It’s no secret that teachers are short on time. Your work doesn’t stop when class ends, and there never seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done and still have time for friends and family. When you aren’t planning lessons or grading your students’ latest set of quizzes, you’re probably looking for ways to be a better teacher or you’re responding to a worried parent’s email. A teacher’s work is never done, even when it should be!
So when there is never enough time in your day, how can you make your life a little easier? Here are a few ways you can streamline your day, and still be a great teacher.
1. Be smart about lesson planning—and allow things to grow from one year to the next
It can be very easy to get carried away creating very labor-intensive flashcards, board or card games, or making elaborate PowerPoint presentations on a new unit. It’s fun, festive, and entertaining for you and your students.
But your students are there to learn-- not be entertained. And you can streamline your planning process and still give them a high-quality, fun, engaging class with stellar content. Rather than spending hours and hours planning a 30 to 45-minute lesson so that every element is Pinterest-ready, when you are preparing a new lesson, set a time limit for yourself. And stick with it. You can always embellish and build on lessons from one year to the next.
Help your future self from year to year: After a lesson ends, you can make notes about what worked in class, and what didn’t, and what you want to add or develop from one year to the next. Then, instead of spending hours and hours crafting the perfect elements for your lesson, you can allow your lesson to grow and evolve as you grow as a teacher.
2. Grade and Mark Assignments Selectively
There are so many grading tools available to you now. You can create and grade quizzes and assignment on Google Forms that score many questions for you, or research other grading apps that fit your class needs and your teaching style. This allows you more time to look at essays, or evaluate students on their speaking skills.
Not into technology? Allow your students to trade and grade vocabulary quizzes, or save time by using voice typing to make comments on your students’ essays or short answer responses. Of course, you want to give your students personal feedback. This is where voice typing or emailed voice memos can be helpful.
Another thought? Not every question or every assignment has to be graded. Choose key assignments to evaluate student growth, and make some of your more repetitive assignments -like writing out verb conjugations or making flashcards- completion grades.
Check out a few more ways to grade efficiently here.
3. Apply the two-minute rule
The two-minute rule could very well change your life in and out of the classroom. The main idea? If it can be done in less than two minutes, don’t wait: do it now. So entering a set of quizzes into the grade book or responding to a parent email? If it can be done in less than two minutes, don’t wait. You’ll be surprised how much more you can accomplish in a day if you finish something right away.
You can also use the two-minute rule for things that take longer than two minutes. Are you putting off grading a stack of tests? Spend two minutes working on the task. Chances are, you’ll work at your task for longer than two minutes, and gradually, you’ll chisel away a large part of your to-do list in two-minute increments.
Imagine how many two-minute tasks you can tackle during a 15-minute recess, or during your lunch break after you’ve finished your lunch. You’ll save all kinds of time later by following the two-minute rule.
4. Plan more than just your lessons: Plan your whole day
If you have a clear game plan for your entire day, you have less of a chance that you’ll get distracted, or spend the entirety of your prep period composing only one perfectly-worded email to a concerned parent. Make a daily to-do list for yourself, prioritize your list, and schedule the time you plan to accomplish each of these things-- then stick with it.
It would be so easy to spend 30 or more minutes making comments and correcting grammar on an essay response or writing down your thoughts on a student’s paper. After all, you care about your students’ growth and want them to improve their language skills with every assignment they complete. But if you’ve planned to grade two or three German reports during that same thirty minutes, you’re more likely to adhere to your schedule. This schedule will also focus you: You’ll stick to the essentials, streamline your thoughts, and save yourself time.
5. Take advantage of available resources
Being a foreign language teacher can be especially time-consuming. In addition to teaching your students brand new content and entirely new skills, you have to track down resources and cultural references to help make the culture and language of your subject come to life. And if you’re not careful? This can be a very labor-intensive process.
So one way to manage your time? Take advantage of available resources that you find on the internet. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel with every new unit when you have the entire world at your fingertips.
There are spectacular resources available on the internet for foreign language teachers-- from foreign language news sources to teaching communities to learning apps. There is even a wealth of authentic materials for your use; things like movies and YouTube videos that are perfect to share with your classes. Your students get a glimpse of what real life is like in that culture, and you save time gathering resources. It’s a win-win situation. You can check out a list of suggestions for foreign language teachers here.
A note about this? You should never feel guilty for making full use of the resources you find on the internet. If you find stellar teaching materials that save you time and allow you to be present and attentive with your students in class? Why not use these resources? It will make you a better, more focused teacher so you can teach content effectively and make a difference in the lives of your students.
Are you a German teacher looking for extra ways to save time? When parents do ask for German book recommendations (because it’s likely they will), send them to Kinder Books. Our selection of books is broken down by reading level, so your students’ parents never have to guess whether or not a book is right for their child.
And if you’re short on educational resources? We are a one-stop-shop for teachers, too. Our educational resources are ideal for German teachers who love German-- and who might be short on time.