in Chicago and I feel like there’s so much administrative paperwork and emails to attend to that often has nothing to do with instruction or students. Do you have any suggestions for this? Also, when students are working independently or during things like Daily 5, I am constantly meeting with students or using the time to address students that are academically behind. I find that there isn’t a lot of time for me to do things while my first graders are working and if I do, I feel guilty.

    I get to school by 6:30 am and often don’t leave until close to 5 and I am absolutely wiped when I get home. I don’t do work when I get home, but I do spend a few hours on the weekend working and planning. Our school day is from 8:30-3:30. I would appreciate any further suggestions!

    • Zoe Dillard

      As far as paperwork and emails…batch them. Get into a flow and do a whole bunch at once, rather than a bit here and a bit there. Create docs you can copy/paste from for frequently-used phrases and sentences.

      With first grade, it’s harder to get downtime during the day. You’ll have to give yourself permission to get your own work taken care of sometimes instead of meeting with students during their independent work time. In an ideal world, you’d be able to give your full attention to your students all day long, but that’s simply not sustainable. If you want to keep from burning out, you have to recognize your limits as a person and meet your own needs, too.

  51. chris

    I don’t want to be on fb. Can I still sign up for your monthly info?

    • Sandy

      I understand about Facebook–all the content is delivered through Gumroad, not social media, so while you’ll miss out on the community aspect if you’re not in the Facebook group, you’ll still get all the tips.

      If you decide to sign up, just put “no account” in the slot that asks for your Facebook name. Or, if you decide you do want to participate in the group, you can create a Facebook account just for this, and not add any personal details to your profile (use a random picture and short version of your name, or something.) Totally up to you.

  52. Kelly

    I am a brand new first year teacher hired on meet the teacher night from an exemplary level and ultra competitive ISD. I didn’t even own a file folder or paper clip when I got hired! I don’t expect a 40 hour week under my circumstances, but do you have resources, books, websites, etc that would help me not work 14 hours a day and every weekend right now? I am loving the actual teaching and the kids, but everything else in terms of meeting/committees/planning/documentation is overwhelming.

    • Angela Watson

      Absolutely! Make sure you’re on the email list for the 40 Hour Workweek Club and I’ll send periodic time saving tips. 🙂

  53. Emmett Hoops

    When I started at a new school, I found a teacher who had been there long enough to know how to prioritize all the extras, like Red Ribbon Week, Back 2 School night, Book Fair, testing, etc. She knew which events had priority in that particular school culture so that I wouldn’t spin my wheels.

    She also informed me of events that were coming down the pike and their details that hadn’t been enumerated for me because the other teachers already knew the drill; for example, that the Butter Braid fundraiser orders would need to be passed out immediately or refrigerated or they would all explode in the classroom since they were yeast products!

    Good luck!

    • Angela Watson

      So smart of you to find a veteran teacher in your school who can give you the inside scoop!

  54. Heather Esford

    Good article – i teach ICT for 498 kids over the week … One thing that helps is automated work online so they are busy and then the work is automatically graded and sent to me. My new semester I will get smart kids in class to help more so I can focus on weak students…

  55. Sonya

    I am an arts teacher with a program of 6th, 7th & 8th grade as well as an after school musical. I am the only one in my school teaching theater, I am my own department. While I am admittedly not as bogged down with state testing requirements as many of my colleagues, I do find myself overwhelmed. I am in my 9th year and have found myself wondering if I’m done, am I so burnt out that I am becoming ineffective? I’m sure the answer to a certain extent is YES! But many other days I just don’t feel like I am finished, done perhaps but not finished. My program, one that I have created over the past almost decade, not one that someone handed me or that is a result of collaboration with my department, is not where I’d like it to be when I choose to walk away. But as I write this, I am sitting at a desk that is piled high with papers to grade (which I should be grading instead of reading a writing this), papers to file, probably papers to toss, books to put away and a slew of other randomness. My personal life is a mess, my professional life is a mess, I don’t even know how many hours I put in each week because everything just melts into one giant pile of yuck. I don’t even know where to start, nor do I feel like I have enough energy to start because once I get going, the bell will ring and in walks a class of students who need my attention. It seems endless and often time pointless to even begin, but I know beginning is the hardest step but the most important! I have subscribed to your blog and will come back often for new tips, tricks, suggestions, inspiration, whatever I need and can get from you and this community of (hopefully) supportive distant colleagues. :o) Finger Crossed! (I’m diving into the pile of randomness now)

    • Angela Watson

      Hi, Adele, I sympathize completely! Make sure you are on the email list for The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. I’ll send free time-saving tips about once a month.

  56. Anonymous

    The one task that I feel has to be saved for the weekend is lesson planning. My administrator has us in meetings, traingings, or tutoring every day after school. I would love to have more hands on learning in my classroom, but I don’t get the time to plan them. We are allowed to leave on Thursdays and Fridays right after bus duty, but I’m finding that I’m staying until 4-4:30 trying to catch up on grading papers, required updates to my class website, etc. I would actually stay even later, but I have a baby and I have to pick him up by 4:30 or I get charged extra. I’m spending my Sundays doing lesson planning and catching up on the stuff I didn’t get to during the week. I’m hitting the burnout point.

  57. Anonymous

    Even with 17 years of experience, I am working 70-80 hours per week. Lunch breaks are a thing of the past, and the time required for communicating with parents via e-mail often exceeds 3 hours per day. Does anyone have tips for managing e-mail? Both parents and administrators require responses to every message. This is middle-elementary level.

    • emiliework

      Hi, Lori! I recommend to 40 Hour Workweek Club members that they set office hours when they will respond to email. Never read each message as it comes in and respond immediately: always do it in batches when it’s a convenient time for you. Try to schedule your day so you get the most important work done first (planning, assessment) and then answer email later when you’re in a lower energy mood and less creative state.

      You can also try to channel parent communication through a tool like Bloomz or Remind or even ClassDojo Messenger–it’s much faster to correspond through a quick text message than a formal email.

      I hope that helps! You can sign up for the 40HTW email list to get more tips sent to your inbox. 🙂 Hope to see you in the club in early July when we’re open to new members again!

  58. Anonymous

    I needed this reminder this week! Another thing that has helped me stay close to 40 hours a week is to have a set time when I leave. I can change how early I come in for those days I need extra time but 4 oclock is my out the door time. The kids go at 3:20, so it’s tempting on ‘light’ days to leave with them but always staying until 4 helps me get a little bit ahead on those days and helps me prioritize & focus my after school time on busy days. My coworkers know I leave at 4, so we schedule meetings before school or during planning. Also, saying “that’s good enough” is a strategy it took me a long time to master but I feel its so valuable!

Post a Comment

Want to join the discussion? Feel free to contribute!

Keep Learning

Here are a few more blog posts I thought you might like. Feel free to check out my whole library of resources, organized into the categories below.