I’m sure many people wish they had more hours in the day – but when you’re a teacher, that struggle is especially real!
Teachers have a never-ending to-do list: plan lessons, cut out materials, keep the classroom in order, differentiate instruction, implement new technologies, communicate with parents, implement interventions….eek!
In my opinion, being a teacher is one of the most amazing jobs in the world – but it can also feel extremely overwhelming at times. (I’m speaking from experience here!)
But I also have good news. I’ve found that one of the best ways to cut down on teacher overwhelm is to simplify. In this blog post, I’m going to explain exactly what I mean by that and give you some easy-to-implement strategies!
What is simplifying, and how can it help with teacher overwhelm?
Simplifying is all about limiting options and choices.
We live in an age where there are countless choices – from cereal at the grocery store to places to shop for clothing. This can be a blessing, but it can also be a curse!
Here’s why: when you’re constantly evaluating options, A) that takes up a lot of time, and B) it can lead to decision fatigue.
Decision fatigue happens when – you guessed it – you have to make lots of decisions! The quality of the decisions you make begins to decline, and you may not feel great mentally or emotionally, either.
Teachers make SO many decisions throughout the school day! We have to decide what to do when Johnny keeps bothering his classmate, how to help a student who just doesn’t understand the math lesson, what to cut out of a lesson when you suddenly have an interruption in your day…you get the picture!
We can’t really change the number of decisions that are required during the school day. Things just happen sometimes, and a lot of it’s out of our control.
But you know what we can change? The decisions we make when we’re planning and prepping for class.
Just think about how many options you have when it comes to planning your lessons! Do a Google search or a Pinterest search for any topic you’d like to teach, and you’ll find countless ideas.
Again, this can be a good thing…but it can also be a bad thing. (See previous discussion of decision fatigue!)
This is where simplifying comes in. We can intentionally limit our own choices when making lesson plans and preparing materials – and that can help us feel less overwhelmed!
How can I simplify when I’m planning and prepping?
There are lots of ways to do this – really, you can do anything that restricts your options and helps you make decisions faster! Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Set aside certain days of the week (and perhaps even times of day) to complete specific tasks. For example, you might always grade papers on Wednesdays. Or you might always prepare your class newsletter on Fridays. This completely eliminates the “What should I do during my planning period?” mental conversation. You know what you’re going to do, so you can just sit down and do it!
- Create and use checklists whenever possible. For example, you might make a big checklist of literacy center ideas – and pull from that every time you plan centers for the week. (If you’re a Kindergarten Literacy Club or 1st/2nd Grade Literacy Club member, you have a checklist inside your login area, so start with that one!) You could also do this with skills to teach during reading or math small groups, options for morning work…checklists can work in so many ways!
- Intentionally restrict the number of places you go when you’re searching for resources. For example, do you really need to consult Google, Pinterest, your own files, and TpT before planning a couple of lessons on plants? Probably not! Just choose 1-2 places to look. You might also designate a specific website or resource for certain types of materials (example: our Math Library members can go directly to their login area and download games, worksheets, and activities for nearly any math skill when they need something for extra practice, math centers, homework, etc. – this drastically cuts down on the amount of searching they do!)
- Check out free resources out there for books and plans – they DO exist 🙂 Here’s one that I offer (it includes books, passages, lessons plans, running records, and activities to accompany each book) – click here to check that out!
Do you have any simplification strategies to add to this list? Please leave a comment – I’d love to hear your ideas, and I know other teachers would too!
Last but not least, if you’re looking to simplify and reduce the number of places where you look for teaching resources, my Literacy Clubs and Math can help!
I hope these resources are helpful to you! Happy teaching!