4 ways to work without a teacher planner

The teacher planner is a near-sacred item – but this leader says that since she binned it, classroom life has become much easier

Shabnam Ahmed

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This summer, teachers all over the land will be excitedly unwrapping and pre-populating their planners for next year.

These planners will contain beautifully colour-coordinated timetables, carefully pencilled-in class lists and directed time meetings. 

It isn't hard to see why teachers love their planners. Planners are a great organisation resource: everything you need in one place, and a constantly updated document recording the events of the year. 

But I came to realise that my planner wasn't right for me. In fact, it was paradoxically both too much and not enough.

I found some sections weren't being used, whereas in others, I ran out of space. Sometimes, it felt like I was adding things into my planner for the sake of it.

After years of feeling increasingly dissatisfied, I decided to bite the bullet and ditch my planner. If you're tempted to go planner-free, here are my best tips for making it work for you:

1. Reduce your book-load

For day-to-day teaching, you need to refer to multiple bits of information. To accommodate this, I had accumulated three separate notebooks: a teacher planner, a meeting notebook, and a to-do list. I was drowning in books.

So I made the decision to slowly move everything over to a simple day-to-view diary. Everything I need goes in this book: my timetable, my to-do list and my meeting notes. It meant everything was all in one place, I didn’t need extra books - and, unlike my teacher planner, there were no unused sections being wasted.  

2. Go digital 

I turn my laptop on every day around 8am, and it stays on until the end of the working day. It took quite a lot of convincing for me to move my meetings and appointments (and even my lessons) to my online calendar, but the time invested paid off.

I love the fact a little reminder 15 minutes before my meeting pops up in the corner of my laptop, and others can see when I’m busy and when I’m available.

What’s even better is that I can invite people to the meeting – and even attach a link if it's online.

3. Avoid duplication

Whereas before I would have to use my school software to keep track of student data and then duplicate this in my mark book, I now just keep everything in one place.

With online platforms available, why would you run the risk of the GDPR nightmare of losing your mark book? Since I decided to keep everything in just one, secure, and online place, my life has become easier. And because it is all online, anyone within my department can access it, which is great for departmental planning. 

4. Go to a cloud for lessons

I know it seems quite terrifying, but I have converted to using an online presentation programme as my lesson planner. I have one rolling presentation document for each of my classes (or topics), and I use this to plan my lessons.

To make it easier to plan, I add a cover slide at the beginning of each lesson and jot down what I’d like to cover in the next lesson. It’s also really handy to flick back through the slides and see how much we achieved in a lesson.

More lessons to learn

This list isn’t an exhaustive one. I have found so many benefits from moving from a teacher planner to a diary: it’s cost-effective; I can adapt it in any way I want; everything is kept in one place.

Going planner free is low maintenance and a much more efficient way of organising yourself. I would highly recommend converting to life beyond a planner. 

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Shabnam Ahmed

Shabnam Ahmed

Shabnam Ahmed is head of Year 13 at a secondary school in Suffolk

Find me on Twitter @Shabnamagram

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