About Jake Miller

Mr. Jake Miller teaches middle school history near Harrisburg, PA. He is the 2016 National History Day Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year and a 2017 NEA Foundation Teacher of Excellence. His articles have appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, WeAreTeachers, and several other periodicals, but Miller has called TER home since 2012.

For the average teacher – or worker for that matter – the expectations of the job are mounting. Each year we’re given more to do with the same amount of resources, namely time. There are only 24 hours in a day, and teachers should be prioritizing them. Certainly, this is not a post to advocate lackluster performance at school. Not in the least, we want you to be your best in school. But we also want you to be your best outside of school, for your family’s sake – and for your own sanity. Here are 12 ways to start reclaiming the 24 hours in a day:

1. Decide what to do with your school computer. For some teachers (myself included), I make a rule to never take my school computer home. For other teachers, they leave right at the end of the school day and bring some of their schoolwork home with them.

2. Give students and parents reasonable expectations on how you return work. You shouldn’t expect to return work to students the next day. Neither should they.

3. Set a limit for the latest you check your school email. You shouldn’t be checking it at 10p at night to help a student solve a math problem.

4. Encourage students to help one another. There are many ways to incorporate peer-to-peer help online, like using Edmodo or designing a blog. Give great student helpers extra credit or a get out of quiz pass.

5. Divide and conquer with your colleagues. It’s amazing how much we neglect to use our colleagues’ professional strengths!

6. Rank your priorities. David Menasche (a cancer-surviving teacher who wrote the Priority List and, sadly, just recently passed), encouraged his students to rank their priorities. You should do the same.

7. Then reflect on your priorities and analyze where you spend much of your time.

8. Reclaim your own personal time. Don’t be afraid to say no. There are so many things teachers can and want to do. You have to recognize your limits.

9. Occasionally take a personal day. I know, writing sub plans is a pain. But so can be the time between Presidents’ Day and Spring Break. Treat yo’self!

10. Think outside the box on how to save time. Then pitch the idea to your district’s administration.

11. Go to a happy hour with colleagues. And don’t talk about school. At all. Seriously.

12. Recognize that you can’t save every student. But you’re going to do your best to try to save as many as you can in the time that you have available.

You live and teach in a very demanding world. Just make sure you take care of yourself. You’ll be that much more grateful come June.

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