The Best Teacher Work Habits Sound a Lot Like Good Student Study Habits

Organize Your WorkspaceTeachers spend plenty of time nagging educating students about study habits, but sometimes teachers are the ones who need a few reminders about managing daily responsibilities. Here’s the good news: embedded in some of those reminders you’re giving to students are tips that can work for you, too.

“Organize your workspace.”

When students don’t have specific places to store their notes and homework, they haphazardly shovel papers into their backpacks, never to see them again. This drives teachers crazy. And yet, the inbox on your own desk can quickly fill up with a combination of things that should go elsewhere. It took me a while to figure this one out, but teachers need filing systems for a few different categories of paperwork: paperwork for specific students, paperwork you’ll need eventually but don’t need now, and paperwork you’ll probably never need again but can’t be totally sure. Plus: a simple, five-tray filing system to manage the papers coming at you on a regular basis.

“Don’t wait until the last minute.”

Teachers get frustrated with students who wait until the night—or the lunch period—before a due date to work on major assignments. Teachers, too, need to set up routines for things that are important to keep up with but not urgent yet. This includes parent contact, teaching certificate paperwork, and of course, grading the student work in those files you’ve set up. Otherwise, “Report Card’ Eve” can feel a whole lot like your students feel when final projects are due—and unlike your students, you can’t bring in a note about how your printer broke.

“Keep track of important dates. Preferably all in one place.”

You know students don’t keep track of assignments written on their hands or on tiny scraps of loose paper. Likewise, teachers may be headed for trouble when by trying to juggle a desk calendar, daily-inspiration peel-off calendar, lesson-plan-book calendar, wall calendar, and smartphone calendar, plus multiple handouts with testing and meeting dates. To avoid missed deadlines and scheduling conflicts, pick one calendar and stick with it.  Here’s a one-hour calendar setup activity that can save you planning time (and sanity) during the school year.

“No, this is not group work.”

Teachers know that student group work can devolve into a whole lot of “group” and not much “work.” But there are times that teachers are not much better. Collaborative planning sessions often become disorganized meetings that involve neither collaborating nor planning. Grading papers with teacher friends also backfires much of the time—especially if you keep pausing to compare notes or read your worst wrong answers out loud. Next time the idea of a paper-grading happy hour starts to sound tempting, remember: most work is best done with your eyes on your own paper. Then, by all means, go to happy hour.

“Stop playing with your phone.”

We know we need to limit distractions if we want students to stay on task. The same is true for us. There are some things that you will only do if you can separate yourself from anything even remotely fun. Even something that’s not fun can be more fun than grading papers, which explains why bringing home a bag full of essays may suddenly motivate you to clean your whole house. If you log onto social media, those essays don’t stand a chance.

“Finish at school and you’ll have less homework.”

Students who are always promising to work harder aren’t necessarily the best students. Likewise, towing home a rolling crate filled with a supernatural workload doesn’t make you a better teacher; taking work home doesn’t always mean it will come back finished. Sometimes it’s better to work tasks into the school day so you don’t have to take them home at all. If you do decide to take work home, be realistic about how much time you will have to work on it. Then plan accordingly.

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