Do you often find yourself strapped for time? Ever get the feeling you have spent way too much time on something that should have been easier and faster to do?
Have you ever thought “there has to be another way, a better, more productive way to get this done”? Do you wish you had more free time to spend on a hobby or with your family? If you have answered any of these questions with a resounding “yes!”, then what you need are ways to improve your productivity, strategies that will help you make the most of your time and allow you to enjoy your classes, free from last-minute rushes and stress. Here are our top productivity tips for ESL teachers:
How to Increase Your ESL Productivity
Plan in Advance
Do you sometimes find yourself making flashcards, printing worksheets, or finishing posters the night before a class? Wouldn't it be great if you could wake up in the morning and have your lesson and materials ready, so that all you have to do is grab your stuff and go to class? Well, this is not hard at all to achieve!
Take 2-3 hours once a week to plan the week ahead. Pick one day, say, Sunday evening, and schedule your planning session. Plan your lessons for the week AND gather the materials you will need. Find a way to organize these materials that works best for you. Perhaps you can use a file cabinet, and file your lesson plan and materials for each day, including ESL worksheets, flashcards, a book you plan to read, even special props or realia. If you need to use the school photocopier, try to schedule one day in which you can copy everything you'll need for the week. Try to leave nothing for the last minute or the night before. As soon as you’re ready to head for school, all you need to do is grab your materials for the day. We guarantee your week will go by much smoother!
Eliminate All Distractions
If you only set aside two hours on Sunday to plan a whole week’s worth of ESL lessons, you need to make those two hours count. Imagine these two hours are sacred and essential to your weekly planning. If possible, put your phone on mute, and if you're at the computer disable all incoming email alerts. Try to resist the temptation to see what's up on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media site. The energy and effort you put into these two hours of planning will pay off later on in the week, when you have the chance to go out with some friends for dinner or to a movie.
Pool Your Resources
When you plan a special holiday lesson, chances are most of the other ESL teachers will be planning one as well. Whenever you teach the past simple or the present perfect, chances are another teacher has used a great lesson plan. Schedule a meeting with the other teachers in your school once a month to discuss any special events, celebrations or lessons. There are plenty of websites that sell posters and stickers in bulk, so why not make a big order for everyone? As a group you could come up with a system to share great ESL lesson plan ideas, maybe keep them on file in the teacher's lounge. No man is an island, and neither is a classroom. No teacher should have to work alone when he or she has the possibility of gaining from others’ experience.
Get to School Early
“The early bird catches the worm”, and if you get to school early enough you might just get the photocopier’s undivided attention. Also, if you need to set up props, posters, decorate the classroom, or get video or audio material set up, it’s best to get it all done before your students start to arrive. You may even have enough time to enjoy a good cup of coffee in the peace and tranquility of your empty classroom. There’s no better way to start a productive day!
Take Advantage of Technological Tools
There are lots of tools and applications out there that are HUGE timesavers, and will do wonders for your productivity. Digital calendars, timers, and to-do lists allow you to have everything you need, a mere click away. You may read more about these tools in our next article, Must-have Technological Tools to Increase Productivity.
As soon as you start implementing these strategies, you will notice the difference. Follow these tips, and you will be able to schedule some time for YOU, to spend with family and friends, or enjoying your favorite hobby. It doesn't take a whole lot of work to become a happier, more productive teacher. It just takes some planning and organization.