How to Be a Great Principal Without Spending a Dime

I know two excellent mid-career teachers who left their districts this summer to teach in more affluent communities next year.  They weren’t looking for raises, “easier” kids to teach, or newer buildings and flashier technology. They weren’t even especially attracted to their new districts as much as they were repelled by their old ones. Both teachers resigned because administrators in their districts didn’t do the simple things that cost absolutely nothing to keep good teachers happy.

Here’s a colorful and relevant graphic:

The bottom left corner didn’t apply in the instances of the two teachers I know. They were mid-career professionals who were willing to take a pay cut to get out of their current districts. They had also managed a reasonable work-life balance and had taken advantage of opportunities to grow professionally. The work was obviously challenging; I don’t know any teacher who thinks it isn’t.

It’s said that people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses. That was certainly the case for the two teachers I know. Without getting into specifics about what drove each teacher from her job, I can say that had their bosses done a few simple things, these teachers would be returning to their buildings and classrooms next year.

Some administrators who work in schools that serve students of low socioeconomic status like to blame their lack of money or the challenges that come with teaching students in poverty for their trouble in finding and keeping talented educators. And while there are teachers who will avoid working in certain districts because of those factors, those who have already been doing it for a while are unlikely to leave if they’re treated with respect. Leaving mid-career is risky. You lose your tenure. You’ll likely make less money. It’s a pain in the ass to pack up your stuff. You have to meet all new people and learn all new processes, curriculum, and online platforms. You have to rebuild your reputation. You trade in knowns, however unpalatable, for unknowns. Veteran teachers don’t make the decision to change districts lightly. So if you’re losing teachers like this, someone or a small group of someones is screwing up.

Principals do not need to spend a dime to keep their best teachers. They just have to do the following 9 things.

Get to Know Your Teachers

A story I was recently told: A newly hired principal was talking to a local preacher about how he should go about building relationships with his staff. The preacher recommended that the principal get a stack of index cards and give one to each teacher. On the card, each teacher was to write her name, the names of her spouse and children, a few personal interests, and one thing the principal could do that would help the teacher in the coming year. Then, the preacher explained, the principal should study the cards so that when he passed a teacher in the hall he could ask about her kids, or casually use her husband’s name in conversation, or pass on something he saw relating to her hobby. He would also have a list of things he could do that his teachers would value.

It’s is a simple activity that costs nothing but a little bit of time. And the real genius of it is that just asking teachers for this information shows the principal cares. Even if he never looks at the cards, he’s built some goodwill by caring enough to ask.

(Incidentally, the principal didn’t take the preacher’s advice. He never passed out the cards or asked the questions. He came back four months later, frustrated that teachers didn’t seem to like him much. The preacher offered no further advice.)


If you’re treating your best teachers the same as you’re treating your rookies, you’re doing it wrong. If there is one clear lesson to be learned from the failed experiment of teacher evaluation reform it is this: Treating every teacher the same will lead to resentment from your best teachers. We get that the state or district requires you to observe us x amount of times. Fine. But you don’t need to be in a 20-year veteran’s classroom as often as you need to be in a second-year teachers’ classroom. Also, not all of your teachers need an email reminding them about the dress code or what time they are to be in their classrooms in the morning if only two teachers are having a problem meeting those expectations.

Use Their Passions and Expertise

I work with a teacher who does all of the district’s specials scheduling for two elementary schools. Every summer, I get the schedule emailed to me and I can’t imagine the number of hours it takes to put together given all the different things that must be accounted for. The task seems impossible. But this teacher does it for free because she’s really good at it. Her brain just works that way. And somewhere along the way, an administrator noticed how good she was at it and asked her to do this work.

I know another teacher who will spend hours coming up with creative ideas for March is Reading Month. She’s not paid. She does it becomes she’s a creative person and creativity is a reward in and of itself. Another teacher I work with is a talented artist. She donated hours of her summer one year to repaint the cafeteria because her principal knew she would do an excellent job and gave her the freedom to paint what she wanted. I have a number of times on this blog advocated that teachers not donate hours to their employers. However, if my principal sends me a document, I can’t help but revise it. I like writing, so I’m willing to do it for nothing because it’s fun. Smart principals learn their staff’s talents and passions and they utilize them. They are often rewarded with free labor and excellent work because their teachers appreciate that their bosses know them well enough to use their passions and talents.

Ask Teachers’ Opinions and Then Listen

I know a lot of administrators who will pay lip service to the idea of teachers as experts. When they don’t feel like spending money on PD, they’ll butter teachers up with the old, “We have experts right here in this district” line. When they feel the need to form a curricular committee, their pitch will convey the respect they have for our professionalism and expertise. But when big decisions need to be made, the kinds of decisions that impact large numbers of teachers and students, many administrators don’t ask their teachers’ opinions.

If you’re going to revamp your school’s entire schedule, ask teachers what they think about that. Then listen to what they have to say. It might save you some headaches in the future. If you want to change how your Title I people intervene with at-risk readers, run that by staff first. If you don’t like the behavior system, let teachers tell you what they think of it before making wholesale changes. A lot of teachers have been around for awhile. They have reasons for doing what they’re doing and they may have already tried it your way in the past and can tell you the challenges you can expect. You don’t have to do what your teachers want you to do, but if you ask and listen you’ll at least be aware of some potential pitfalls.

Tell the Truth

We get that you’re a middle manager. You have the sometimes monumental task of keeping both your bosses and your teachers happy (to say nothing of parents and students). We understand that not every decision you make is yours. You are sometimes told to do or say things that go against your beliefs. When this happens, tell us. Respect your teachers enough to explain the complexities and external pressures. Tell them who is actually making the decision.

I had a principal one year who was quite obviously told by a higher-up that he had to focus on student contact time. Admin didn’t want a second wasted. Because this principal was normally pretty laid back and had in the past commented on how impressed he was by teachers teaching right up to the final bell, it was incongruent when he sent a curt email to the whole staff reminding us that recess was 20 minutes and that we had to be faster getting students out and bringing them back in. Some of us suspected he was just passing along the concerns of his boss. Others thought he was becoming a bit of a nitpicking doofus and nobody wants to work for a nitpicking doofus. It’s not that hard to say, “Hey, everyone. Central office has asked me to remind you that recess is 20 minutes inclusive of transition time.” Don’t own stupid policies and decisions unless you made them. You don’t have to throw your boss under a bus to tell teachers where decisions originated.

Trust Your Teachers

I can’t say it any better than Alice Trosclair did in an article published by The Educator’s Room:

“Trust, pure and simple.  Trust that we want the best for our students and society. Trust that 95 percent of us are here for our students and want the best for them, so in turn we give them our best every day. Trust that we study pedagogy and spend our “off hours” searching for fresh perspective or a new way of doing something. Only teachers would spend their meager paycheck on classroom supplies to make a lesson more exciting. Only a teacher would go back for a masters degree (which only increases our pay check by a few hundred dollars a month if we stay in the classroom) to improve our teaching and understanding of content. Most of us will always keep learning because we want the best for our students.”

Give your teachers the benefit of the doubt, and if you want to know why they're doing what they're doing, ask. Click To Tweet

Bonus Read: A Letter to Principals Regarding Walkthroughs

Write Thank-You Notes

Teachers are rarely thanked, so it means a lot when we are. Show some gratitude and acknowledge your teachers’ hard work. Emails are nice, but actual cards can be tucked away in a folder and saved for years. They can be hung on bulletin boards as reminders that the work we do is noticed and appreciated by someone. Although we are surrounded by students, teaching is a solitary job. Hardly anyone knows what it is we do all day and we can go weeks wondering if anyone other than our students is even aware of our hard work. Writing a thank-you note is a two-minute task that can pay big dividends.

Respect Teachers’ Time

Cancel the meeting. Don’t take advantage of your best teachers and their willingness to pitch in by asking the same ones to join committees, attend after-school events, and help you with some silly report the state needs. Be very selective about asking your teachers to do anything extra because doing so pulls them away from their most important job of educating the students in front of them. Leave them alone on weekends. The emails can wait until Monday (or least late Sunday night). Teachers never have enough time. Anything you ask your teachers to do better be more important than the things they would do on their own.

Anything you ask your teachers to do better be more important than the things they would do on their own. Click To Tweet

Don’t Forget What It’s Like to Teach

Part of respecting teachers’ time is remembering what it’s like to be one. I know you think you’ll never forget the challenges of the classroom. You did it for years. You’ll remember.

No, you won’t. I know you won’t because after two months of summer vacation, I forget what it’s like every single year. Our memories are faulty. They pick and choose. They highlight. When you’re not stressed out, it’s hard to recall the actual feeling of being stressed out. When you’re not constantly pressed for time, you can’t recreate the feeling of being constantly pressed for time. When you aren’t incessantly needed by your students, you don’t remember how it feels to be pulled in six directions.

There is only one way to remember what it's like to teach and it is to teach. Click To Tweet

There is only one way to remember what it’s like to teach and it is to teach. Observing teachers won’t cut it. Sitting in your office won’t work. Only teaching is teaching. Fortunately, there is a simple way for you to do this: substitute in your teachers’ classrooms. The sub shortage provides ample opportunity and even if you’re in a district without that infuriating problem, every teacher I know would be happy to check papers in the staff lounge for 45 minutes while you refresh your memory on just what teachers experience day in and day out.

You’ll be a better principal and your teachers will love you for it. With a leader like you, the best ones will come back year after year and keep giving their all for their students. You don’t need to spend a dime to keep your best teachers. You don’t really need to spend all that much time, either. But you do need to treat them like the professionals they are.


If you’d like articles sent to your inbox, please subscribe here.

I write books, too. They’re like really long blog posts.

Teachers Habits is an affiliate partner of Angela Watson’s 40-Hour Teacher Workweek Club, which means that if you click THIS LINK and join the club, Angela pays me money. Wins all around.



Can Socialization Be Taught? 5 Useful Resources

Guest writer: Joseph McLean


School years are a crucial period in the personal development of each child. It is the time when kids learn and adopt basic values in life and try to socialize with their peers, which means their teachers have to be careful and delicate.

It’s a very difficult task since educators need to pay attention to dozens of pupils simultaneously. They are supposed to meet each kid individually, pay attention to their behavior, and notice if anything goes wrong in the classroom. This also means instructors should be good psychologists who know how to instruct children and teach them the basics of human interaction.

But how is this possible? Where can a teacher learn more about children’s socialization? In this post, we will show you 5 useful sources that can help you understand kids a lot easier. Let’s take a look!

How to Develop Children’s Social Skills

Before we present you our top learning choices, we should explain the simple process of teaching kids a specific skill. The procedure consists of 5 basic steps:

  • Discuss social skills: The first stage is all about discussing social skills and explaining what makes them so important.
  • Choose a specific skill: This is where you need to make a list of different skills. Once you’ve done that, you should select a specific skill such as apologizing or asking peers for help.
  • Explanation: Now you need to explain in theory what makes this skill so important and helpful.
  • Practice: The fourth phase of the process involves practical lessons. You can organize role-playing sessions to simulate real-life situations among children.
  • Discussion: At the end, you should discuss the entire process to make sure everything is clear and to sort out potential misunderstandings, if any.

Top 5 Websites to Learn About Classroom Socialization

According to psychology advisors at Assignment Masters, most teachers try to manage classroom atmosphere on their own: “Sometimes they fail, sometimes they succeed, but they rarely ever consult professional literature or utilize best practices in this field. It’s a bad habit that really needs to be changed”.

The only way to make the change is by learning more about socialization in the classroom environment. The 5 sources we describe below will help you to improve your knowledge of pedagogy and child behavior.


  • Child Development Info


Child Development Info is a comprehensive online resource of children-related blog posts and how-to guides. The website frequently publishes expert articles about the personal development of a child, socialization, and parenting.

Although it’s not primarily designed to help school teachers, Child Development Info can really help you understand the mind of an average kid. Due to its immaculate reputation, the website deserved the attention of numerous stakeholders in this niche, including universities, school districts, professional organizations, and public agencies.

  • Tolerance

Tolerance may well play one of the crucial roles in teaching kids how to socialize with one another. Besides that, Tolerance is also a great starting point if you want to learn how to train kids to build healthy interpersonal relationships.

It’s a website that offers tons of materials “with a community of educators committed to diversity, equity, and justice”. Tolerance provides educators with a variety of professional development tutorials dedicated to the classroom culture, teacher leadership, school climate, and community engagement.

  • Kenyaplex

Kenyaplex was primarily developed with a purpose to provide free educational information and resources to the people of Kenya, but it turned out to be surprisingly useful to school teachers worldwide. This website can help you understand how schools perform the function of socialization, but you can find many other interesting articles along the way.


  • LD Online


LD Online covers pretty much the same topics as the previous three websites, but it does come with a little twist – it gives educators the guide to learning disabilities and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

This is still a critical and even controversial topic that demands more attention, which makes LD Online a perfect choice for teachers who get to deal with it on a daily basis. The website basically represents a wide base of learning materials: from LD basics and expert advice to studying ideas and instructional strategies.

  • Psychology Today

The last website on our list is not strictly related to school and education, but it’s one of the most prominent online sources of psychology lessons. Psychology Today often publishes posts that can help you help children become comfortable and competent in social situations. This site follows the latest trends in psychology, so you can stay up to date and learn state of the art classroom teaching techniques.


An outsider may think that all school kids look alike, but teachers know that each child is a different person with completely different traits. This means school professors have to be careful and patient enough to help each pupil develop social skills.

In this post, we showed you 5 useful sources to read if you want to learn more about the classroom socialization. These websites offer a variety of tips and tactics that can make you a better pedagogue – don’t hesitate to check them out and use their lessons to ensure easier socialization and communication among students.

Understanding the Process of Learning through the Conscious Competence Model

A guest post by Silvia Woolard

Teachers keep exploring different methods of learning. Not only because they are life-long learners, but also because the best learning methods lead to the ultimate teaching methods.

Today, we’re going to explore a model we’ve all relied on in one way or another. Still, most of us are not even aware of the theory behind that practice, and we haven’t been implementing all stages properly. I’m talking about the conscious competence model, AKA the conscious competence matrix or the conscious competence ladder.

Let’s set terminology aside and focus on what’s really important: how can this model help you become a better teacher?

It all starts with understanding.

Understanding the Conscious Competence Model of Learning

Whenever we’re into the process of learning new skills, we go through different emotions at various stages of the journey.

If, for example, you’re trying to teach your students how to write research papers, they might underestimate the challenge at first. They think it’s enough to go through a few resources and sum up their findings. When they realize what a great research paper should look like, their emotions shift. They get overwhelmed and disheartened. Most of them would love to give up at this stage. They will complain about not having enough time, not having enough experience, and not having enough skills.

If you understand the conscious competence model, you’ll be able to encourage positive emotions and help the students get out of the negative mindset.

This model, initially founded as “four stages of teaching” was established by Martin M. Broadwell back in 1969. Later on, Noel Burch from Gordon Training International developed the theory known as “Four Stages for Learning Any New Skill.”                   

These are the four stages of learning a skill:

1. Unconscious Incompetence

At this point, the students are unskilled, but they are not aware of that fact. Just like when you present them with a new assignment and they assume it’s easy. They are blissfully ignorant of the fact that they don’t have a skill.

If you let them stay in this stage, the results won’t be pretty. They will simply assume they can do it in a day, just like they do with their usual homework assignment. So they will procrastinate and they will fail to deliver.

That’s why you need to move them out of this level. You’ll do that by showcasing the true nature of the challenge and introducing them closely to the type of work they need to do.

How do you do that?

  • Ask specific questions about their skills. If it’s a writing project, for example, ask if they have written something similar before. If it’s a social service project, ask them if they are aware of its goals and challenges.
  • Set objectives! Whenever you push your students to learn new skills, you have to introduce some expectations within a timeline. How will you measure those skills? When will you do that? This shouldn’t scare them away. You should set objectives as incentives that will push them to the next stage of the conscious competence model.

2. Conscious Incompetence

By this stage, the students realize they have to make an effort in order to learn a skill. If we continue with the research paper example, they realize that it will take way more time and way more research than they initially assumed.

This stage will be demoralizing for many of your students. They will lack the motivation to proceed. That’s why you have to push them forward.

  • Rely on affirmations. “No one was born skillful. Everyone can learn! There’s plenty of time by the deadline, so you can do it if you start today. You can do it!” When you approach the process with such a positive attitude, you’ll inspire your students to get out of this stage.
  • Develop a progressive schedule. A goal such as “write a research paper” seems overwhelming. If you break it up in smaller goals, it suddenly seems more achievable. For example, they can start by going through five resources that you’ll provide them. They will take notes. Then, they will extract the most important information. Then, they will develop an outline. These smaller goals are not that overwhelming.

3. Conscious Competence

At the conscious competence stage, the learner realizes they have the skills and knowledge needed for achieving particular goals. As they continue on the journey, they keep gaining more self-confidence.

It’s not the final stage, though. You want to keep your students moving forward!

  • Keep them focused on the progress. Remind them how they started and make them aware of the point they are currently at. Progress is a never-ending process, so you should keep pushing them to get better.
  • Give them opportunities to use the newly-acquired skills. If they wrote a research paper, the implementation of their research and writing skills doesn’t end there. Inspire them to start their own blogs and work on their own research.

4. Unconscious Competence            

At this stage, the students are able to use the new skills without making serious conscious efforts. These skills become part of who they are.

This is the stage when the students need to push themselves towards growth. How can they use this skill to build a successful career? Maybe they can use it for a personal project? Maybe it will be the starting point of the higher education journey? Many people become teachers when they reach this stage. They have skills and knowledge that they are ready to pass on to others.

From Unconscious Incompetence to Unconscious Competence – The Journey to Success

When you understand the emotional conflicts that your students face in different stages of the learning process, you’ll be able to take proper actions to motivate them.

There’s a lot of theory involved in this model, but its practical implementations are immense. You’ve probably noticed these stages before, but maybe you weren’t fully aware of them. Now that you are, it’s time to bring the theory to practice.

My Bio:

Silvia Woolard is a young passionate writer at Superior Papers from Phoenix. In her free time, she writes and works in a field of popular psychology. Feel free to contact Silvia at Twitter.         

Throwing Your Hands Up Will Not Make Things Better

The other day, I shared the first in a series of articles I wrote last winter on preventing teacher burnout. The end of the article included links to the rest of the series. There are articles on saying no, leaving soon after students do at the end of the day, leveraging technology to decrease your workload, getting paperwork done while students are working, and a number of other topics. I recognize that not every one of my suggestions will work for every teacher out there. Some of us have tyrannical principals. Others may be hamstrung by awful contracts. I’m sure there are many teachers whose students do not have one-to-one devices. I get that not everything I suggest teachers do can realistically be done.

But a comment left by a reader illustrated the kind of defeatist thinking I hear from too many teachers. She told me my solutions weren’t practical for most teachers. When I asked for specifics, she wrote:

Many times teachers don’t have the luxury of individuals having their own technology. After-hours activities are often mandatory, and when students are doing independent work the teachers need to monitor for behavior issues, students who need assistance, etc. Coming in early and staying late are often the only opportunities to clean the rooms. One janitor for an entire school doesn’t cut it, and reports, progress notes, lesson plans, IEPs, and state-guided binders all have to be done after hours.

All of that may indeed be true. But the sentiment behind the words strikes me as something along the lines of, “Well, I’ll never be able to get my life back and feel less overwhelmed because all of these obstacles are making it impossible.”

The solutions I offer in articles and books may not work for everyone. They might not even be possible for some teachers. But I know what definitely will not make your teaching life better: resignation. Throwing your hands up in the face of challenges that make it difficult for you to remain enthusiastic about your job, that prevent you from getting home to your family and having needed balance in your life, and that make it more likely you will become discouraged, frustrated, and burned out is not a solution.

The point of my advice is not that you do x,y, and z and everything will be hunky-dory. The point is that you do something to make things better.

If your students do not have one-to-one devices, most of you can still use technology to cut hours off your workweek. Take students to the lab. Check out the Chromebook cart. Rotate students through centers to take advantage of the six laptops you do have. Write a grant for more devices. Get on DonorsChoose.

If your contract requires you to attend after-hours activities, then go. But don’t go to the ones that aren’t required. And stop telling yourself events are mandatory when they aren’t. A principal “expecting” you to be there isn’t a requirement. The fact that the rest of the staff has been guilted into attending does not obligate you to follow suit. If you’re worried about fallout, then talk to some veteran teachers. Ask them how many teachers in the past five years have been fired for not attending after-school events. I’m confident you’ll find the number quite low.

As for getting work done while you students work, yes, you may have to deal with behavior issues. But some of those can be solved proactively. Sit the troublemakers at the table where you’ll be doing your work. Name some high-performing, early-finishing student mentors to help those who need it. Partner those who almost always need help (it’s not like you don’t know who they are) with those who like helping and are always asking you what they can do next. Most importantly, establish early on what independent work looks like and have procedures students can follow when stuck that don’t require your constant availability. And if none of the above works, try something else. You have the right to go home at night and not have a pile of paperwork to complete, but that will only happen if you do something to reduce the piles of paperwork you are taking home. So do it!

If you’ve been teaching more than five years and you’re staying after school for three hours every night, then do something different. That’s not tenable. If the room is filthy and your one janitor can’t get to it, then figure out why it’s filthy and make a change. Papers ending up on the floor? Collect them as soon as students finish. Pencils littering the linoleum? Pass them out at the start of class and collect them at the end. Stuff falling out of kids’ desks? Take everything out of their desks and have them retrieve needed items from a central storage area. Stop ten minutes earlier and have students clean.

If you’re swamped by lesson plans, progress reports, IEPs, and state-mandated paperwork, then start using other people’s lessons, ask yourself if anyone is really going to miss a progress report once in a while (and if they are, can you simplify them?), push your district to schedule IEPs during the day (and if they won’t, talk to your principal about maybe lightening your special education numbers next year since you got hammered this year), work on the stupid state-mandated nonsense while kids take stupid state-mandated tests (and don’t put much effort into them–do you really think anyone is going to spend much time reading it?)

We all have obstacles that make our jobs harder than they need to be. If your goal is to reduce the feeling that you’re overwhelmed and to gain back hours of your day to devote to things you want to do instead of things you feel like you have to do, then do what it takes to make that happen. Go around the obstacles. If that doesn’t work, go through them. But whatever you do, don’t stand there pointing at the thing in your path, telling others how it stubbornly refuses to move out of your way.


My books, Exhausted and Leave School at School both offer suggestions for how to make your teacher life my manageable. Some of those suggestions will speak to you, some will not. If you find that my ideas aren’t cutting it and are in need of different ones, then give Angela Watson’s 40-Hour Teacher Workweek Club a look. It’s comprehensive. Angela will talk you through every aspect of your teaching life as well as changes you can make at home. Sign up now, and you’ll start receiving the July materials, “The Self-Running Classroom,” including topics on designing your classroom for maximum productivity, planning procedures for a smooth first week, automating classroom routines, and establishing productive daily habits for you and your students.


The Total Time Transformation for Teachers

I started worrying about money when my daughter was born twelve years ago. Before that, I didn’t keep careful track of it. I usually had enough for what I wanted, so I didn’t bother to make a budget or record my expenses.  I never bounced a check and I didn’t abuse my credit cards, but I wasn’t getting ahead. I wasn’t saving anything.

My parents were able to pay for my college education. My wife was not as fortunate. Every month, I watched her pay off a little more of her student loans, but it seemed as if they would always be there. I didn’t want that for my daughter, so I opened a 529 account on the day she was born. Then I had to figure out how much to put into it so she could avoid borrowing money at what at the time seemed a very distant future.

It seemed less distant when I started playing with cost-of-college calculators.

I also wanted to save for retirement. I wanted to travel during the summer. I liked cruises and wanted to go on more. None of those things were going to happen if I kept doing what I was doing. I needed to change, but I didn’t know what changes to make. I had to learn.

I started with Dave Ramsey. His radio show was on every day when I drove home from school. I listened. Then I found his book, The Total Money Makeover, in a bargain bin. I bought and read it. That led to other books and resources. I learned how to make a budget, how to assign every dollar, how to track my expenses, what to spend on and where to scrimp, that I should never buy a new car, I should cut up my credit cards, and how I could save money on food by planning meals each week. I learned what to do differently, and now, 12 years later, I have a decent chunk of money set aside for my daughter’s college, a nice start to a nest egg that will supplement my pension in 12 years, and I’ve even gone on a few more cruises. 

What does this have to do with teachers transforming how they use their time?

I have no doubt that many teachers have done what I’ve done where it concerns their money.  They have monthly budgets. They watch their money closely with apps on their phones. They have automatic alerts set up to let them know of odd activity on their accounts. They check their credit scores. They sign up for services like Honey or Swagbucks so that they don’t squander a single cent. They cut coupons and follow their favorite brands on Twitter to learn about deals. They’ve bookmarked deal sites, receive emails from Groupon, and compare credit cards to find the best cashback offers. Like me, as they aged they underwent a total money makeover.

What many teachers haven’t done is a total time transformation, even though time is far more valuable than money. The same teachers who watch every penny waste countless minutes, not realizing that when time runs out it won’t matter how much money they’ve accumulated. Who among us won’t be willing to pay whatever it takes for just one more good hour with the ones we love?

Many teachers don’t like how they use their time. They know that if they don’t make changes, they will continue to spend too much of it on things that don’t the matter most to them. Each school year follows a predictable, undesirable pattern. They start out excited. They overcommit. They spend time on things they either don’t care much about or that have little impact on their students. They become frustrated, overwhelmed, and exhausted. They can’t wait for summer. When it finally hits, they take a deep breath. But then, instead of fixing the problem like they did with their wayward spending, they repeat the same mistakes. They never get the things they want.

Teachers who want more control over how they spend their time should follow the same process they did when they wanted more control over their money. 

Start with what you want. Do you want more time to spend with family? More time to exercise or devote to non-education interests? Do you want to feel less tired and more in control of your life? List those wants out.

Now, how will you get those things? What changes will you have to make to make them a reality? Will you need to leave work earlier? Stop staying yes so much? Find ways to reduce paperwork? Let go of teacher guilt? Stop comparing yourself to other teachers? Will you have to get more organized, prioritize differently, or decide to stop doing something you enjoy doing?

Whatever you need to do to get what you want, chances are you don’t really know how to do those things. If you did, you’d already be doing them. You need resources that will show you how to do the things you want to do, preferably produced by people who have done those very things you aspire to.

Fortunately, those resources exist. I recommend starting with the following:

Angela Watson’s 40-Hour Teacher Workweek Club 

My last two books, Exhausted and Leave School At School

The Well-Balanced Teacher

These courses from Learners Edge

The New Brunswick School-Based Wellness Program’s website


Start there. Learn. Think differently. Try something new. Then, each June or July, once school is out and you’ve recuperated and can start thinking a little further into the future than what you’re going to teach next week, sit down, just like people do with their finances, review your goals, see if your plan is working, recalculate as necessary, and update to be sure you’re still on track to get you where you want to be.

Time is not money. You can earn more money. So devote more effort to tracking and protecting your time than you do to monitoring and saving your money and you will end up using it more wisely.