Classroom Management

The Secret to Getting Out the Door When the School Day Ends

Do you ever get stuck at school? You know, you have a plan to leave at 4 pm, but then you start doing “just one more thing.” Then, your friend that teaches third grade comes down to “just say good bye on her way out” and, oh wait, there are a few paintbrushes in the sink. You know how it goes. By the time you’ve done everything it’s 6pm, it’s starting to get dark, and you’re starving.

Today I’d like to share five simple tips to get you out the door when your contract time is up.

secret out the door

1. Set up for your first morning class after your last class leaves for the day.

After your last class of the day leaves, pretend your NEXT class is coming in right after. Pretend you only have five or ten minutes to set up for them. Fill water buckets, set out table folders, whatever you need to do, do it now. I can’t tell you how awesome it is to walk into a room every morning and not have to worry about setting anything up. It frees up the morning for other small tasks, allowing you to get a jump start on your to-do list and make it more likely that you won’t get bogged down over the course of the day. Less piled up work at the end of the day means you get to leave quicker.

2. Shut out distractions.

This one can be tricky, but while you’re setting up for the morning class, keep your door shut. Then keep it shut for at least ten more minutes. This gives the signal to other teachers that you’re working. You’ll be surprised what you can do with an extra 20 minutes of uninterrupted work time. Of course, you don’t want to isolate yourself, so make sure to socialize during lunch or make a sweep of the building before you head out.

3. Organize your to-do list by time.

When you write your to-do list for the day, put the items that will take the least amount of time at the top and the items that will take the most amount of time at the bottom. If you find yourself with a few extra minutes, choose an item from the top of the list. Save the items at the bottom of the list for your prep time or after school. Organizing your list this way makes it more likely that you will have gotten through everything come 4pm.

4. Enlist student helpers for non-traditional tasks.

I’m betting a lot of us have students do things like sharpen pencils and wash brushes, and why shouldn’t they? They’re the ones that use the supplies, it’s a great way to teach responsibility and strangely, they seem to love it. However, if a student wants to help, but you don’t have any regular student jobs available, think outside the box. I’ve had students unload the drying rack, cut yarn to length for weaving, fill water buckets for the following class period, and reorganize the classroom library. Think about what jobs students can do and keep a running list posted that they can choose from if they’d like. You’ll get more help then you know what to do with and save a ton of time prepping materials in the process!

5. Look for ways to become more efficient.

Art teaching is hard work. It’s tough mentally and tough physically. Sit down and think about your day in terms of the little things. Can you use a closer bathroom, take a different route to lunch or organize your drying rack for quicker emptying? One example from my classroom is that I filled water buckets with two hands with the water running full blast. It sounds like something so small, but each time I did it, it saved about two minutes, which added up to 10 minutes a day if every class was painting. Multiply that by a week, and bam, I just earned myself almost an extra hour.

Choosing even one or two of these ideas to implement can get you on your way to getting out the door on time and on to enjoying other parts of your life, and that’s a very, very good thing.

Tell us, what are your best time management secrets?

Do you leave when you can or do you often get stuck at school?


Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Amanda Heyn

Amanda Heyn is AOEU’s Director of K–12 PD & Media and a former AOEU Writer and elementary art educator. She enjoys creating relevant and engaging professional development just for art teachers.

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