Delaware Writing Project

7 Ways to Work Smarter Not Harder

By Sara Anderson

To say my first year in teaching was overwhelming is an understatement.  Some nights I stayed at the school until 10pm when the night custodians force me to leave knowing I would beat the day custodians into the building the next morning.  Veteran teachers would always say a phrase that would really annoy me “Work smarter not harder!”  I understood why they were saying that but that’s not very helpful. What did it mean to work smarter not harder?

After finishing my third year in teaching, I feel as though this was the year that everything just clicked for me.  I started to understand what all those teachers meant as I started to become more efficient in my school day. Now, I did still have the occasional late night here and there, but I think that will happen for any teacher. These are seven strategies that have helped me “Work Smarter Not Harder.”

1.) Anything a student can do, you shouldn’t!

This applies to any classroom duty that a student leader can perform from sharpening pencils to taking attendance.

 2.) Don’t work so hard during a lesson. The kids should run the lesson not you… A teacher should just facilitate.

New teachers seem to think they have to be in control of every second of every lesson.  Think about when you are learning, do you want someone standing at the front of the room talking at you or do you want to discover things through engaging activities?

3.) Use to do lists.

Using your time wisely is very important.  I like to make a plan that I use for the week as a check off list. I also make many to do lists throughout the week and number them for importance.  You just have to try to stick to the list!

4.) Take advantage of parent volunteers.

My first year I didn’t feel comfortable having parent volunteers in the room when I was teaching. This past year I had 3 volunteers. I had a weekly schedule of what I needed each one to do from copying to working with students.  These volunteers made my year much easier.

5.) Collaborate with your team. 

Everyone on your team will have different strengths. If you work together and take advantage of those strengths then you all will benefit from each other.

6.) Take advantage of resources.

There are thousands of websites that offer teaching resources for free. Sometimes some of these websites can be hard to navigate. There are also many websites that cost a fee for memberships or for individual resources. Sometimes it’s worth the few dollars.

7.) Make time for yourself.

It is impossible to be productive if you are exhausted. Make time for yourself!

These ways may not work for everyone but for me this these strategies were helpful. Now I don’t need to be kicked out by the custodians at night!


About the Author

Sara Anderson is currently a 1st grade teacher at Cedar Lane Elementary School in the Appoquinimink School District. Sara has been teaching for 4 years. Sara previously taught 5th grade in a co-teaching setting her first 2 years in teaching. This is Sara’s second year in teaching 1st grade.Sara’s passion outside of education is to travel. She has been to 20 different countries in 5 continents.

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