Ever wonder how to utilize your teach contract hours? Special education teachers are some of the only teachers that have to teach all subject areas. We have so many different levels of learners in our classrooms. And we have to create lessons, materials, and collect data on them all. So, seriously, how do I get all my teacher work done during contract hours? I promise I have no magic wand.
Utilizing Planning Periods
First, if you have planning periods make sure you are taking the time to use them. I understand that this may not happen every day, but you need to let other staff take over and give them responsibility when you have your planning period.
Whether your students are at lunch, recess, or at specials, you should plan to take this time to get your own paperwork and planning done. Realistically, I know things will come up and you may need to support your students occasionally, but ask an assistant or other staff member to respect your planning time. You need breaks too.
If you are not getting your planning times, make sure you talk to your principal, director, or union (if you have one) to solve how you can have prep time. Teachers need to be able to get their work done and utilize their teacher contract hours.
Disclaimer: Planning periods are meant for getting your tasks done. But, sometimes taking a few minutes to breathe is okay too.
Using Related Service Times
Additionally, look at your schedule and see if there is time during the week that related service staff is working with the majority of your students. Maybe they are running a group with your students.
If your students have a group or related service coming around the same time, assign your assistants to work with the students that aren’t being serviced. This could be a time to revisit old skills, or a leisure time to play a game.
Once a week, my social worker and speech and language pathologist run a social group for 30 minutes. I let my assistants help the group, and I work quietly in a corner on my computer or make copies. That 30 minutes helps give me some extra paperwork time. Additionally, I will say be sure that this time is not meant for you to co-teach with that related service provider.
Independent Work Can Help Utilize Your Teacher Contract Hours
Schedule a time in the day when students are expected to work alone. Teach your students 15-30 minute tasks that they can do alone or with very little teacher supervision. I have written a ton of blog posts about building independent workers in your classroom. They are based on Independent Work Stations so I suggest checking those out!
This may take some time to teach and practice, but your students can do it. You can work on your computer while students are working independently. You can take data on them while working or watch from a distance.
Before or After School Utilize Your Teacher Contract Hours
Check into your contract hours by reading your teacher contract. In many schools, there are times when teachers are expected to be at school before students arrive and after students leave. For example, I always had to be at work by 7:30 am but students didn’t get off the bus until 8:00 AM. And after school, we had to stay 15 minutes after students. This is when I would reset the student schedules for the next day, empty their work bins, and answer any quick emails that I could.
I don’t suggest doing it often, but figure out if you are an early or late worker. For me, I am much more motivated in the morning, so I typically come to work between 7:30-8:00 am. This allows me some extra work time during those busy IEP seasons. And try as much as possible to avoid working beyond that, I know it’s hard. I have been there staying late, and coming in on the weekends, but eventually, you should be able to use some of these tips and get systems in place to lessen your time.
Also, if your staff (paraprofessionals) come in before the students give them a few tasks that can help you as well, you don’t need to do it all on your own!
Delegate Tasks for Students or Staff
Students love to help you. Let’s face it, your staff is there to help you as well! If you’re like me, you hate asking for help or giving someone else the responsibility to get it done correctly for it. I’m the type of person that thinks “If I want something done right, I’ll do it myself”. This isn’t always the case.
If I have something to print, deliver to another teacher or cut, I may ask a trustworthy student to do that for me. Previously, I’ve had students laminate materials with a laminator for me. It was an in-class job. My students loved having that responsibility and then seeing us use it in the classroom, it gave them so much pride.
If you have to set up for the next activity, or reset any tasks, delegate that to your staff. Assistants can set up or take down activities, and they’ll gain a sense of ownership and sense of belonging in the classroom. I had a few stations in my classroom that I had set up for the assistants in my room. They even collected data on IEP goals for me! You can read about my fluency station here. They are there to help you, so don’t be afraid to put them to work too.
Work Smarter and Not Harder
I realize that sometimes when you are looking to utilize your teacher contract hours you are going to think to yourself that it would be great to have someone else to work with. I completely agree! If you can find another colleague that either teaches the same grade as you or content area you might be in luck to have a person that you can rely on to cut the workload by sharing materials and lesson plans.
Another great way to work smarter and not harder is to see if someone else has already created what it is you are looking for. This is where my Teachers Pay Teachers store and Teach Love Autism Shop can come in really handy! I have over 500 products that I have created to help other teachers save their time and sanity. Materials such as worksheets, task cards, and adapted books are just a few of the materials I have available.
You’ll find once you try a couple of these throughout your week, you’ll have pockets of time to work in. Sometimes 30 minutes each week more than what you’ve had, is very helpful to get your teacher work done during your school contract hours!
And if that is not enough, sign up for my email list and grab over 40 free resources that I have created to save you time! Some of these resources include task cards, adapted books, schedule templates, and more!