Keep It Super Simple

Keep It Super Simple - Work Smarter, Not Longer
By Kelly Mikesell

I hear of so many teachers that spend 60, 70, 80 hours a week working. I like my job. I love my students. I adore teaching, but we don't get paid enough to spend that kind of time on our career. And the best part is that you don't have to.

I work from 6:30 - 4:00 most days. Then, I go home with empty hands and don't think about school again until the next day. Even maintaining these hours, I am able to run a well organized, exciting, academically driven, high-achieving classroom.

My goal is to provide you with a few quick strategies to streamline your planning, organizing and work so that you can be successful as a teacher and still have a life!

First, plan with a team. In team planning you "share the wealth". Each teacher brings strengths to the table, and putting them together to plan raises the level of everyone's plans. Working on a team also gives you the opportunity to bounce ideas off of other people in a non-threatening setting.

If there are not other teachers at your school to plan with, find some in the area. Teaching is, sadly, a mostly isolated profession - teaching, planning, grading, and working alone. Planning shouldn't be. You're only as good as your plans, so find other professionals to plan with.

Second, plan "in bulk". At my school we take one afternoon a week and plan for each subject for a month. The first week we plan reading, the second week we plan math, the third week we plan writing, and so on. In doing this you know what you need in advance, so there is never a last minute rush. This also covers you in case of illness or other unexpected emergency. If you have teaching aides or parent volunteers coming into your room, you know in advance if you need something for them to help you cut, buy, or put together.

Planning in bulk can also help you make sure you are covering all of the standards and expectations. You're never left hanging in the wind with 3 weeks of school left if you are continually looking forward in big blocks of time.

Third, simplify your lessons. Every lesson does not need to have some cute art project, worksheet or product. The best lessons are lessons that have a clear purpose, concise goal, streamlined teaching and maintain academic flow. My classroom is a "no worksheet" zone. Children do not learn from worksheets. They learn from clear teaching, real-world application and use of all of the senses.

One of my all time favorite teaching tools is plain, white copy paper. You can do almost anything with plain, white paper. There are 100's of ways to turn it into graphic organizers, stories, books, reviews, word family charts and more. The children feel ownership in their products, and it is authentic assessment. To find great things to do with paper, visit Dinah's Archives.

I have every type of student in my classroom - just like you: "typical", gifted, ESE, ADHD, and the list goes on and on. Most of these students do not want to be in a chair all day - they would much rather move! Having a classroom that allows children to learn in the way that they are most capable makes sense. During my day we have tons of music, movement, dancing, writing, drawing, cooperative work, hands-on centers and structured "learning through play".

Try one of these tips and see if you become a happier teacher with more time for YOU to play!

Kelly is a Kindergarten Teacher in Tampa, Florida with 10 years experience and the creator of She was born and raised north of Chicago, and went to Illinois State University for a B.S. in Elementary Education and has taught K - 8 Technology, Kindergarten, First Grade, Pre-K, and VE K - 3.

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