Our Education Blogger is a public school teacher with over a decade of experience. She’s an active NEA member and enjoys writing about her experiences in the classroom.
Plan time is a vital part of a teacher’s day. It’s when the “magic” happens, or at least, it’s supposed to. If you’re like me, plan time mysteriously disappears, taken up by “quick” conversations with a colleague, getting students caught up on work, or communicating with parents, leaving you with little to no time to plan before your next class begins.
After a decade of teaching, I feel like I’ve finally figured out how to make the most of my plan time. While some are blatantly obvious, these 6 little nuggets of wisdom may be just what you need to take back your plan time.
Use A Planner
Find a tool to help you plan your week, month, year. Having everything in one place, and being able to see a week, or month, at a glance is helpful. Create a digital template, or make one by hand. Choose from one of the hundreds of editable lesson planner templates available like this basic lesson plan template from Angie Amos on Teachers Pay Teachers.
Shut Your Door
I know. It’s hard. You don’t want to seem unfriendly or unwelcoming. However, if you are swamped with grading and planning, this is one step you can’t avoid. If you feel it necessary, you can even make a little note to stick on your door explaining that you’d LOVE to visit, but you have work to complete. Uninterrupted plan time is precious!
Avoid Scheduling Meetings
Some of us have little control over this one. However, in my building, our plan time is OUR plan time. Plan time isn’t allowed to be used for IEP meetings, conferences, or evaluations. If you can, request that meetings be held at times other than your plan time.
Make A Plan Time Schedule
I know it sounds a little strange, but this one helps me stay on track. Each day I have a specific task I aim to complete. For example, Mondays I plan out my math lessons and Fridays I re-evaluate my upcoming lessons in case we lagged behind or got ahead that week. Also, I always reserve about 10 minutes each plan time for parent or colleague communication (save the lengthier conversations for an after-school conference).
If you have teacher’s aides, use them (please don’t ask your paraprofessional if they can help you with work, their job is to help students). If not, ask a parent volunteer to help throughout the week. Jobs like making copies, cutting, stapling, sorting, and hanging papers on bulletin boards are ideal for aides or volunteers. These tasks take up a surprisingly large amount of time, so let someone else help you out!
Recruit Student Help
Use peer tutors to assist students who have been absent or who need extra help with assignments. Offer peer tutors an incentive for their help.
Each school year and each day are different. See what works best for you. Don’t be afraid to protect your vital plan time.