How I leave school at 3 pm...and you can too!

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I am one of those teachers that leaves school at the same time their students do. I know not many do this as I've seen the looks from the teachers who are sitting at their desks as I walk out, still ploughing through a huge pile of marking. I get the comments of 'I don't know how you do it?' so I'll let you into my secret. This is how I manage to leave work at 3 pm when school finishes... and there is no magic to this trick either, it's just down to hard work. 

1. I arrive early. 

Yes, while other teachers are sleeping in or grabbing that cup of coffee on the way to work I'm already there. I do have before school care for my children, which I highly recommend to any teacher - you really can't do this job without it, especially if you're a single parent family. 

Morning time is THE best time to get work done. It's quiet. Nobody bothers you. The copy machine is free from a line up or you can get your copying into the pile to be copied first. There are no knocks on the door from parents who 'just want a quick chat' and no other teachers asking you questions. It's peaceful and calm and you can really get your head straight. First thing in the morning I work backwards from the things I HAVE to get done first. For example, if I have reading groups first I prepare all the materials and set them out, then work out what I need all the way through till break. At break time I can sort things out for the middle and last session. Once the lesson materials are set up I write up what is happening today on the board for my students and sit down at the computer to do my admin. This is when I respond to emails. 

2. I don't do small chit chat

This sounds harsh but I just don't have the time. I do have some chats with other teachers but they are very short and I'm usually on my way somewhere. If my classroom is near a 'chatty teacher' I keep my door closed. Okay, it's anti-social but I want to do my work and leave by 3 pm so sacrifices have to be made. 

3. I don't eat in the lunch room

I eat in my classroom most of the time for a number of reasons. Firstly.. back to point 2.. one way to avoid chatting and wasting time is to avoid the lunch room. My time and energy is precious so I'll just work through lunch thank you. I know this is bad practice works. I eat my lunch and respond to any new emails. 

4. I respond or send emails as soon as I can

Before school or during break is a great chance to respond to emails. If you don't respond quickly they will really build up. The minute something happens and I need to contact a parent I do so almost immediately. If the students are busy writing I do my emails quickly. I've had some really important, urgent emails sent midday and if I hadn't looked till the next day I would have had huge problems. Check your emails frequently and this nips the workload in the bud. 

5. I mark during class time as often as possible

It's not always possible but I mark homework before students arrive (they have to place it in the box the day before). I mark quizzes as we go and I get students to switch books as often as possible to mark and give feedback. Not only is this a good time-saving idea for me but it's really useful to get students used to giving constructive feedback (of course this depends on what grade you teach). I rarely take marking home and when I do it's usually the end of term exam and I mark it over the holidays.

6. I'm preparing to leave during second break

I usually have a duty first or second break but before duty I pack my bag and leave out only the things I need for the last session. Emails are checked and responded to and marking finalised and put away. I also make sure any copying is in for the next day and generally get organised. This way, when the bell goes, I dismiss my students, turn lights off etc.. then I can head home. There is rarely a parent waiting to chat as I usually sort issues out via email beforehand but if there is, that is the only thing that might hold me up. Parents usually make a time to see me though and I usually make that time before school if possible. 

Alright, I know what you're thinking 'keep this up and she'll burn out!'.. I won't actually as I leave school by 3 pm, collect my children, help them with their homework and make dinner. I then get the evening to myself to do as I want. On the weekend I do my planning (Sunday is planning day) and I plan for the whole week. 

The key is getting organised and cutting out the small talk. I'm a mother first, teacher second.

What are your thoughts? How do you manage your time at school?

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