How do you work smarter, not harder?

Family & Consumer Science Teachers work harder than almost any other teacher, in my opinion, for many reasons.  First, we have a lot of different preps that core subject teachers often do not have. Many of my core colleagues teach the same 2-3 preps all day long while I typically have 5. I know many of you have significantly more!  Secondly, if you teach a foods class of any kind, you have additional planning and prep along with grocery shopping to squeeze into your day or week. I don’t know about you, but I am at the point in my teaching career that I would like to work smarter, not harder regularly so that I’m not only sane by the end of the day or week, but still have some patience and energy left to deal with anything that comes up at home or with family.  And finally, not spend what seems like every waking moment of evenings and weekends dealing with school work whether it be planning, creating or grading. Since most of us learn best from each other, thus this new feature!  Ideally, I’d like to continuously update this post, as well as pose other questions, that inquiring teachers, experienced or inexperienced, may have. I started by including responses I got from a Facebook post, but for this to really work, I’d love to hear from all of you and how you work smarter, not harder!  Let’s help each other be more efficient in the classroom! You can share in the comments below or email me at and I’ll update the post as new information is shared.  Additionally, if you have a burning question that you would like me to pose to other teachers, share the same way and I’ll create a post.

How do you work smarter, not harder with…

Planning & Prepping?

  • We have to turn digital lesson plans in for the upcoming week by 8 AM on Monday so I print off a copy of my weekly plan instead of rewriting it in my plan book.  I will use my plan book to make notes if something needs to be edited or tweaked because it didn’t go as planned.  Since my basic curriculum stays the same from one year to the next, I can simply pull up last year’s copy and edit any changes.
  • Another thing I started doing, was to hyperlink all of my units, lessons, activities, websites, YouTube clips and projects by course and unit.  This has been invaluable as all of the resources for each unit are in one location, much like this website is an online filing cabinet.

Organizing & Creating Lessons or Projects?

  • Don’t reinvent the wheel….adapt what you need to and move on.  Only recreate the entire lesson, project or activity if it totally doesn’t work as is or needs to be completely updated due to things like technology or information website/link changes.  I had to do this with many of my lessons when we went 1:1.
  • I will say that I like formatting my lessons as Hyperdocs as it helps keep the content focused.  I don’t always share those with students, I just use them as my lesson plan.
  • If the technique or project works, utilize it for as many classes as you can. For example, if I’m doing a PSA project for a child development class and I think the same project will work in a foods class with a different topic, I will adapt it.  Don’t let a good project go to waste in one class just because you’ve used it in another.  Most students either don’t mind if they have you for more than one period per day or they simply don’t remember that they have done something similar before.
  • Make a digital copy of everything and place it in a folder! Keep your budget in Google Sheets and link your grocery list and copies of purchase orders with each lab. Link assessments onto lesson plans for quick and easy references.
  • Make copies ahead of time.
  • If a student can do it you don’t have to!  Get them involved!  Getting caught up in the “I can do it myself” mode is  not helpful to ANYONE. So, keep the focus on how to help students be responsible for their own progress.
  • Color code! Organize files and keep by grade level/units, copies ahead of time and try to stay one week ahead.
  • Plan your plan time. If you don’t have a plan going in, you waste it…sucked into email or whatever. I have a routine.
  • Keep a binder of all lesson plans and activities so that you can easily copy for students who were absent or reference for the following school year.
  • Create a PowerPoint of your Bell Ringers, so you don’t need to write them each day on the board.
  • Before you leave school at the end of the day: have your lesson plan and supplies out, objectives written on the board, everything downloaded, and labs set up.
  • At the end of the school year make copies for the following school year, the copies you will need the first couple of weeks.
  • Get your filing cabinet, desk, and room organized however works best for you.
  • Type up your state standards and either print them off and display them or include them in your daily notes/PowerPoint. Then review them with your students at the beginning of class so they understand what will be taught that day.
  • Use a digital planner such as this one & then print them out weekly. I use the binder of the previous years a lot to see exactly what I want to use, how long it really took, and what I want to change.
  • Pace yourself! If you have something very demanding of you in some classes try to assign something a bit more student driven in a couple others.


  • When giving quizzes, defer to Google forms, quizlet, kahoot and/or quizizz to do the grading for me.  Use these from one year to the next and edit as needed if something needs to be updated.
  • Take the time to create a rubric for any project assignments for both you and students.  Students know exactly what is expected, what you are looking for.  You can just go down the rubric as you grade.
  • If asking students to complete a project, have them partner up whenever possible.  You can ask each to show you their ideas before completing the assignment or if using Google docs/slide, you can look at the history and see who completed what, making it easier to assign individual and/or group grades.
  • Change up your review games. Try different ones, it helps with differentiation.

Classroom Management & Organization?

  • Set your bar high!  You will have less problems if students know your expectations.  I was taught a long time ago to start out being firm and fair as it’s easier to ease up as students learn your rules and how how you run your “ship”.  I’ve always followed that philosophy and have never regretted it, nor do I have to send very many students to the office for disciplinary issues.
  • If students are not living up to your expectations, call them out on it immediately!  If you let it go, they will continue to expect you to let it go and things can get really out of control and difficult to rein back in.
  • It helps in the long run not to answer everyone’s questions. Tell them how to find it and send them on their way, they’ll have a much better chance of remembering it & you’ve given them the skills to problem solve on their own!
  • Assign jobs in each class – other than typical lab responsibilities. For example, door greeter, light switch operator, substitute helper, paper passer outer, paper picker upper – not necessarily the names I use, but they work in middle school!
  • Color code! Have a color coded place for each class to turn in work (I use magazine file boxes). Each class also has a color coded clipboard to check for makeup work when they have been absent. Don’t sweat the small stuff, like pencils and paper. I keep a few pencils for students or they can use a crayon or marker! I give color coded objective sheets at the beginning of each unit and they serve as divider pages in their folders.

Labs & Kitchen Management?

  • Try out new recipes ahead of time so you know how long they will take you to complete and then you can adjust accordingly for your students.  This also applies for group sewing labs/projects.  If it took me one hour to sew an item, I knew to triple my time for the students to complete.
  • Get your students involved when it comes to cleaning and organizing your kitchens.  My junior high rotation has a built in cleaning day so that the kitchens get thoroughly cleaned and organized every six weeks.  They only have to do this as 7th graders…it’s their rite of passage!

Grocery Shopping?

  • I’m in a unique situation as a couple of years ago, our school incorporated a life skills class.  The teacher of this program is always looking for ways to get his students out into real world situations, giving them real world experiences.  So, about two years ago, we partnered up and I give him my weekly list of groceries, when possible, along with my phone number in case the store is out of something and his students go to the store for me.  They bring the groceries back to school and I put them away.  Most of the time this works well for all of us. His students get experience and I save time running to and from the store on my time! The downside is that if I need something fresh or last minute then I have to go to the store after school.
  • Try to keep ingredients local and common so you don’t have to go looking for that one special ingredient.  With Amazon, this is a little easier to find and have delivered at your doorstep if an usual ingredient eludes you!
  • Organize grocery lists by sections in the store. It saves time and money!


  • I utilize Google Classroom and it’s been a lifesaver for me!
  • Utilize the expertise of your students when it comes to using electronic devices when you experience problems. And yes, you will experience glitches from time to time.  Students are definitely more adept and knowledgeable at navigating through new technologies and many will even appreciate the fact that you recognize them and respect them for their capabilities and willingness to help!

Grading Assignments, Projects & Bell Ringers?

  • Pick and choose wisely!  You don’t have to grade everything!  Go over what you can in class, check for completion, just grade certain sections, etc.  I know this is sometimes easier said than done as you don’t want your assignments to come off as “busy work”.
  • Let technology do the grading for you when possible such as quizlet, quizizz and google forms.
  • Involve your students with peer evaluations for specific criteria or information.  Not only does it keep them engaged in the presentation, but it forces them to look for specific criteria which helps to solidify the information you’re trying to teach.


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