Prep time gives teachers an opportunity to plan lessons, look over the work their students have done and take care of other tasks, such as contacting parents. In order to make the most of this time, it is important for teachers to minimize distractions and interruptions. Teachers should also plan ahead in order to avoid spending this time trying to determine what should be done or what needs to be done. The following tips can help teachers get the most out of their prep time.

Have a plan in place. Teachers should figure out what they are going to spend their prep time doing ahead of time. This prevents teachers from having to spend time deciding which tasks to do during prep time. Teachers should make a list of what they want to accomplish during this time and prioritize these tasks. Having a plan in place allows teachers to get right to work when they have prep time. Teachers should keep in mind that they might not be able to get to all of the tasks on their list, which makes prioritizing these tasks essential. 

Put a sign on the door. Teachers who experience frequent interruptions from other teachers during prep time might benefit from posting a sign on the door. This sign could simply have a message on it, such as “please do not interrupt,” or state that planning or grading is currently taking place. Having this sign on the door during prep periods gives other teachers notice that they should not interrupt. Another option is to hang an object on the door as a sign that it is prep time, such as a ribbon, and let other teachers know what this means when they see it.

Limit unplanned interactions. Teachers only get limited periods of time for prep work. Having staff or other teachers step into the classroom to chat or hold impromptu meetings reduces the amount of time that teachers have for planning, grading work or taking care of other important tasks. Teachers should politely but firmly let others know that they are busy with prep time and do not have time to chat. If staff or other teachers stop by to discuss professional matters during prep time, teachers can ask them to wait until later to talk about these issues or send an email instead.

Minimize distractions. Interruptions from others are not the only distractions that teachers deal with during prep time. They might also be distracted by the urge to check their phone or personal email. Teachers should keep their phone out of sight and check it during lunch or after school to avoid spending more time than they intended on personal matters instead of focusing on prep time tasks.

Talk to the principal. If interruptions during prep time become a regular problem, teachers should consider talking to the principal about it. They should let the principal know how much of an impact these interruptions are having on their ability to complete tasks during prep periods. Principals might be able to help limit or prevent these interruptions by holding a staff meeting or speaking to staff individually in private.

Keep in mind that the amount of prep time teachers have available can vary from school to school or from district to district.