When I was in fourth grade we went to PE and when we came back the classroom smelled so bad. It smelled like nail polish. I tried to figure out why and when I looked over to Mrs. Ryan’s desk I saw a bottle of red nail polish and then noticed the color on her fingers. Her nails were not that color that morning. As we worked through math class Mrs. Ryan couldn’t touch anything because her nails were drying. Can you even imagine? She did her nails during her prep!!! As a fourth grader I thought it was so cool that she did her nails in the middle of the day. As a teacher I just wonder… how?
Now, I love Mrs. Ryan with all of my heart and I have nothing against her doing her nails while we went to PE. She was such a nurturing, kind and compassionate teacher. Nothing like another teacher who shall not be named. Every time my mom runs into Mrs. Ryan at the grocery store she asks about me and tells my mom to tell me that she is so proud of me. Teaching was so different when I was in elementary school.
What DO I Accomplish During Prep Time?
- As teachers we have so much to get done! Prep time (aka that time when your students go off to specials) isn’t a break to do our nails. It isn’t a break at all. It’s work time to get stuff done! Here are all the sorts of tasks I accomplish during prep:
- Plan for teaching
- Whole Class
- Small Group
- Word Study
- Social Studies
- Adjust instructional plans
- Go to the bathroom- this might seem strange to list but it is almost always the first thing I do during prep
- Answer parent emails
- Answer emails from other teachers
- Make copies
- Connect and plan with grade level peers
- Collaborate with assistant teachers and paraprofessionals
- Meet with learning support teachers- interventionists, ELL, special education, speech…
- Meet with instructional coaches, literacy coaches, math coaches, principals, assistant principals… whoever
- Visit storage and retrieve necessary teaching materials
- Set up for the day’s lessons
- Read professional texts
- Write report card or progress report comments
- Track student progress
- Plan field trips
- Write class newsletter
- Analyzing student work
- Approve posts on Seesaw
- Observe other teachers
- Put away guided reading books
- Sub for other teachers
I probably missed a few things but that seems about right.
Schedule Out Your Time
Teaching in Poland I have a lot more prep time than I did when I was teaching in the US but I still schedule it out. In fact, at first I was so surprised by the amount of prep time I had that I didn’t use it well and wasted a lot of time. Now that I schedule out my prep time I am able to get a whole lot more done. Each period lasts 40 minutes.
Before school prep is when I set up my week for success. I answer any parent emails I received over the weekend, I make copies and get out guided reading text sets, I sip my coffee, I switch the class leaders board and take note of any special events coming up. I also greet each child as they come into the classroom and ask them how their weekend was. Parents also stop by and I chat with them.
Prep 1 is usually reserved for my assistant teacher and I to discuss different things. We look at student data and we discuss teaching moves for different students. We catch up on our weekends and plan for the week. We also take time to plan for our RTI intervention block on Friday.
Prep 2 is spent making copies and writing guided reading plans for Tuesday. I don’t write out lengthy lesson plans and we aren’t required to submit any plans but I still jot down my guided reading plans.
Prep 3 is when I breathe a sigh of relief! During this prep I usually plan out math for the week. This week I used that time to plan out science.
On day two my before school prep is a meeting every other week. This means my assistant teacher or another assistant teacher watches my class. I have no time to answer any parent emails before the day begins. I will say that Tuesday mornings are a bit more stressful than other mornings. Before school meetings are the worst for elementary teachers.
Prep 1 is when I answer parent emails and any other emails I have. I also clean and organize during this prep like there is no tomorrow. I put books away and I put up anchor charts that have fallen down. I go to town. I like to have my space nice and orderly before the kids come back during my second prep on day two.
Prep 2 I leave my classroom and find another place to work. Sometimes it can be difficult watching your kids with another teacher. This is a time when I find another quiet and peaceful place in the school to work. During this prep I typically plan out my social studies lessons. Until the end of April social studies is out because science fair is in. I also have a lot of meetings that take place during this time. It must be a time when a lot of other people are free.
Prep 3 on day 2 is sometimes peace and quiet and sometimes not. The class that is in my classroom will sometimes go to another classroom that doesn’t have flexible seating because the teacher wants everyone to have a desk. (That is one hard thing about sharing a classroom with so many people with so many different teaching philosophies and beliefs.) During this prep I also check and respond to emails. I make plans for word study during this prep period.
Before school prep is spent saying hello to my students, preparing for my mini-lesson, answering emails, sipping coffee, and mostly talking with my students.
Day three is a day where I sort of relax on my preps a little bit. That doesn’t mean I am not getting work done it just means I try to chill out a bit. I listen to an educational podcast or watch to a webinar during these two preps. A lot of times I meet with my principal to plan the meeting for that afternoon or the following day.
During my second prep I set the agenda for the meeting on Thursday and I email it out to all elementary teachers. I use this time to start to prepare anything that I need to prepare for the meeting. Sometimes I lead meetings on Wednesday after school as well so this prep is sometimes used to prep for those.
During my prep 3 I usually check in again with my assistant teacher. We chat as we prep various activities and lessons for the rest of the week. We check in on certain students and share ideas with one another.
Day four can be a bit of a doozy. While I do have a lot of preps I also lead our elementary curriculum meeting during lunch and recess. This is quite a task and it takes a lot of planning. For some reasons most of my meetings end up on Thursday.
Before school prep is once again spent making copies, saying hello to the kids, chatting and laughing with them, looking at the stuff they’re building. When kids enter our classroom they have free play until the bell rings and they create quite a bit of stuff.
Prep 1 is usually spent in a meeting. I meet with learning support to discuss elementary RTI plans for next year, I meet with the curriculum coordinator to discuss elementary curriculum, and sometimes I meet with our elementary principal to go over our plan for the meeting during lunch and recess. It all just depends on the day. Sometimes I have meetings in periods three and four and then rush off to lead a meeting. This teaching life is never boring. I also try to answer all of my emails during this prep.
I always plan to spend period 4 getting ready for my meeting. I review the agenda, I plan out what I am going to say, and I get materials ready. We don’t have a lot of time to meet and we have lots to accomplish during very short time periods so I have to be on top of my game.
My last prep on day four is spent getting student work ready for Friday Folders. I look at homework from the week, I grade our math spiral review, I prep the newsletter, I file all the work in abc order so it is easy to stuff into the folders. I also get everything I possibly can ready for Friday because I have zero preps until the very end of the day.
Day five is exhausting. It is hard to only have prep the last two periods. These two periods are spent writing our weekly newsletter and emailing it out to parents. I also stuff our Friday Folders and put them in student cubbies. Our grade 1-2 team meets on Fridays sometimes to plan our shared RTI periods. Sometimes we meet with our assistant teachers to plan our RTI time. It all depends.
Now I don’t want to fool you into thinking I always use my prep time wisely! Today I sat and chatted with my assistant teacher for two prep periods. I think it was a good use of my time because the relationships of teachers who work together are so important but it wasn’t my most productive day. It happens to all of us some times.
How do you make sure to use your prep time wisely? Let me know in the comments below.