Dec 29, 2010

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Art Teacher Timesavers

  • Do you feel like the school day goes by so fast, you look around and you have accomplished nothing?
  • Do you notice your prep time flying by (if you even get it these days) and all you did was check some emails?
  • Do you feel frazzled at work because you have so much to do and as all teachers say “I just don’t have the time”

If you said YES to any of these questions, then this post is for you.

NEVER WASTE TIME AT WORK AGAIN!(enter infomercial music and cheesy dude)

Ok, but in all seriousness: The other day I was having a one on one meeting with my principal, and she mentioned that the number one complaint she gets from teachers is this: I don’t have enough time! I can relate. We all feel like if we could have enough time to prep for the kids we’d be better teachers. Then, she put it this way. If you add up the before school time, recess and planning times and the afterschool times each day (of a classroom teacher NOT the art teacher- FYI) it equals to be one whole school day, about 7 hours) of time you have each week to prepare for kids.  So basically they get one day for every 5 to get ready. Not to shabby.

It’s not the time you have, it’s how you use it


1. Use planning time wisely: We all covet the special time in the day we get to prep for our kiddos. Are you using this time wisely? One tip I have for you is to prioritize your time with lists. For example, take out 4 sticky notes and think of everything you need to do this week or this day.  On each note you write at the top 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes.  Then, on each list write down the tasks you have according to how long they might take you. Then, when you get an extra 2 minutes, you can choose something from the list. I also set timers for myself at home and at work. I like a challenge. Set the timer for 10 minutes and see how much I can accomplish. It’s fun and it works for many things.

2. Check Emails at Home: This one might tip the scale of the work/home balance for you all, however, it helps you with tip #1. How? Well, when you spend the time to check your email at home, since the internet is accessable anywhere (I have mine on my phone) shame,I know, you save your precious school time from the deep depths of the email time suck. Nothing feels worse than pulling into work with 15 unread emails. Sends a panic down my spine. So, I check it at home and then can simply glance over my email throughout the day at the good stuff and focus my time elsewhere, like cutting paper, or prepping clay, planning lessons or emptying the drying rack!

3. Ask for Help: This is a tough one.  Once day, a retired art teacher in our district emailed all of the art teachers and asked if they needed help. She said she was ready to give back. Guess who was one of the few people who emailed her back and said “Yes”? ME! Are you people crazy? To have a responsible adult, one who was an art teacher and knows how the art room works, who will actually show up when she says she will is RARE. Take advantage of good help or ask for it if you know some parents. People always want to help teachers, but we need to be in the driver’s seat.

4. Designated Days for Tasks: I designated “Grading Day” as Tuesday.  Any free time I get on Tuesday I try to devote to grading artwork, because this is the task I always seem to put off. This system is something that I want to solidify for the new year, however, I really like the concept. I’ll let you know how it goes.

5. Take half your lunch: Many of us already use our lunch time for working, however, I made a rule for myself to take the 30 minutes and interact with my co-workers in the teacher’s lunch room.  This act has many benefits, including a break from the chaos and builds relationships, however, when I am really pressed for time, I eat at my desk and use the other half of my lunch to do whatever task was so pressing. It makes my afternoon go great to know I used my time wisely and still took half of my lunch to sit down and just chill.

Why The Trouble?

Why on earth would I take all of this effort to save time during my school day? 3:40. Yes, the magic time. My goal every day is to leave at our contract time, which is 3:40, without sacrificing the quality of my work. I want that work/home balance. I want to run errands, cook nice meals for my family, and have, well… a life. I want time to hang out with my husband, watch The Bachelor, blog, and exercise (which happens in the morning).  I can’t do all of this if I am staying at school until 5 or 6 every night. I just can’t. So I have made sacrifices and it has worked well for me. As you can all see, I am pretty serious about my career. I am the art department facilitator in our district. I teach at two schools and I also have this blog, but with time management I can manage it all and and stay happy and healthy on most days.

By staying organized I win!

Peer Pressure- Lets get the ultimate list going for our fellow teachers..Comment Away!

What are ways you save time during your work day?

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  • keepingthemistakes

    Thanks for your comment! I’ve added you to my blogroll and look forward to reading your blog and getting to know you better. It looks like you have some awesome lessons and that organization is a strong point for you. I hope to learn lots from your posts about that topic especially as that is not my strongest area! Looking forward to getting to know you better!

    • Jessica Balsley

      Great! Thanks so much. I am sure we will be better together as we share and collaborate! Welcome to the blogging world!

  • Art Project Girl

    My tip is do 1 big organization day. I had my husband home for a few hours today watching the puppy and I went to work for 5 hours and organized organized. When everything is organized it means that in a busy work week I can leave after my classes most days.

    Getting everything done during plan time is a mirage for me. I can almost reach it then it disappears (usually with some kid having a bad day that I have to counsel during my time, or calling a parent etc.:) Can I just vent and say, no other teacher would be able to understand how much time it takes to prep and clean up from 600 kids doing hands on art activities? Especially with all the differentiation and varying levels we have. Some

  • Jessica Balsley

    I agree. We are like air traffic controllers and the hands on is SO different from the classroom. This is why I am trying SO hard to use my prep wisely. It’s really hard to do! Great idea with the big organizational day. It ALMOST makes me want to go into school this weekend! :)

  • Art Project Girl

    Jessica I took on the challenge and thought up some tips for a blog post! Can’t wait to see everybody’s! Maybe you could post a list of everyone who does it so we can check them all out.

    • Jessica Balsley

      Great! I would love to compile and link other people who are doing my challenge! We are gonna start this year off right! If you do it, comment on the blog and I’d be happy to do a post on it soon!

  • mrsmatott

    I just blogged my top 10 tips… thanks for sharing and for the inspiration!

  • Laura Baker

    You are SUPERWOMAN, Im in awe of your organization and motivation! I was just hired to be the new elem art teacher in a great district, so now I have 2.5 months to plan…I already have a folder of awesome ideas and tips from your blog! Thanks for the help…really. Hoepfully I will not pull my hair out during this first year!


  • Jessica Davis

    Hi! I teach grades k-5 and I have very little prep time this year. I have a time-saving tip to share. I delegate tasks to a group of fifth graders who I have dubbede “the art assistants”. It is actually a highly coveted job, so i have the interested students fill out an “application” during the first week of school, and I then select 5-7 kids who I can trust to be responsible and helpful. They come down to my room at dismissal time every day and clean, take down displays, hang projects, run errands and basically help me get things done. I could not survive without them! If you don’t think you can trust your fifth or sixth graders to help, see if you could get a few high school students who are interested in persuing a career in education to help in exchange for a college recommendation, volunteer hours,senior project, etc. (I’d have done that in high school!)

    • Jessica Balsley

      Thanks for your idea, Jessica!

    • Vivian

      What kinds of things to you put in the application. I love this idea!

      • Jessica Davis

        Their name (of course), homeroom, what their dismissal procedure is at the end of the day (bus #, after-school program, parent picks up, etc.) and I ask them Why do they think they would make a great art-room assistant.
        I also give a description of the duties and what I expect from them as far as performance and behavior. My assistants are not allowed to come down to my room if other teachers in the building have taken priviledges away from them that day.
        This policy keeps my assistants responsible and accountable. The classroom teachers like it because it gives them an incentive for good behavior to use with those kids.

  • treasure

    Great tips! I have taught art K-12 and I could have not done it without the help of my kids. Kids in all grades at some point have helped me prep each day! You know when you have downtime and some kids get done before the others with their projects? These kids are golden and love to help. They have set up art displays, taken down displays, organized cabinets and supplies, cleaned, cut laminated handouts, organized markers (kinders can do this!), unloaded the kiln, sharpen pencils (3rd and 4th) and so on. I am serious when I say I could not do my job without them. The only thing the kids don’t do is use the paper cutter. Sometimes they even come up with great ideas for lesson plans as well. I think this really lets the students feel like they are contributing to the classroom. Sometimes they are rewarded with prizes or and sometimes they just do it to do something different and feel special. It is teaching them to be responsible for their own learning by helping the teacher.

    • Jessica Balsley

      Great tricks, thank you!

  • Ashley Perry

    This is great! I also check my emails at home, but unfortunately my school sends all the important emails right before schools starts! [while I'm at car duty]!  But I will be using these tips next year, especially the sticky notes one!

    • Jessica Balsley

      Great, Ashley, I am glad you found this helpful.
      Your blog is awesome and I love your wedding photos that you posted – So classy- Happy Anniversary!

  • RwandaArtEd

    Thank you for your tips! I’m teaching art without much training K-12 overseas and have found things to be a little overwhelming at times. Thank you for sharing! My goal is to implement at least one of these in the next week!