Time Management for the Special Educator

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

If you are anything like me, your typical day looks a bit like this....get up, get dressed, spill coffee, get dressed again, drive to work, organize paperwork, teach, fill out paperwork, manage behavior, fill out more paperwork, stuff your face with food, connect with your staff, do more paperwork, lesson plan,  drive home, eat dinner, socialize with loved ones, stress about work, try to stay awake, watch half of a tv show, fall asleep while watching a tv show, go to bed....

Some--- most--- days, I feel like am barely keeping my head above water with the responsibilities of a being a special education teacher and, well, a human being in general. I am a special education teacher, but more importantly, I am a Christian, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a creator, and a small business owner. With each of those roles, comes responsibilities, duties, and the demand for time! With all of the craziness of life and living, there has to be some sort of system for time management, right?! To be honest, I have a difficult time managing my time and my stress. I have not mastered time management by any means, I have found a few techniques and tips that can help keep you feeling in control and on top of things.

1. Know your priorities! 

I am a special education teacher. Sure, I would love to be the BEST special education teacher in the world or even at my school, however, I have quickly realized that in order for me to be the BEST special education teacher I would need to invest my entire life, finances, and time to teaching. I am being realistic when I say that is not going to happen. With that said, I CAN be a happy, healthy, well-balanced teacher for my students. I CAN be the best teacher that I can be for my students, providing them with a loving, safe, and stimulating educational environment each day. While teaching is my "calling" and my "vocation," it is also only one aspect of my life. I have found that when my priorities are properly aligned, I am a happier, more balanced person. Stop for a moment and write out your priorities (1-5+). What is the most important thing or person in your life. What is the one thing or person that you feel deserves a significant amount of your time, energy, and thoughts? Is it God? Is it your family? Is it your spouse? Is it your children? Write a list of your top priorities and then reflect daily on that list. Did your actions line up with your list? What do you need to change in order to make the people or things at the top of your list more of a priority? Do you need to spend less time lesson planning so that you can spend more time with your children? Do you need to spend less time shopping online so that you can spend some quality time with parents? Do not be too hard on yourself if you managed yourself poorly one day. There is always another day to try again.

2. Learn to say "no."

I am currently reading the book entitled, Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind the Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living, by Shauna Niequist. In the book, Shauna states, "The very thing that makes you you, that makes you great, that makes you different from everyone else is also the thing that, unchecked, will ruin you." As I was reading, that sentence stood out to me. The very thing that I love so much, teaching, could also be the thing that ruins me. Teaching, the thing that brings me so much joy, could somehow become the same thing that sucks the life and joy out of me. How could that be? I will tell you how. It all starts by being scared to say "no" in the small moments of the day. It starts by being scared of saying, "No, I will not stay at work past 5pm another Friday night."  It starts by being scared of saying, "No, you cannot have that attitude while working in this classroom" to a paraprofessional that is working in your classroom.  It starts by being scared of saying "no" to another committee or team or Teachers Pay Teachers product idea." It starts by by being scared to say, "No, I'm not a perfect special education teacher, but I am trying my best." It's okay to say no. In fact, in many circumstances, it is good to say no! Learn to embrace the word "no" and use it wisely throughout your day. It is okay if that adapted book is not laminated or if the Christmas decorations are only partly put up. It is okay to praise and CORRECT the behavior of your staff in a professional matter. It is okay to put your family, friends, or sanity before a leaders

I highly recommend the book mentioned above for anyone who struggles with being a perfectionist like me. You can purchase it for under $15 on Amazon. Please use this referral link if you purchase:


3. Utilize your break and lunch.

This is something that I learned from my master teacher when I was student teaching. I am so thankful that I learned this lesson early. Take your break (if you are given one) and your lunch (if you are given one). Get OUT of the classroom, STOP working, socialize with other teachers, or just sit in your car. The class will survive without you, and if they do not, then there are bigger issues that need to be addressed. This does not mean you have to just sit and stare at the ceiling, but it does mean utilizing your break and lunch for YOU! Do you need to run to the bank? Do you need to check your grades for your graduate class? Do you need to check-in on a photo order? Do you need to get gas in your car?  Do you need to get some Starbucks? Use your breaks and lunches to 1) relax, get away from the classroom for a moment, regroup and 2) to take care of personal business. 

4. Use a planner.

I am not sure about you, but I find satisfaction in writing tasks and events down and then crossing those same tasks and events off once they are finished. With that said, I always invest in a planner for each year. This year, I bought a Recollections planner from Michaels on Black Friday for under $10. Some people love Erin Condren, others love Paper Plum. Whatever, your planner of choice may be, it's important to keep your to-do lists and events written down or typed out somewhere. It is also cool to look back at an old planner and read all of the things that you have done and accomplished that year.

In addition to a planner, I utilize a few other sheets from my Personal Planner to keep me organized and balanced. For example, I am challenging myself to be healthier this year. With that said, I utilize a workout planner sheet for keeping track of my goals and progress. At the end of a month, if I have met my goal of going to the gym XX many times, then I will reward myself with a new clothing item. Check out my Personal Planner on my Teachers Pay Teachers Store here. It is on sale today and will cost you less than $2!

It includes: Weekly Planner Sheets, Meal Planner Sheet, Workout Planner Sheet, Blog/TPT Planner Sheet, Personal Devotion Sheets, and Expense Sheets. 


  1. Thank you for sharing this was very needed by me today.

  2. Love this blog post! I am a 3rd year SPED teacher and this really opened up my eyes into how I can better support my class by taking care of me first. I wanted to suggest the book "Grace not Perfection" by Emily Ley. It's similar to Present over Perfect and I really like it so far. Thanks for sharing all of your ideas!


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