Teacher Q & A: I Keep Running Out of Time to Finish My Lessons…Help!

Teacher Q & A: I Keep Running Out of Time to Finish My Lessons…Help!

Question:I keep running out of time to finish my lessons each day. This means that the next day I have to finish up what was left over and then try to finish the day’s lessons. I am getting more and more behind and I am feeling very overwhelmed.  Help!

Answer: Oh gosh…I totally relate to what you are saying.  This is a really common issue – and it’s solvable!

Here are several things that have worked for me and many other teachers.  They are super simple, but if you do them religiously everyday, you’ll see the long-term effect!  Here you go:

Step 1: During lesson planning, note how long you want each component of your lesson to take.

For example,

  • Introduction to new science concept – 3 minutes
  • Watch youtube video of process – 2 minutes
  • Read Chapter 7 with students in partner + take notes – 25 minutes

I find that I tend to overtalk during lessons (shocker!) and this keeps me focused on how long I want each section of the lesson to take.  I find that the lesson gets out of whack time-wise in the smallest moments…and those moments add up!

Step 2: Keep a timer while you teach.

I find that I lose myself in the lesson.  That’s a great thing, but can also be a time killer and time waster!  So, I keep a timer and set it for each portion of the lesson. This keeps me from thinking that I have a ton more time than I actually have! If the timer buzzes and I am still teaching, I will rely on the next step…

Step 3: Note for each portion of your lesson what you absolutely HAVE to teach and what would BE NICE.

During my lesson planning I determine what I absolutely HAVE to teach (what is required for the most important skills to be mastered) and what can be dumped if I am running short of time.  I don’t make a habit of it, but I give myself a little ‘out’ when I need it.  The real deal is that not every moment of the lesson is the most crucial and by determining what the fluff is from the most important skill work, I can prioritize as I need to.

You’ll see that a lot of what I do to manage my time takes place in lesson planning.  I find that the more detailed I am in my planning, the better pacing I have during the lesson and less content that I fold over into the next day.

If you liked this post, then you’d probably really like this book I’ve written on the same topic, too!

Question on Sharing a New Direction with Staff {Principal}

Question on Sharing a New Direction with Staff {Principal}

I received this question from a Facebook principal friend of mine:  Hey Jill! I’m a  principal who is about to embark on a new adventure with my staff. My hope is to create an atmosphere of professional growth from peer observations, feedback and administrative observations. I’m going to begin with a staff meeting that shows where we have some improvement needs. Any suggestions or words of wisdom before I roll this out?

Here was my response: My best advice is to give very specific examples of what needs changing and why. Bad example: We need to be more collaborative. Good example: We need to stop correcting papers and having side convos during our team meetings. Instead, I would like you to take notes in your team notebook and rotate the team lead responsibilities every week so that we use our time wisely and are on the same page with implementing new ideas. When you want them to stop doing something, be sure to give them a behavior to replace it with. Break a leg!

*Updated* Priority Skills: Behavior Management

*Updated* Priority Skills: Behavior Management

As many folks know, I am in the process of writing my fifth book!  It’s about instructional coaching…tentatively titled “How to Coach Teachers to Teach (Almost) Anything” – – – I mean, it’s not like it’s going to be published by Yale or anything, right?  ????

One of the things that I wanted to really drive home for coaches are the fundamental skills that teachers have to have in place.  So, I broke those fundamental skills down into five categories:

  1. Classroom Management
  2. Behavior Management
  3. Engagement
  4. Lesson Planning (the most often un-coached skills that is the starting point of a successful lesson)
  5. Delivery of a Basic Lesson (like the very least the teacher has to do to deliver a successful lesson)

In this series of five blogs, one on each of the topics, I have broken down those skills for you, too!

If you’re a teacher, you can use these as a checklist for lesson planning

If you are a professional developer, you can use this is a checklist for a new teacher (or veteren teacher) training program

If you are a principal, you can use this to help you set your instructional goal and as a tool to determine where you staff might need strengthening.

If you are a coach, you will use these lists to prioritize the content that you will coach.  If a teacher is struggling with any of these, then that struggling point is where your coaching should start.  After all, if a fundamental is missing, then the teacher doesn’t have much of a chance of getting the fancier stuff well implemented.

Here are the Behavior Management Priority Skills for Coaching

The teacher:

  • Teaches replacement behaviors for most common behavior problems
  • Has the ability to quickly analyze the behavior and get to the root of whether it is a whole group, small group, time of day, type of content issue
  • Has clear steps in place for students choosing to repeatedly break the classroom rules
  • Has a procedure for removing students from the place of instruction without students removing themselves from learning the content
  • Has a routine for de-escalating behaviors before they become intolerable

Allows students to recover once they have paid the “price” for misbehavior

Does a Checklist Really Work? {Behavior Mgmt.}

Does a Checklist Really Work? {Behavior Mgmt.}

I am on a quest to figure out how checklists can simplify and improve the quality of our work in schools.  If you haven’t read my first two installments of this little series, I suggest you do (they’re super quick reads!).  Here’s the 1st.  Here’s the 2nd.

This time I tried my hand at behavior management.  How do we define a series of steps so that we can ensure that behavior management doesn’t dominate instruction?  Also, how do we streamline it across a school so we have similar expectations for kids?  I tried my hand at it here…what do you think?

Checklist for In-Class Behavior Management


When a student is misbehaving, kindly ask student to replace with an alternate behavior (“Instead of _____, John, I would like you to do _____.”)


If behavior is not immediately corrected, then firmly ask the student to change behavior and add consequence (“John, I have asked you to _____ and you have chosen not to.  I would like you to ____ right now.  I do not want to have to ask you to leave the group!”)


If the behavior is changed and no longer an issue, find an immediate way to compliment the student on the changed behavior (“John…thanks so much for doing _____ -really nice job paying close attention.”)


If the behavior persists, quietly go over to the student, whisper directions to carry out consequence (Whispering: “John, please come and sit in this desk right now – I will let you know when you are free to join us again.”).  Ignore the student if he acts out or tries to get other kids’ attention


Tell the student that he is still responsible for doing the work, just doing the work in a different spot in the room


If the student is not behaving in the new spot, give 1-2 calm reminders of what is expected (“Remember John, I’m looking for you to not blurt out and try to distract everyone.  When you can do that, I’ll invite you back to the group, which is my #1 goal.”)


If the student is still not responding, then calmly move the student to the next step on the behavior chart (losing recess?)


If the student gets to the 4th step on the behavior chart, a note goes home with the student and the note comes to the principal’s office


Every new day is a fresh start for every student – we allow students to recover
“We are waiting to get him tested”

“We are waiting to get him tested”

“We are waiting to get him tested” is not a teaching strategy.

I couldn’t resist sharing this image I created a long time ago…it is as true today as it was when I created it.  I posted it back then because I had just been to a school visit where every other student who needed intervention wasn’t getting it because “they were waiting to be tested.”

The thing that cracks me up (well, it doesn’t crack me up really – it makes my blood boil actually!) is that the only thing that testing can provide is the same thing that intervention can: a pathway for knowing where to start teaching!

A Special Ed designation or learning disability designation just means that we need to take special care in providing instruction…but when it comes down to it, it’s all instruction anyway.

I also wish that we’d stop saying this because it totally degrades our profession.  It makes us look weak.

And I don’t like to look weak in a profession that I’ve chosen to be a lifelong part of, do you?

Why Teachers Drop a Skill After Coaching

Why Teachers Drop a Skill After Coaching

A very common question that I get from coaches is this: What do I do when a teacher has been coached in a skill and yet when I get back into the classroom, they’ve dropped or stopped using the skill?

I think that sometimes coaches take this personally – after all, everyone has put a lot of time in effort in coaching and learning a new/updated skill!  But, I find that when I ask myself these three questions, I can usually get to the root of why that’s happened…and, more importantly, I can fix it with the teacher:

  1. Did I break the steps of the skill down to the –nth degree or was the skills we were working on really like five skills rolled up into one?
  2. Did the teacher understand what I wanted him to do? (And a nod of the head isn’t a confirmation…the teacher should be able to fully explain what you want him to do in his own words – make sure to weave this into your debriefing each time!)
  3. Did the teacher simply forget to keep doing it and do we need to add some sort of note on his desk or in his lesson plan book so that it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle any longer? (Teachers have lots to remember and can simply forget. It happens to all of us!)

The most important thing is to avoid going straight to the line of the thinking that the teacher is stopping the practice on purpose.  By digging just a bit deeper through the questions, you’ll find an even more efficient way to work with a teacher…and it doesn’t have to affect your relationship one bit!