Time Management by Gini Cunningham

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Sep 2nd, 2013
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Woman and clock.Seconds and minutes can tick away, empty and unfulfilled if you are not aware of every moment of instruction. A wasted minute today times 180 school days is three hours worth of nothing, something no teacher and no student can afford. Time management is critical to the flow of teaching but it is art that is acquired and developed over time. It is easy to jot down 5 minutes for this, 2 minutes for that… but it is nearly impossible to stick to the clock without practice and close attention to fleeting minutes.

  1. Buy a timer or download one onto your computer to project on a screen (several are free at Meggin.com. Set the time for each part of your instruction and practice completing it within the time limitations.
  2. Why, you ask, is timing so important? Without careful timing students miss out on vital practice time as their teacher drones on in the lesson. Students snooze or impatiently wait for the bell to sound knowing that their teacher will shout out the bewildering homework as they race out the door. This is not good if you want to be certain that homework practice is done correctly so learning is cemented, not cracked by confusion and misunderstanding.
  3. Pace instruction briskly but not in a fashion that overwhelms. Clear lesson plans mean that you can accomplish miracles of instruction within a time allotment.
  4. Always allow time for opening and closing a lesson. The first sets students up for success because they know your goals and expectations; the second wraps learning together, offers feedback for planning tomorrow’s lesson, and lets students know how learning links together.
  5. Timing holds you accountable for the teaching just as it holds students accountable for learning. For example the routine of 5 minutes teacher lecture and explanation followed by 2 minutes of debrief and practice linked with 1 minute of interaction by students with peers moves lessons right along while clarifying for you what students know, where to head next, and what needs re-teaching.
  6. Evaluate your lesson at the end of the period or day: did you allow adequate time for the opening, the vocabulary and concept review, the introduction of new material, practice, and closing? (plus anything else that needed to occur)
  7. Time management paces the hour, the day, the week, the grading period… Are you moving along at a speed that will allow you to teach the standards and benchmarks required of your school, district, and state?
  8. A breather is all right as long as the breathing space means time to write, reflect, share information with a partner. Say, “I felt like I might be clipping you along too rapidly here so now you get to breathe!”
  9. Time management means managing your time before school (are there interruptions that drive you nuts?), during instructional time (covered), after class (are you allowing adequate time to prepare for tomorrow; are you assigning so much work that your life is consumed with grading?) Balance is the key. All things are possible when you manage time wisely.
  10. Wasted and empty minutes breed confusion and naughtiness. Who needs either of these?

© Gini Cunningham (adapted from her book, The New Teacher’s Companion: Practical Wisdom for Succeeding in the Classroom (ASCD). In addition to her writing, Gini is an author, workshop leader, and consultant who provides education for educators.

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