How do you really use your meager conference time/planning time?

Whatever paltry amount of time you have for planning during the school day, use it to actually get stuff done.


Living life first, then teaching, won’t happen if you’re not even being productive during planning time.

I know you’re exhausted and you need a break during the day.

I get it.

I’m there, too!

And that 20 minute “lunch” you get at 10:50 a.m. where you’re choking down food while standing over the copy machine isn’t anywhere near “a break.”

So yeah, it’s almost inhumane to just go charging through your planning period or conference time or whatever you call it on your campus.

I’d rather go get a Sonic drink, too.

I’d rather look up a crock pot recipe on Pinterest for tomorrow, too, so my family can actually eat real food during the week.

I’d rather hang out in the hallway venting about little Jimmy’s crazy mom and the see-through nightie she wore to drop him off this morning. (That’s a thing. Like, that really happened). 

But I can’t.

Not if I’m going to literally, actually live life first, then teach.

This means that when I am at that school building, I am there for kids. I am there to teach, to plan, to grade, and to conference with parents or co-workers as needed.

But that’s it (unless there’s an emergency at home, of course).

You guys: I really, really believe in working hard and doing everything possible when you’re at school, on the clock, picking up a paycheck from the taxpayers, and teaching kids.

That being said, I can only come in at the contract time in the morning and leave (slightly after) the contract time in the evening when I have been doing what I’m truly supposed to be doing during the day and not wasting time.

I’d rather kick back during conference/planning time to chillax with my teacher buds and plan the afternoon choir practice.

But even more so, I’d rather work my ass off and then leave when the timer setting on my phone tells me to leave. (And then chillax with my teacher buds over a drink down at Papa Mambo’s). 

Yeah, I’ve got it set up to do that.

Take action during your planning time and get stuff done.

Your goal is to leave work at work.

You will never be finished with everything. So choose very wisely what you can get done and then leave the rest to fate.

Or to the recycle bin.

Here are my tips for using your conference time wisely each day, broken down by minutes:

[5 min] Take a bathroom break and fill up your water bottle! You’ve gotta take care of yourself, people!

[5 min] Choose one parent to email for a positive, cool reason (like… I just wanted to let you know that Jill is doing a great job in Language Arts and I’m glad she’s a part of my class this year!)

[5 min] Choose one parent to email for a not-so-good reason (like… I’m noticing a change in Jack’s behavior in class. He has become disruptive by yelling at other kids during quiet reading time. I wanted to check in with you and see if you’ve noticed similar behavior at home…)

[10 min] Respond to other emails. Short, quick, done, move on. 

[10 min] Which student assignments were “just for practice” that you have no intention of actually grading but had to collect anyway? Sort those out, put a stamp on them so kids know you looked over them, and then stack them up to pass back out in class tomorrow. Note to self: Does it look like any one specific question is being missed more than others? Do you need to follow-up with a re-teaching lesson of some sort? Make those decisions now and write down what (if anything) you need to do in class tomorrow related to it.

[10 min] Get something graded that needs to be graded. Do it quickly and don’t dawdle. Maybe just grade the evens or the odds in a list of questions. If it’s writing, just grade for the one or two concepts you were really, like hardcore teaching. (Our objective for the day was about using varied sentence structure in our writing, so I only looked for 3-5 types of sentences. It was easy because I made my students hi-light the various types of sentences before they turned in their papers).

Ok, so that’s 45 minutes. If you happen to have more time than that, awesome!

I wish I were at your school!!!

But you get the point. I typically use my students’ “free writing” time or “quiet reading” time to jot down my planning period goals. That way when the bell rings and the kids are gone and the planning time starts, that’s it!! I know exactly what to get done.

And if there’s an interruption or an issue that comes up to where I can’t get my goals checked off, then that’s ok. I try to do it quickly after school or I just don’t do it at all. After all, I’ve got the timer set on my phone and when it goes off, I stop what I’m doing and I head home. 

Each day is different and each day brings new surprises, so this is just a guideline. But I at least jot down a few things to do at some point during the day when the kids are quiet(ish) and working.

I typically give myself no more than 30 minutes after the last kids have left for the day (it takes up to 30 minutes for the last of the students to leave the building which means that I have unofficial “duty” after school monitoring the halls for stragglers who are still waiting for the their buses. It’s just the way our school does things.

So on top of that, I allow myself up to 30 extra minutes TOPS!!! to get stuff done. I set the timer on my phone and when that timer goes off, that’s is! I’m outta there! And that’s actually waay past my official contract time. Like, almost an hour past. If I need or want to leave earlier, I do so. 

I document this on my personal desk calendar. I just jot down what time I’m walking out each day. I feel good about leaving the building, not checking work email until I come back to work the next day, not working on school stuff at home, and not giving away my personal family time for after-school clubs and parties and whatnot.

I know this isn’t always possible because there are going to be things you absolutely must do related to your job during your own personal family time: open house, meet the teacher, etc. And yeah, you should do those things with joy because if those parents are putting aside their personal time to come up to the school and be involved in what’s going on, well, I mean, those are the parents you really want to be working with anyway for the most part.

But you can document that for yourself and with all these things put together, you are making yourself aware of how hard you work and of what a valuable teacher you are to your students and to your school culture because otherwise, it’s too easy to be taken advantage of.

As teachers, we seem to constantly find ourselves in situations where it’s expected to provide so much time and to use so many of our own resources “for the kids” that we have to make sure WE are already, consistently aware of what we are doing each day for the kids! That way, when things come up and “Oh, but it’s for the kids… The kids need us… They need you.” Um, no, they need their families and our families need us, too.

Work hard at work.

Live well at home.

Avoid the cross-over as much as you can by planning well, using your time wisely when you have it at work, and by being ok with setting aside the things you can’t get done right now.

So here’s my question for you guys: 

What do you do that works really well for making sure you’re outta there and not just living up at the school? 

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