Math = Love: Eleven More Takeaways from Angela Watson's 40 Hour Teacher Workweek

Friday, January 5, 2018

Eleven More Takeaways from Angela Watson's 40 Hour Teacher Workweek

Yesterday, I posted a review of Angela Watson's 40 Hour Teacher Workweek. In this post, I started sharing some of the new things I have implemented in my classroom since joining the club. Today, I want to continue sharing what I have learned. I hope this is of interest to you whether you are interested in joining Angela's club or not.



If you are interested in joining the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek, you need to sign up ASAP because sign-ups close on January 9th. If you don't join soon, you will have to wait until this summer for the next chance to sign up. You can find out all of the details about the club and the sign-up form here. If you do decide to sign up, I would appreciate it if you would list me (Sarah Carter) as your referrer. You'll need my email address to fill out the form. It is mathequalslove(at)gmail(dot)com.

The focus of the club is to teach teachers how to achieve the coveted work/life balance that so many of us crave but don't know how to achieve on our own. Angela teaches you how to rethink your classroom structures so that you are working smarter instead of harder. She teaches you to organize your classroom so that you can be more productive. I've learned so many different strategies from the club that it makes it hard to sum it up in a single, succinct paragraph. After all, there are twelve months worth of material in the program.

Here are just a few more takeaways I've had since joining the club in August.

Instead of staying late sporadically after school to help students, my husband and I have instituted what we call "Cookie Club." On Mondays, we both stay at school until at least 5:30 to offer tutoring. I bake cookies or a similar dessert for each Monday session. This makes my week much more predictable. Students know I will be at school late one day each week. For the rest of the week, I offer additional tutoring but for a much more limited amount of time. I don't have to feel guilty about this because I know that students have time each week for more extended help. One week, we even had a hot cocoa station to go along with our cookies.




In the past, my desk has ALWAYS been a mess. It was so habitually bad, that students would regularly exclaim "Wow! You cleaned your desk!" since my desk being clean was such a rare occasion. Since using Angela's organization tips and tricks, my desk stays so much cleaner. I even had room on my desk to add some decorations this fall.


I've started prepping my lessons by the week instead of by the day. This has been a huge game changer when it comes to productivity. I never realized just how much time I was wasting by thinking daily instead of more big picture. These are all the materials for an entire week of chemistry. I snapped this photo while preparing to load my table folders. 


I created a user-friendly system for notebook checks that leads to consistent scoring. In the past, I've just flipped through notebooks while trying to remember what should be on each page. Now, I make a dry erase template at the end of each unit that lists every single thing that should be in my students' notebooks along with a point value. I type it up in Excel and slip it in a dry erase pocket (affiliate link). Now, I no longer dread notebook checks. The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek program encourages you to think through the tasks you dread and brainstorm ways to streamline them and make them routine tasks that are easy to implement on a regular basis.


I bought a set of baskets at Dollar Tree this summer that I now use as "project baskets." These keep my materials contained and so much more organized than my old method to just sit stuff on my desk and back counter.



For my entire teaching career, I have saved the notes, cards, pictures, etc. that I have received from students. These have been stuffed into various filing cabinet folders, but I recently became frustrated by the fact that these overflowing folders were taking up valuable file cabinet space. I still wanted to keep these mementos, but I knew I needed a new system. I picked up a decorative box at Tuesday Morning that now holds my teacher memories. Now I know that all of my special memories are in one special place.



I first started using these plastic sleeves (affiliate link) last year upon suggestion of my husband. These plastic sleeves make it easy to keep papers sorted without having to orient each set of papers in opposite ways. That method is always great until you need to remove something from the middle of the stack and have to waste time trying to reorient the papers to keep your pattern. These have been especially useful because Angela Watson has taught me the magic of "batching." This is one of the most useful strategies I have taken away from the club. The idea is to take necessary tasks and combine them so that they take less time when done all at once.

For example, I started out the year in chemistry doing a practice ACT science passage every single Monday. I could have printed a new passage every Monday morning. That's what past me would have done. Instead, I took part of my planning period one day and printed 14 passages. This meant that I didn't have to think about our weekly passage for months. Instead, it was ready to go with no work on my part. The plastic sleeves made it simple to keep each passage separate from the others.




Embracing the concept of batching did lead to a problem I've never really had before. How do I store all my copies when I make them WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYY ahead of time? In the past, I was at the copy machine EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING. This was problematic because our copy machine has not always been super reliable. I spent way too much time having to make last minute lesson adjustments because the copy machine was out of order. This wouldn't have been an issue if it wasn't for my last minute planning tendency. This new-found problem of needing to organize a much larger quantity of copies than in the past led to a new organization strategy: a three drawer divider to hold my batched copies. One drawer holds INB dividers for every unit of Algebra 1. The second drawer holds INB dividers for Chemistry. The last drawer holds my ACT Science Passages. I love that these are easily accessible, but they don't get mixed in with my more immediate copies.


This year, I have also been inspired to embrace binders. I don't know why it took me six years of teaching to get to this stage. I tried using binders as a first year teacher, and I got behind on filing things away. That was the end of my binder system. This system is much more focused and sustainable. It also makes it much easier to take exactly the papers home with me that I need over the weekend. Organization for the win!



I'm continuing to hone one of my favorite binders: my answer key binder. I write four versions of each quiz, so I have A LOT of answer keys to keep up with. I like to give stickers to the students who earn a perfect score on their quiz the first time. In the past, I kept my stickers in a drawer. I would always waste time digging for these stickers whenever I went to grade papers. Now, the stickers live in my answer key binder. SO much time saved. This club has made me spend a lot of time thinking about the way I do things, and all of that time has truly paid off as a result of small tweaks like this.



Remember the classroom jobs I mentioned in my last post? I added another binder to my classroom this year that lives on my podium. It has an attendance sheet that my attendance keeper uses to take roll each hour. The attendance keeper than either tells me who is absent or writes the name of the absent students on the board. When I finally catch a minute of class time where I can take roll, I just have to look up at the board and see who is absent.


This post has become quite lengthy, so I think I'll close for today. I'll be back tomorrow with another installment of things I've learned since becoming a member of Angela Watson's 40 Hour Teacher Workweek. Check out more information about the club here. If you do decide to join the club, I would appreciate it if you listed me (Sarah Carter) as your referrer. You'll need to type in my email address (mathequalslove(at)gmail(dot)com.) 

The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek may not have reduced my work hours to 40 hours YET, but it has taught me that work/life balance is not a myth. I know it can do the same for you as well.

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