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40 Hour Workweek

Mindset & Motivation, Productivity Strategies, Podcast Articles   |   Mar 31, 2024

Clock out confidently: 5 tips to get out the door at contract time

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Clock out confidently: 5 tips to get out the door at contract time

By Angela Watson

What you’ll hear in this episode is a sneak peek from one of the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Summit sessions from a teacher named June Link.

Her session is called, “Clock out confidently: 5 tips to get out the door at contract time.”

In this episode, she’s going to share some principles and mindset shifts, along with the process she used to carve out time for a new demand in her workload. June and her colleagues were supposed to implement a new socio-emotional learning curriculum, but needed to find time to explore it, write lesson plans, and figure out how to integrate the new materials into everything else they were doing.

June shares her process of estimating how much preparation time she’d realistically need in order to implement this new curriculum, which was 10 hours. Then she shares how she made time for that work during her contractual hours, instead of taking the new curriculum home to figure out during evenings or weekends.

June shares about that experiment and more in her session for the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Summit–read or listen in now for a sneak peek!

The Summit features:

  • 30+ presentations and roundtable discussions
  • Opening and closing keynotes by 40 Hour founder Angela Watson
  • All presenters are current K-12 classroom teachers
  • No fluff, filler, or pitches: each session is just 15-20 minutes long
  • Chat with other teachers during the live sessions and get personalized advice

You can purchase forever-access to all the sessions, both elementary and secondary, and get time-stamped transcripts, notetaking guides, and all the presentation links in one document so that you can reference them easily. Forever-access is $19. Thank you for your support!

Listen to the audio below,
or subscribe in your podcast app

Sponsored by Erikson Institute

“Where am I going to find time to do this?”

My coworkers and I were having a great staff meeting. We were looking at some new project-based learning that we wanted to do with a cross-curricular project. We were looking at some field trips that we had coming up, things were going really well, and we started looking at our new social-emotional learning program that we were excited to implement in our school. As the meeting went on, I started to realize though that with this wonderful program was going to take a lot of dedication on my part to roll it out well with my students. I got thinking, okay, if I need to give this program all of this time, probably about 10 hours, how in the world am I going to fit in yet one more thing.

My name is June Link and I’m a graduate member of the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek, and I’m here to share with you how educators can take a radical approach to prioritization during the school week using one of the bonuses from the club called the Big Five. This is not another work smarter not harder speech. This is about knowing that you did right by your kids when you leave. At the end of the day, this is about knowing that you have the energy beyond the school day to care for the things in your personal life that truly matter, and it’s also about sharing the fact that you are worthy and capable of meeting your goals.

So I still have these 10 hours to fit in and I’m thinking during this meeting, I don’t want to get another sub. I’ve used up so much time on my family who’s been out ill this year. I didn’t want to lose any more of that precious time. My kids had ski races on the weekends and we’ve been really having a lot of fun as a family.

So I decided then and there that I am going to accomplish this goal during my normal hours, period. This is going to happen. This is my challenge and how can I do it?

I was feeling a little stressed in this moment, so after the meeting, I went and looked at my club materials and revisited “The Big 5”, which is really the premise of the club and I’m going to be sharing with you how these big five can make changes over time, including on these issues when you have moments come up where you’re not sure how you’re going to work out the time to get it done, let alone get it done well.

“How can ‘The Big 5 help prioritize tasks?”

So these are the big five things. First of all, you have an opportunity to look at what is unnecessary during your teaching day and pull back on that. We’re going to be looking at our main thing. How do we pick the main thing from our list-making system and drive towards it with all of our might like we’re heading for the beach on spring break. Point the car south and don’t turn around. We’re going to really stay focused on our main thing.

An approach to that is using the third step, which is batching and finding our tasks and finding systems inside of our tasks to help us stay focused while we are working towards our main thing for the day.

This is a big one. Step number four for me on the big five is about relaxing your standards. And for me it was about bringing down these levels of perfection that I was always trying to attain. I wanted to be perfect at all of my tasks to the point where it became crushing. So how can we lower our standards while still keep student engagement and student learning really high?

And the fifth and final thing we’ll talk about is scheduling and boundaries and designing our day to feel good during our school teaching and to feel great when we get home to focus on our personal lives.

Over time, I was taking lots of little steps based on the mindset and strategies I was learning in the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek program and every time I made a change or I implemented a mindset, tried a new strategy, I felt better.

But more importantly, student learning went up every single time, whether it was they had better behavior, whether they were working harder at their writing. Goodness knows it’s really difficult to get middle schoolers to write and to write well, whether it was their interactions with their peers, maintaining a positive classroom environment. Every time I put in a new step, my students’ education got better.

So with that confidence I have, I’m like, okay, I know it’s possible. I know it’s possible. How am I going to drive through these 10 hours of professional development that I need to do and still stay focused on my kids?

Looking at number one from the big five, there’s a wonderful quote in the 40 Hour materials that talks about when you say yes to unnecessary things and yes to over-extreme personal standards, you’re having to say no to something else in your day.

When you say no to unnecessary work, however, you free yourself up to say yes to something big, something important. So I’m thinking, Okay, I’m going to have to really buckle down on my unnecessary, I’d already gotten rid of my tendency to fix student lockers and this desire that I had all the time to jump into a conversation that I would see happening in the halls with my coworkers because I love spending time with them. I’ve already cut back on those.

But during time where our seasons are exceptionally busy, that’s where this step number one, removing the unnecessary becomes even more important. And with dedication, you could probably even carve out upwards of 45 minutes during your school day to focus on your main thing.

And when we look at our main thing for me right now, it’s like how can I arrange it all? First of all, I had to arrange my work week to be able to pull off 10 hours of professional development learning. When I typed in priority lists, I thought it would be cute to have a list, an image of a list Unsplash gave me. The first image they gave me was of a sandy path through this beautiful green grass that was billowing in the wind, and I could just imagine the beach at the other end of this path.

What a perfect image for our main thing, right? When we have a main thing, it’s the number one thing that you want or need to accomplish in the day to feel confident and the materials in the club do a great job of helping you use a list system and a priority system to help you get to that main thing. Then when you start to build these habits that you have at school, you have opportunities then to practice them at your home life. And maybe your main thing for the weekend is getting to the beach.

Maybe your main thing for the weekend is cleaning up the house before you have company. So by using the strategy from the big five, you get to arrange your day where you start with the biggest thing and then when that is done, you have this clarity, this freedom in your heart to then approach the other important things in your day as they come your way.

The third step in the big five is all about batching and putting together common tasks. And I’ve spoken at conferences and I spent a lot of time with colleagues telling them how batching essentially saved my career. I used to spend so much time at work, I was upwards of 60 hours a week when I was first working. Nobody told me I had to do that. It was not a requirement of the job. I just didn’t know how to do things differently and still get out the door at a reasonable time.

In the resources that I put together for our summit this week, one of the things in there is all about batching with in relation to grading. So if grading is one of those areas that is still giving you trouble where it’s like no matter what you do, you feel like you can’t just get through it, check out my resources because there’s a great scale and categories in there to help you quickly work through a large pile of work as well as strategies that you can use to give feedback while students are working, which we’re going to talk about here in a second on our next step.

Because while batching may have saved my career, the secret sauce comes in here on step four, when it became really important for me as an educator to relax my own standards that I had set for myself, many of them were arbitrary. It had to do with what time I got to work and how much I had to get done before I let myself leave. At the end of the day, I had to do with what my worksheets looked like, what my classroom looked like. I had so many standards that I didn’t realize were not vital to being a high quality educator.

One of the things that my resource talks about, like I said, was with the grading, it’s also centered around feedback and giving important feedback. As a perfectionist, I wanted to give lots of feedback to every student on all of their work that they turned in.

When I watched one of my kids look at his test, notice that he got a B minus, he led the score I had writing all over the front and back and he put it in a trash can right in front of me and I got to thinking, I just did so much work and you didn’t learn from it at all. He did not learn from it at all. Really great student, perfectly capable, but he didn’t look at the feedback. So how was he possibly going to learn?

That in combination with spending some time having students work on some self-analysis during the classroom, even grading their own work, I got to realize that all this time I spent perfecting my written feedback was not having an impact on their learning, but spending time engaging with the kids, having them and they analyze their own work.

Now, we were looking at some pretty extreme growth. Written feedback is not the only kind of feedback that there is to give. You can give verbal feedback, you can have groups give each other feedback. There’s all different ways that you can communicate about student achievement. That can be oftentimes more effective than written feedback on the student’s papers. But again, this was difficult. I had to work on that perfection side of it.

I was worried about people noticing and the only thing that people did notice was how much more engaged the students were in the learning process and because they were engaged, their achievement went up, their ability to work together went up, their behavior management just wasn’t even really an issue. So there’s all kinds of things involved.

By relaxing my own standards for myself, I was able to engage with the kids in a way that gave them a high-quality learning opportunity that I never could have done if I was so worried about doing everything right.

“What if I were my own guest teacher?”

Okay. I knew I didn’t want to get a substitute in order to have time to work on this new curriculum, but my mind was so stuck on if I don’t get a sub, I won’t get it done and I’m not giving up another weekend.

It brought me to think about the time I had had a guest teacher two weeks I think before this meeting had happened and I was really sick and I got super sick in the night, so I only had about 30 minutes in the morning to put together my plans and get them to the office for the guest teacher for that day. It was really basic stuff, just some tasks for the kids to do as well as some free time. I let them play board games and I got to thinking, Well, if I could have a guest teacher come in, the kids are pretty much independent. All they’re doing is all the substitute needed to do really was manage their behavior during that time.

What if I was my own guest teacher? What if I did this for myself? Because when I got back, yeah, they didn’t learn a whole lot that day, but everything was fine. I was able to get some stuff from our unit that was not super important to the objective and the assessment and we were okay and it worked out okay.

So I’m thinking, Oh my gosh, what if I have my own substitute? I figured it out. So I put together for the next couple of weeks, I got looking at my lessons like, okay, what can I do here where the kids are occupied and well-behaved and I can get things done? So I decided to use a film. I put together some close notes. I love how AI can generate different fill-in-the-blank or close notes to be able to use with a resource.

And then the next day we corrected it and then had group discussions on the topic. It was still related to our unit. I was able to buy four hours of time to get things done during that day, four hours towards this 10. If I were to do it again the next week. I’m looking at being able to check the box on that main thing I had for those couple of weeks, which is getting my professional development done in the resources that I talked about.

You’ll see different opportunities that you might want to use in your own classroom to be your own sub. You can introduce and you can conclude your tasks in ways that are still connected to the unit without losing quite as much precious learning time as you would by bringing in a guest teacher who might not be as experienced in your subject area.

So take a look at those and see where those options are. However, in order for this to work, the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek was vital to my success with my Be-Your-Own-Sub days because I was able to create an environment for my students that it was this self-running classroom where the kids had jobs, we had routines, and so when they walk in the door, they know what to expect.

So when I drop a little curve ball on them that ends up having them be independent, I can comfortably say, I am here but I’m not available. So make sure that you ask three before me or for some kids, why don’t you ask eight before me? So I would tell them I’m here but I’m not really available. I have some pretty important things I need to get done, but don’t worry, we’re going to be talking about this together tomorrow.

And by having this management in my room, I was able to set myself up for success for during a busy season, whether it’s professional development hours working on a program, it could be during exam week if you have high schoolers. It could be during parent-teacher conferences. If you’re coaching in a sport, it could be when you’ve got a lot of games back to back, whatever your busy season is, here’s a great opportunity for you to get things off of your to-do list while still maintaining an engaged and high-quality learning environment because that’s what we all want. That’s our number one goal is having the kids learning always take precedence, but still managing our own needs and our own balance.

“How can I maintain a balanced work life?”

The fifth point on the big five list is about maintaining a balanced work and life schedule and then sticking to it. Like I was saying, 60 hours a week when I first started working was completely unmanageable. I thought it would just be for a short period of time, but it was well over a school year where a 50-hour week was fairly normal. 60-hour weeks were popping in.

And there was one evening when I was at home, I had about 20 minutes. I worked late yet again. I needed to get my kids fed and out the door to sports practice in about 20 minutes time. So I’m slam banging in the cupboards and my daughter walks in and she’s got her hair in piggy tail braids, but it was all fluffy because she’d had an epic day at second grade and she says, “Mommy, I liked it better when you weren’t working, you were happier.” (I had stayed home with my kids for about 10 years before I decided to go back to work.)

And when she told me that, it kind of broke my heart because I feel alive when I’m in front of my students. When I’m leading a group, I really love it. But I needed to be a good mother. I wanted to spend time with my husband. I wanted to spend time with my health.

And what really helped me get a handle on all of this, like I told you was the batch planning, but the batching with my planning and the batching, with my grading the different tasks. By putting that on a schedule, I was able to focus and systematize what I needed to get done. What is my priority and what is not my priority? It’s either on the list or off the list. And by sticking to this schedule, I felt great about what I accomplished, right? Checkboxes, they make us really happy.

And I left at the end of the day with confidence, knowing that my kids, that my students were well cared for while I was working, knowing that I had energy to spend time with my family when I got home or whatever hobbies I wanted to do, paddleboarding, biking with my kids, skiing, whatever it might be. And I also knew that I was capable of spending time on things that were most important and still got home at the end of the day.

“How can you carve out more time in your work day for priority tasks?”

I have a few things I want you to write down to kind of think about during your day. The first thing I want you to write down is eliminate ruthlessly. Think about what can you take off of your daily tasks? What are you doing on a regular basis that don’t need to be there to help the students learn and get really sharp with it?

Because we have these busy seasons come into our lives, whether it’s professional development or whatever else is going on. I mean, spirit week, kids are crazy during spirit week. That’s a really busy season for us. What can you eliminate all the time, and what can you eliminate during busy seasons?

So write the word eliminate, and when you have a break today, revisit that and write some things down.

What could you reduce? So that’s the second word I want you to write down. Reduce what can you bring down? For me, it was written feedback. What a massive difference it made. I became a better educator. I was more engaged with the students, but I was saving tons of time by reducing my written feedback and reducing the amount of time that I was spending on my online grade book with that system I told you about. That’s in my free resources.

What else could you reduce? Maybe if you’re spending a lot of times on bulletin boards or decorating or student displays, could you loop your students into that process? They might not be as good at it as you are, but you’ll reduce your workload, engage with the students more, which is an ultra bonus, and then they get to be a part of something. So by delegating, you’re looping them in saving yourself a ton of time. So what can you reduce?

And then I’d like you to think about for your third thing is to write down during the day what kinds of things are you doing outside of your normal hours that you might be able to sprinkle in during the day during your units? So what kinds of independent tasks come to mind? What can you do that will help you get more things off of your to-do list while kids are working, while kids are independently thinking? So if it’s happening during your day, is that happening during your evenings or weekends? When you want to be spending time with your loved ones, your hobbies or your other passions in life?

And fourth and finally, I want you to write down 100%, because I want you to know that it is 100% possible to have a thriving career, to be an awesome educator, and to have a super joyful personal life.

To loop back to that story I was telling you about when I was in the kitchen trying to frantically make that dinner and my daughter was so sad. And what made me think of the story was just a couple of weeks ago, she came up to me and said, “Mommy, I’m so glad that you have your job. You seem really happy and I’m learning how to be happy too.”

And it just filled my heart with so much joy to know that I accomplished this goal, to be good at all the things that I enjoy about my life, and to be that role model for somebody who’s so important to me. So thank you so much for spending your time with me today. I hope that you’re able to learn and take away wonderful things from this seminar offered by 40 Hour Teacher Workweek. And if you are not a member of the Club, I highly recommend you join because it is absolutely life-changing.

Join us for the Summit

If you’d like to get more ideas like June’s,  the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Online Summit features:

  • 30+ presentations and roundtable discussions
  • Opening and closing keynotes by 40 Hour founder Angela Watson
  • All presenters are current K-12 classroom teachers
  • No fluff, filler, or pitches: each session is just 15-20 minutes long
  • Chat with other teachers during the live sessions and get personalized advice

I hope you’ve enjoyed this sneak peak from the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Online Summit — these are just two of 30+ sessions, and while these are focused on streamlining how you give feedback, the rest of the Summit will give you tips for organization, lesson planning, and more. Purchase forever-access to all the sessions, both elementary and secondary, and get time-stamped transcripts, notetaking guides, and all the presentation links in one document so that you can reference them easily. Forever-access is just $19.


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Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela is a National Board Certified educator with 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach. She started this website in 2003, and now serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Truth for Teachers...
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