When I first started teaching middle school I had no idea the differences in your day when you teach one prep (course title; subject) versus teaching several preps. Boy, was I shocked at the amount of work that goes into managing your day. When you teach multiple preps, time is not your friend. The day sometimes goes by in a blur. Your mind switches from one subject to another and back again without you even thinking about it. Us multi-prep teachers become experts at multitasking! In this 2-part blog series, I am going to discuss 5 tips I use to stay sane while teaching 4 different preps and over 200 students in one day. In this post I will share tips 1-3!
1. Breathe.../Know Your Limitations
First and foremost BREATHE...relax. I literally have to tell myself this several times a day because teaching several courses to a lot of kids can be overwhelming at times. It may seem like things are going crazy but we learn how to master this hectic life by taking moments to breathe. Tell yourself you can do it and you are doing your best to get everything done.
Only a select few can take the pressure of teaching multiple preps. Teaching multiple courses consists of a lot of “more” scenarios. More planning, more standards, more assignments….shall I go on. Most middle and high school teachers write one lesson plan a week, while multi preppers write three or four. They come up with one or two assignments a day, we come up with three or six. However, we have the same amount of hours in a day. With that being said, know your limitations. You cannot do everything, every day. Pick your battles, identify your priorities, find ways to simplify your life (see the Routine section for help with this).
2. Get Organized!
When teaching multiple preps organization is THE most important aspect of being successful. If you have a chaotic desk, teaching style, way of planning... teaching multiple preps may not work for you. I like to use a color code system for each of my courses. I attach their color to everything when I identify that course. For example: Subject 1=Pink, Subject 2=Blue, Subject 3=Green, Subject 4=Orange. When I write the daily information on the board,I write the information for each subject in the associated color. The final product is a dry erase board divided into 4 sections and 4 colors. This way the students know where to look for information automatically by looking for their color. On Edmodo (Edmodo.com) and Google Classroom I make each subject the associated color so it is easier for me to identify quickly. If you do not want to use a color system, you can use an icon system. I also used to give each subject an icon and put it on everything associated with that class. For example: Subject 1=RAM Subject 2=Hardrive, Subject 3=CPU, Subject 4=Motherboard.
Try to have specific places for assignments you receive. I work at a digital school so we do not have paper assignments. However, before our school was digital I had a color coded filing system on my desk and in my storage room. Now that we are digital, my Google Drive is organized into folders for everything!
And in those folders I have subfolders. I suggest doing this on your work computer to help you stay organized. It will also help you find items you are looking for faster.
In your room there should be a place for everything...identify it in the beginning of the year to students and stay consistent when using it. Make sure there are clearly identified places for homework, late work, “You were absent” work,etc. This will help minimize the questions from students at the beginning and end of class. We know how questions can be a problem when you need to change the classroom up for your next subject and you only have 3 minutes to change the board, desks, post warm up, etc. I suggest having different “bins” or whatever you would like to use to collect work for each prep. Since each prep is different you do not want one pile at the end of the day of work from all you preps mixed together. I use Google Classroom so I post all my important links for my students to turn in work on the ABOUT page
3. Routines Are Important
Save your sanity by creating routines for EVERYTHING! Do the same thing in every class for every prep as much as you can. Always post work in the same place for each prep (warm up, homework, classwork, etc) , make your policies the same for each class (late work, tardy, etc.). If one prep cannot do something, none of the other preps can do it. This will help you stay consistent because you won't have to remember what each period can and cannot do.
I also try to create some kind of routine when lesson planning. When you have multiple preps, you have multiple lesson plans to create. When I first began teaching it used to take me FOUR hours to complete one lesson plan for ONE prep! At that time I taught three preps so I was spending a lot of at home time planning. Then I received great advice from another teacher. She told me to create routines for each day and create the daily activities around that when I plan. So I started naming my days and planning my lessons that way. It started saving me tons of time because it helped me focus my planning.
Here is a list of how I named my days:
We reviewed vocabulary from the unit/lesson for a portion of class
Tuesday= Post-Up Tuesday
After a lesson,students would answer questions using Post-It notes on the parking lot (sometimes we used Padlet.com) for their assessments
Wednesday= Quiz Me Wednesday
I gave mini-quizzes to identify where students were with the lesson
Thursday= Picture This Thursday
Students had to create some type of visual representation of a concept learned from the week's lesson.
Friday= Check Up Friday
A portion of class is dedicated to students checking their grades and figuring out what improvements they can make the next week. I normally have them work on this for warm-up.
Here is an example of the prompt I give them for this assignment:
Check Up Friday -Check your grade in this class and record it on the Grade Progress log (Google Drive)
-In the reply box type your OVERALL grade. Has your grade increased or decreased from last week? What is your goal for next week concerning your grade?