I am naturally a fast paced person. Like the Energizer Bunny, I bounce around all day long until I get home, bounce slower, and eventually crash into my bed to recharge. Despite all my bouncing, I still have the same amount of time in my day as every other teacher, and I constantly find myself wishing for more.
In an average day, I have 30 minutes of work time before school, 30 minutes at lunch, a 55 minute prep during 7th period, and 30 minutes of work time after school. It sounds like a lot when I write it all down, but teachers know it is never enough to do all the things we have to do.
Planning lessons, grading, copying, tutoring, sending parent emails, parent meetings, professional development, curriculum design, IEP meetings, 504 meetings, planning interventions, creating models, decorating the room, making bulletin boards, collaborating with colleagues and a million other things that we don’t even think about doing every day.
With all these obligations, it is no wonder teachers have to-do lists that never end and wind up spending their free time working on school stuff. As an English teacher, grading is my biggest time crunch; it frequently fills my nights and weekends as I weed my way through stacks of essays, writing comments with my purple pen. (My boyfriend tells me it’s my own fault I spend so much time grading; he says that I should quit assigning writing, but I do persist.) So, what’s a teacher to do? Assign less work? Never contact parents? Give up on grading? Obviously not- our kids need practice with these skills and the feedback we give them, but I also need some free time to be a functional adult. How can we solve this problem?
I have read stories about teachers who never take work home with them, get everything done on their prep period; these magical teaching wizards baffle me. If I only worked when I was at school, I would never be caught up. I have read about teachers with color coded grading systems, foregoing written comments and instead highlighting common errors. As a student, my brain would have hated the lack of written feedback. I would have struggled without comments to read, so I don’t want to make my students struggle to figure out what’s not working either.
I have tried grading in front of students while we read through their papers together. It works, and I like doing it, but it just takes up my class time instead of my free time. I’m not sure if it is a trade-off I can use consistently if it means lost instruction. I have also tried writing fewer comments to help speed up my grading. I can read a lot of papers very quickly, but I always have teacher guilt for not giving my students as much feedback as I think I should.
The struggle for more time in my life continues, but until then, what are some of your time saving grading tricks? Seriously, write them in the comments; I need them.