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This month, we are diving back into the archives looking at episodes from March of the season one. So this was last year, 2021 taking the most popular episodes from our mini planning series and revisiting them because this is relevant information for any year. Any year of your practice, even if you want to relisten, this is content that folks have said : They have actually gone through my course on this several times and found extreme value in looking at it at different parts throughout the pandemic, different year to year. Just having a different planning process, teaching different things, we're just needing a refresher on what that content reminded them to do. So I hope you enjoy, from the archives, our planning series. This is gonna be five episodes in March. It includes how do you spend your time, all of the tips on planning, the beliefs that get in the way, advancing wellness and efficient effective lesson planning. Be sure to listen to them all.
Or if you're just using a refresher, listen to the ones that you think a refresher would be incredibly valuable for you and inspiring for you to paint that picture of what it looks like to take less work home, be more efficient, effective and really your best teacher or educator or leader self.
How do you spend your planning time? If you're a teacher and if you're an administrator, an instructional coach, leader, how do you spend your time? What's the breakdown? If you could categorize exactly what you're doing and what themes that falls into, what types of activities make up the bulk of your work week? What would it be and how many of those activities are super high leverage? Today we are diving into talking about our planning process. How do we plan, How do we use our time? Are the activities that we are engaging in regularly giving us the big wins that we want and if not how do we shift our planning practice? This is going to be episode one in a mini series, all about strategic planning. So let's dive in.
Hi, I'm Lindsay Lyons and I love helping school communities envision bold possibilities, take brave action to make those dreams a reality and sustain an inclusive, anti-racist culture where all students thrive. I'm a former teacher leader turned instructional coach, educational consultant and leadership scholar. If you're a leader in the education world, whether you're a principal, superintendent, instructional coach or a classroom teacher excited about schoolwide change like I was, you are a leader. And if you enjoy nerding out about the latest educational books and podcasts, if you're committed to a lifelong journey of learning and growth and being the best version of yourself, you're going to love the Time for Teachership podcast. Let's dive in.
Life as a teacher or instructional leader is challenging and while a lot of p.d. focuses on what we, as teachers can do better regarding curriculum, pedagogy, which it totally should, we often don't have any opportunities to talk about the inner workings of our planning time.
My 2021 word of the year is "strategic" and it stems from knowing I need to be strategic about how I spend my time, if I want to be the best educator I can be. It's like that 80-20 principle : 80% of the things you do generate about 20% of your results, whereas 20% of the things that we do generate 80% of our results. I just have to identify what that 20% is and double down on my time spent there. This strategy that I'll share with you today produced major results for me as a teacher and now I need to apply that as an instructional coach and leader.
This is the first episode in a series of episodes around planning and not just planning, but planning strategically, with purpose, with focus that gives us a lot of results with just a bit less input. We don't have to spend hours and hours and hours getting the results we're getting now if we can shift our ability to plan to be more strategic and focused. And so we'll talk about a lot of pieces to this puzzle but just today we're going to focus on a strategy for inventorying how we currently spend our time and setting a goal for a more strategic use of our time, based on what we aspire to do, based on an analysis of what are those 20% of activities that are getting us the 80% of our results,
and also thinking about the shift from how we currently spend our time.
So our goal breakdown of how we spend that time is going to be based in a shift that's likely substantial if we want to think big, but also manageable from what we're currently doing. So it's difficult to know how many hours of work teachers routinely bring home if we're not constantly talking about this stuff, if we're not having opportunities for teachers to sit in dialogue with one another in a staff meeting, for example whether it be in person or on zoom of course or you know what percentage of our planning time we actually spend on specific activities like grading or lesson planning or researching new lesson resources, which I know is a common concern for a lot of listeners. And I wanted to spell the mystery a bit. So at least for my own planning story I want to share with you on this episode today exactly how I spent my planning time as a teacher when I started teaching, and then after I made this shift and applied the strategy. There was, as you can imagine, a very huge shift from year one to the last several years I taught and I want to share both where I started and where I eventually ended up.
But first I want to talk you through the strategy that I used and today's episode freebie is going to be what I call a 50 40 10 planning bundle and that bundle is about eight pages of documents of kind of synthesized research as well as kind of a step by step checklist as well as planning templates that you could print or use a program like pdf editor like adobe to edit directly. But this is an opportunity for us all I think, to just dive in and just inventory. How are we currently using our time? Where do we get the biggest bang for our buck, so to speak And where can we shift so that we're more intentional in our planning, we spend less time on the things that don't get us the results and more time on the things that do. And this also opens us up to be able to bring our best selves to the work to be able to show up with that full energy because we didn't spend the entire weekend sunup to sundown each day trying to create something or work on something that didn't actually generate the results that we needed.
This is a really big shift that I made and I want to help educators get there as well. When we're thinking about growing and improving our practice and taking on new initiatives or implementing new strategies or shifts in our practice. It can be really difficult if we're not taking something off our plates. if we're constantly adding and adding. We just have an overflowing plate and that's not going to help anyone get anything done. And so this is all about really removing the unnecessary or the things that don't produce as big results as we could be producing in order to get to a place where we're really thinking strategically and making those big powerful high leverage tests. So let's dive in.
What I would like for us to do, kind of a high level overview is think about the buckets that your activities throughout. For example, one week of school, what buckets or categories or themes do the activities that you routinely do fall into? I want you to analyze how you currently spend your time and how many minutes or how many hours do you spend with each of those buckets,
and then do you have kind of an other category? A lot of times we have another category of things that aren't really high leverage. For example, meetings that they don't have a concrete purpose. They're just kind of meetings that you feel like you're not getting a lot out of, or paperworks, completing a lot of paperwork is often something that's found in other columns. So if there's something that feels not very high leverage, you can always throw it into that bucket. And then what we want to do after doing that is we want to cut or reduce those low impact activities and add or maybe revamp our high impact activities to give them even more leverage. A caveat to say everyone's planning time can absolutely look different and I'm going to share with you what my shift was, what my recommendation is, but just know that your ratio, your percentage, your categories can absolutely look different and so these are all open ended questions to think through as we go through this strategy.
So here's the breakdown that I recommend. I call it 50 40 10 because I have identified three different buckets and the ratio of time spent. If we look at the percentage breakdown of our hours in our planning time as a teacher, I found that the best ratio for the highest leverage instruction for me and the biggest results for my kids was 50% planning for quality instruction.
So designing the content, collecting resources, putting together the lessons, whatever that looks like, but I'm planning for quality instruction. Maybe I am adapting or personalizing for different students, creating different pathways. Planning for quality instruction is half of the time that I spent.
The next piece is typically the most shocking, and the biggest departure from what teachers do on a regular basis. And that's 40% of our time being spent on professional development. This doesn't necessarily mean just staff meetings. It could be listening to a podcast on the way to work, or stopping by a colleague's class, again in person or on zoom reading the latest educational research, following an educational blog, following a person on twitter, that's an educational consultant or constantly sharing great educational articles. Any of these pieces could be professional development and I want to just make sure that's a really broad category. But this piece is all about learning, what could I be doing better?
Student feedback is the third category and this is just 10%. And I say this because a lot of times we spend time on entering grades in a grade book and you know, sometimes that's because we have structures set up that we have to comply with. And so this might be a larger conversation around the school with administrators. If you are an administrator listening, thinking about what is that conversation going to look like at your school? Maybe jumping into that and asking teachers about this. I say student feedback explicitly here as opposed to grading. That naming is really intentional because it's not just about grades. In fact, when we look at the research formative feedback or feedback that is qualitative, over slapping a number or a letter grade on it, is actually way more productive in terms of student learning. And so I'm talking about that immediate, in the moment feedback, most of that's going to be during class time. But if not, we're grading a larger project or something and we need to grade outside of class, we're going to provide qualitative feedback. And if we're doing most of it in class, that enables our student feedback that we're working on outside of class during our planning time to take less of our time.
So if we do 90% of our student feedback in the moment in the class and we find ways to do that, whether that's using technology to auto grade really quick content based questions, or jumping into a breakout room, or jumping into have one on one meetings with students wherever possible to say, "hey, this is what I'm seeing here. Why don't we think about this." And just kind of push the thinking in small, small ways that don't need a great attached to them. One of the reasons that I came up with this breakdown as well is looking at the research of John Hattie and the effect sizes of different activities on student learning. When we think about the stuff, it is deeply rooted in the research. When we think about quality instruction, it's because when we deliver quality instruction, we raise student achievement two grade levels in one year. That is the potential there. When we invest in our learning and we have collective teacher efficacy, that is more helpful to student learning than any other activity that was inventoried in Hattie's research.
The professional development is critical.
Being able to be confident in our learning and our knowledge as educators collectively, not just as an individual teacher, but as a school, and then backing that up with the data and seeing that has an improvement on student learning, that's huge. So that's why that's 40%. And again, student feedback. When we look at the different types of feedback rating versus formative in the moment, feedback qualitative versus quantitative, again, we see that formative piece being really powerful and so most of that's happening during class time. When we think about student feedback outside, we can then reduce it to 10% if we're doing most during class.
So again, 50 40 10: 50% planning for quality instruction, 40% professional development of some kind, 10% student feedback. And this could look different. Your categories could look different, your percentages or ratios could look different. But here's what we want to do. First, I want you to take just one week and I want you to track what you're doing during your planning time. So down to the minute, you don't have to track what you're doing during a class. That's a different conversation. You can absolutely do that. And I highly encourage that things like teacher talk time versus student work time or talk time.
I think these are really powerful things to do. But here we're talking about our planning time, non instructional time. And for leaders, if we're not in classrooms, same thing. right? What are we doing all day, all week? So I want you to inventory the minutes that you're spending or the hours that you're spending on each kind of activity. And I want you to try to categorize them into approximately three, maybe four themes. Again, you can use that other category that feels like it's maybe not high leverage, but just things that can't be taken off your plate perhaps? I then want you to identify from that list, your biggest time drain. So the things that are in that other category, are there ways you could do that faster? Could you kind of techify it and make it automated in some way using some technology? Or could you, if you're teaching embedded into your class, if you're a leader or instructional coach, could you delegate it or even take it completely off the plate?
I then want you to identify opportunities for professional development. Again, this could look a lot of different ways but figure out what works for you.
And also try to figure out what are the big goals that you have as an educator, as a leader and what p.d. is going to get you there. So thinking about topic and as I've spoken about before in personalized pd conversations on the podcast, thinking also about format. What's the format that's going to work for you? Is it listening, if you're still commuting, to a podcast on your commute. Or is it merging kind of your well being goals around moving for 21 minutes a day? For example, 21 for 21, I just heard about that. I thought it was a great idea. And could we listen to educational podcasts for that 21 minutes of movement each day? So thinking about ways that don't add things to your plate, but maybe merging them with some other goals so there's overlap.
I want you to then set a weekly time limit for each bucket activity. One of the big things for me was I was taking so long planning each lesson, I had to set a weekly time limit. Once I set my ratio and I divided my total amount of planning time during a week, again this is when I was teaching, I then said, "okay, I have five hours total of planning time each week, 2.5 hours is going to be by 50% which is devoted to planning instruction."
I have 30 minutes each day to be able to develop my lessons for the next day, which was so much shorter. I mean maybe 1/20 of the time that I had been spending previously on planning lessons. So I mean it was drastic and I got there over time. But trying to figure out what that is for you. Once you do the ratio you figure out your categories, you figure out how many hours per week do you want to be spending, not what you are, but what do you want based in some degree on what you are spending now and then make it more ideal. You want to set your goals and so you want to set your time caps for each. And for some professional development, it might not be a time cap that you need to set. For me even still as an instructional coach and educational consultant in that leader role, I find myself not doing enough p.d., and so I know that's something that I need to set as something I need to work up to, not something I need to limit. Whereas other things like paperwork or things in my other categories, I do need to limit and set a cap for.
And then I want you, once you have all this done, you have your categories, you have your ideal ratio and you've converted that into minutes based on how many hours you're working or how much planning time you have, potentially converting it to hours whatever works for you,
I want you to practice for one week and I want you to stick to the set times, and this can be really difficult. when I was setting my 30 minute planning time per lesson or per day of lessons. I had to get really creative. I had to leverage some really low prep strategies that had high impact and I had to make it happen. And sometimes I looked at that clock particularly early on because I would literally set a timer on my phone and I would say, "oh my gosh, I have 10 minutes left." and I feel like I've done nothing. I've spent, you know, these 20 minutes just like Googling a new activity when I know I have some high leverage ones that I already used and I could have had something pretty much done already. And so in the last 10 minutes I would have to do that. I would have to pull from what I knew already worked. Instead of trying to get really creative every day. I would have to locate the key places. I would find really great resources consistently, pull from there, as opposed to just straight up Googling. And I would have to really figure out what's going to work for me. And of course you're going to revise and reflect this as you move forward. So please feel free to share any of your successes, your tips, your strategies, even take a picture of the planning time inventory document which is on this free resource for the week.
I'm going to share with you, and share it with us, share that picture on the time for Teachership community, ask for support.
There's kind of two ways to do this. One is retrospectively. There's one planning document in here that is an inventory for each week. And then another one that's aspirational. At the start of the week, a strategic plan if you will, for the upcoming week where it divides your percentages into your three buckets. It reminds you of your overall vision, your big thinking for the year or the semester, and then it also gives you a place with suggested activities for that opportunity. And you can feel free to make your own. So for example, for planned lessons, my activity bank looked like Socratic seminar, chat stations, student presentations, because those were three go-to activities that I knew if I was planning lessons in a very reduced amount of time, I could use those to pull really, really quickly. I already had a template for those activities in my class and I could use that. Or the learning category, the professional development one. My activity bank looked like podcast, book, blog, visit another class plan or problem solved with a colleague.
Again, just ideas for me to get up to that 40% of my time being about professional development.
For giving feedback, I would sometimes have to reduce the amount of feedback or streamline or automate the feedback I was giving. So my activity bank for that looked like auto graded quizzes, pure feedback protocol, conference during independent work time. And so again, these activity banks are helping us reach our goals for this. If you're a leader, this could look a little different for you. So I, in my template, have for you three buckets : supporting instruction, being 50%,, 40% being build leadership capacity and then 10% being the p.d. you're investing in your growth. For that, I have for an activity bank of supporting instruction, visiting classes, coaching teachers, having those one on one meetings, sharing strategies with teachers that you either looked up, research, or connecting them with educational blogs and podcasts that could consistently provide that p.d. for them later on.
Building leadership capacity could look like inviting teachers to lead p.d. around topics of interest or strength covering teacher classes so that they can go visit other classes in the moment, supporting PLCs.
And then investing in your own growth: podcast, spoken or blog, again, problem solving with other leaders or visiting another school. And if school is doing remote or hybrid learning that could look like just jumping on a call or a staff meeting, sitting in the back of a zoom room even with your your camera off, just being able to observe and see how other folks are doing things in this moment. So for me as a teacher in years one and two, really I spent 20 hours of time outside of the school hours and my process was really work intensive but super low leverage. It wasn't generating the results I needed. And when I looked at my time and how I was spending it, 90% of my time was on lesson planning, 10% of my time was on grading or feedback and 0% of my time was on professional growth. And this is so hard to think about. I feel deeply sad for myself and my students because that was just not at all what I knew would be working and I could see that it wasn't producing results.
And so when I shifted over time and experimented pretty boldly actually with different approaches to planning, I was greatly aided by p.d., either provided by the school or things that I sought out on my own. And I was really excited to tinker with that formula and it ended up saving me. I calculated at about 700 hours per school year, which is monumental. And so it reduced my time spent planning outside of school to just 0-2 hours a week, which is a world of difference. I experienced life incredibly differently. At this point, my process was really finding those high leverage pieces and being able to meet that 50 40 10 piece. What I was able to do with my life outside of school was again, also exciting because it was just a different life I was living. I did things that I had always wanted to do. I was able to run the New York City Marathon at the same time that I was in a full time PhD program, which I finished in three years while full time teaching. I mean, the possibilities are endless. Whatever it is that you want to do, It is possible, but it takes a lot of strategic planning and rethinking how we're currently doing things and what those high leverage pieces are. What's 20% of the work we're doing now that's producing 80% of our results and how do we double down on that?
Just as an educational consultant, I created a time inventory for myself. And what I figured out was I really want a goal of 50% creation, create podcasts, create blogs, create courses and content. 40% is going to be learning for me. And again, that's going to look like some online courses. It's going to look like following blogs and podcasts that I love. And I do have a lot of my learning in my meetings in my facilitation or support role, though there's some overlap between these categories for me, so I might still need to tinker with them a little bit and get clear on what they are and where certain activities fall into which category.
The last piece really is that 10% support. And so if I can enable teachers to use things like online courses where they can tap into the resources I've created whenever they have time, write a blog post or a podcast can be consumed whenever the listener or reader has time, that's probably best for everyone involved. It frees me up to create more things and it enables more people to be able to consume the content because they can consume it at time that they have.
But also live workshops are still a very real piece of what it means to provide support and so that's still a piece of my work, my 50 40 10 breakdown of educational consulting and instructional coaching does not look like that 50 40 10 I just shared. I wanted it to be right now. 31.5% is just planning and prep time. That's my other category. Creating is about 37%. Support is about 25% and learning is only 6.5. So again, I have some work to do alongside everyone else. Please please share with us what this journey looks like for you and tune into our next episode of our mini series, which will come in another two weeks. So get excited about more conversation about strategic planning.
Thanks for listening amazing educators. If you loved this episode, you can share it on social media and tag me @lindsaybethlyons or leave a review of the show, so leaders like you will be more likely to find it. Until next time leaders continue to think big, act brave, and be your best self.
Lindsay is a educator and leadership coach who helps teachers develop engaging project-based curricula, fosters student and teacher voice, and works to advance racial and gender equity and culturally responsive practice.