Note: While some of the technology available to classroom teachers may have changed since this article was written, the underlying advice continues to be useful and practical.
There never seems to be enough class time or preparation time. Too soon, the bell rings, signaling the end of a period, whether you have accomplished your goals. Here are some tips for eliminating some common time wasters.
Errands away from the classroom can be time hogs. In addition to the time needed to complete a task, getting there and back can use up precious minutes. To solve this problem, analyze your errands and eliminate needless trips and make the best use of necessary trips. For example, do away with trips to the water fountain by keeping a thermos of water in the classroom. Instead of going to the restroom to wash your hands, keep a box of Wetnaps in your desk. Instead of making copies daily, try to do all your copying for the week on one day, thus eliminating four trips to the ditto machine per week and saving a lot of time. Combine several separate errands to one part of the building into one efficient trip. If the library is close to the office, stop there after checking in at the office instead of returning later in the day.
Setting up audio-visual equipment may take a lot of time. With some planning, you may not have to do it as often, thus saving time. If you are going to show slides or videos to several classes during the same week, why not show them all on the same day? This way, you only have to set up the equipment once for the whole week. This works very well for me. Both my seventh and eighth grade classes use the language lab once a week. I have scheduled all my lab activities for Monday. Since I only have to set up the lab once a week, his saves a lot of time as well as wear and tear on the equipment. This principle can be adapted to many other situations and activities.
Another common time waster is redundant clerical work. Using a computer can automate the preparation of such things as forms, gradebooks, lesson plans and reports because it eliminates typing in the same information over and over. Even if you don't have a computer, there are ways to reduce time spent on clerical work. For instance, if your principal requires that you keep detailed lesson plans, you can save time by keeping a file of things like the requirements for frequently assigned projects, goals and objectives and detailed descriptions of learning activities you use frequently. You can paperclip these to your lesson plan, eliminating the need for writing them into your plan book each time. In short, analyze the clerical work you do and find ways to lessen the time spent on it without sacrificing the quality of your work.
In addition to wasted preparation time, class time is often squandered on things like ineffective discipline, repeating instructions, looking for handouts to give to students who have been absent, and transition from one activity to another. These time wasters can be eliminated with better planning and organization. Take an inventory of your own situation. Identify time wasters and plan strategies to eliminate them.
For example, if you spend time reprimanding students, it might be time to develop a more stringent discipline policy that includes well-defined rules and automatic consequences for violations. If you have to repeat instructions often, make charts with instructions for frequently used procedures and keep them posted in the classroom. When assigning a major project or paper, prepare a handout for the students. This way, you may only have to explain something once. If you attach this handout to your lesson plan, you won't have to explain the activity in as much detail. For students who have missed class, keep a set of stackable plastic shelves on your desk with one shelf for each class. When you are passing out handouts, put copies of them on the shelves for absent students. Then make it the students' responsibility to come get the materials they have missed.
Keep supplies organized and always in the same place so students will not have to interrupt class to ask where things are. Have set routines and procedures for all regular activities. Explain these to the students and implement them starting on the first day of school. This way, you won't waste time on prolonged instructions. Wasted time can never be retrieved. Since it may take longer for us to prepare for class than our sighted colleagues, time is of the essence and must be used wisely.
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