72. From Chaos to Clarity: Using SOPs as the Ultimate Teacher Tool to Simplify, Streamline, and Avoid BurnoutSep 19, 2023
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If you've ever been overwhelmed with the mental to-do's, the steps needed to get stuff done in the classroom, or just didn't have the time to show a colleague, student, or parent how or what to do, then you need the ultimate tool for streamlining and simplifying as a teacher.
Here's the thing, every minute counts during our workdays as educators, and the demands on teachers seem to multiply daily. That's why finding effective solutions to simplify your workload and regain control of your teaching experience can be a game-changer. That's where Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) step in as your secret weapon.
In this episode, we dive into the power of SOPs in simplifying your teaching life and preventing burnout, the 10 reasons you need to start creating SOPs for your classroom, templates to get you started, and a game-changing, less-than-60-second hack that will completely transform how you automate your classroom tasks.
- Personal experience in burnout & over complicated teaching
- The Power of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in education.
- The parallels between SOPs and classroom procedures.
- The benefits of implementing SOPs in teaching, including time-saving and stress reduction.
- The cognitive burden teachers often face due to the mental load of various tasks.
- How SOPs serve as a solution to alleviate this cognitive burden.
- Examples of SOPs in teaching
- How SOPs in the classroom help recogne the potential for automation
- How SOPs can support us delegating tasks to reduce teacher burnout.
- Three types of SOPs: for substitutes, grading, and student tasks.
- The flexibility of SOPs in adapting to changing needs.
- The psychological impact of streamlining teaching tasks.
- A simplified approach to creating SOPs and automation with a FREE Google Extension
- Introduction to Tango: a free tool for automating SOP creation.
- The potential of SOPs to create self-running classrooms and reduce burnout among educators.
RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE:
- The FREE SOP Teacher Toolkit: Beat Burnout and Streamline Your Teaching Journey
- Get the Tango Chrome Extension
- Join the Waitlist for Automate Your Classroom Course - Learn the step-by-step roadmap TO creating a sustainable teacher task simplification and automation system to beat burnout, squash stress, get back YOUR time, and sustain your career in education
- Take the FREE Teacher Burnout Roadmap to Burnout Recovery Quiz - Take this short, fun, and informative quiz to discover what you need to sustain your teaching career and begin burnout recovery. This quiz will help you understand what support systems you need, how to prioritize your mental health to live a fulfilling and energized life as a teacher, and what drives your self-care.
- Missing Assignment Google Form to Automatic Email Template - Your Go-To for Teacher Communication Simplification is in this Google Form to Automatic E-mail Guide
- FREE Parent Communication Documentation Form
CONNECT WITH BRITTANY:
- Connect with Brittany on Instagram @teachingmindbodyandsoul
- Learn more on TikTok with Brittany @msprincessteach
- Episode 41: Sustainability Secrets: Overcoming Stress Responses in the Classroom
- Episode 42: Teach Smarter, Not Harder: Achieving Sustainability without Sacrificing Your Life [SUSTAINABILITY SERIES]
- Episode 43: Teacher Burnout Busting Systems: 3 Steps to Creating a Personalized Lesson Planning System with Sara Marye [SUSTAINABILITY SERIES]
- Episode 44: The Battle Against Teacher Burnout: The Ultimate Strategies for Managing Job Creep in Education [SUSTAINABILITY SERIES]
- Episode 45: 5 Simple Automations to Streamline Teaching & Squash Stress [SUSTAINABILITY SERIES]
MORE ABOUT THE RESILIENT TEACHER PODCAST:
The Resilient Teacher Podcast is the show that will give overwhelmed educators the support, tools, and mindset to reduce teacher burnout and keep teaching sustainable. Each week, Brittany Blackwell, M.Ed. & her guests will share inspiration and actionable steps to avoid or recover from the dreaded teacher burnout. You'll be inspired to individualize self-care and learn to prioritize your well-being and mental health, all while making a bigger impact on your classrooms and community.
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Overwhelmed with Teaching Tasks
[0:00] Look, I know I'm not the only teacher who has dealt with the cognitive overload of actually just being a teacher. It's like there's like 50 million things to do. Lesson planning, grading, classroom management, communication with parents, and that doesn't even like touch the surface, of actually like interacting and engaging with students. And if all of those tasks are just swimming around in your brain, hopping from like neuron to neuron, then it's basically like brain clutter. You have to get that stuff out in order to feel a little more in control. Like if you go into your bedroom and it's completely trashed with clothes at every corner, dust, trash, just like really a disheveled mess, you're gonna have to pick up each piece and put it where it belongs. The same goes with those tasks inside of your brain. If you put each thing in your floor into piles, it's gonna make it much more efficient to getting the room clean and organized again. We have to do that as teachers too. That way we can reduce the overwhelm of keeping it all inside. In the beginning of August, I hosted a three-day back-to-school automation boot camp, which was a hit. And we did it like challenge style, full of like activity-based boot camp stuff to really get teachers started with automating their classrooms, reducing stress and overwhelm for the back-to-school season. The problem is not all of you were there or even knew about it at the the time and so I got a ton of feedback about this one specific topic that I.
Back-to-School Automation Boot Camp Feedback
[1:29] Knew I needed to make it available for everybody here on the podcast. So in this episode my goal is to help you do two things to reduce this cognitive overload that I'm sure you experience as well. First I want to share with you the power of SOPs in education, what they are, how they work to really declutter and simplify your teaching, and then I'm going to share with you a less than 60 hack that will transform how you automate your classroom and give you a free resource that's going to help make this process super easy. In fact, by using these two free resources, you will be on your way to clearing that cognitive clutter and automating your classroom in no time. So make sure you stick around to the end for that.
Now, let's dive in.
Shoutout to Hoku and the Unsustainable State of Teaching
[2:26] Before we get into this episode, I wanted to give a huge shout out to Hoku who left a five-star review on Apple Podcasts and said, More of this. Teachers need all the tips, tricks, and automations to make our jobs doable.
Amen. And that's why I show up here, because teachers everywhere are to the point where they're like, This is completely unsustainable, and we are losing teachers left and right, and those who aren't leaving are losing their minds.
We all are giving our all to students. And my goal with this podcast is just to empower you to shift your mindset or try out a new strategy.
And I make it free because I genuinely want to make a change in our system of education.
And if this is your first time listening in, I believe that we cannot change this system without healing it from the inside out.
And that starts with our teachers. So thank you, Hoku, for your review.
It truly means the world to me, and it helps the algorithm do its thing so we can get into the ear holes of more teachers who need this type of support. If you haven't already, make sure that you are following along or subscribe to the podcast on your favorite player.
Importance of Reviews and Subscriptions for Podcast Growth
[3:30] And if you have a second, leave a quick review.
I read every single one of them, and it does speak to the podcast algorithm gods to say, hey, this is worth getting to more teachers.
Plus, I'd love to shout you out for sharing your feedback with us in a future episode.
So before I tell you what SOPs are, I wanna share a quick story.
Back in March of 2020, I was somewhat organized.
[3:55] I was just beginning my journey to making teaching more sustainable for me.
And I had already experienced burnout a couple of years before that.
I'd been working on personal development and therapy, but then the pandemic hit and everything that I'd been doing to stay organized in my physical classroom was suddenly irrelevant because I had to transition to the online teaching.
I'm sure many of you can relate if you taught during the 2020 to 2021 school years, But I found myself asking.
What do I do when I'm at school and how can I really translate this into the virtual setting since we're gonna be here for?
A while, right at first I tried to wing it I was thinking I usually do this and this and this but my brain was constantly just like.
[4:41] Ping-pong ping-pong and I was juggling so many tasks internally while also dealing with my own kids at home I mean, let me know if you can relate to that, but my students were lost too. They didn't know where to click They didn't know where to submit assignments.
I was getting increasingly frustrated. And some days, I'd just throw my hands up.
And I'd be like, this is all I can do. But then other days, I'd beat myself up.
I felt like I was really failing them. And that's when I decided to take some action.
Creating Files and Resources for Students in the Virtual Setting
[5:10] I started creating files of tasks I needed to do, and then resources for my students to access those, helping them figure out where to go, how to submit assignments.
It was a painstaking process. It took me about eight hours, a couple of days.
And I was screenshotting different places inside of Schoology to show my students how to complete each assignment, where to submit them.
But then, as luck would have it, I had to deal with interim reports.
And I found myself asking, where do I do that again?
How do I validate those? Where do I go for that? How do I turn my grades in?
And that's when it hit me like a lightning bolt.
If I had something like that for myself, like what I was doing for my students, I could refer back to it when I needed them, almost like a how-to guide, similar to what I was doing for my kids.
And when I started creating these, while they were tedious at the time.
[6:04] I started going back to them and thinking like, how can I make this easier?
How can I make this more efficient? And that led me into automating my entire classroom.
Automating the Classroom to Save Time and Reduce Stress
[6:13] I had these documents now that I could share with like a substitute or one of my co-teachers.
And now if you've never heard me talk about automation and how this saved me 10 to 12 hours every week.
I highly recommend that you go back to the sustainability series that I did back in episodes 41 through 48.
But I was no longer having to do all the tasks.
I didn't have to use my entire brain bandwidth to recall what I needed to do.
I had come up with a system that did them for me, so my brain power could actually be used for those more valuable things like actually teaching.
So quick little poll here. What is the one thing that we focus on with our students at the beginning of the school year? And what is the one thing that we are teaching our students from day one and reviewing over and over throughout the school year.
[7:06] OK, yeah, if you said procedures, you'd be right. That's typically the number one thing that we need to focus on with our students to ensure that our classroom runs smoothly and is a major component of classroom management. But here's an eye opener.
Procedures, they're not just for your students. We as teachers need to prioritize them for our classroom management as well.
So one way that we can do this is through what in business is called standard operating procedures, or SOPs.
Any factory, any company has these in place for their workers.
So SOPs are essentially a set of well-defined steps or guidelines, just like those procedures that we establish for our kids.
And in a company, they can really hand these off so anybody can follow the steps and do the job. So why do we need these fancy SOPs? Well, first off, no need for fancy schmancy anything.
But imagine if every day we reinvented the wheel, We spent valuable time on those repetitive tasks that could easily be managed with a clear set of procedures.
[8:11] All right, we do that all the time. And SOPs actually help save time, reduce stress, and create a more productive space.
What I see most commonly in the classroom is that teachers have a lot going on inside their head, a lot of mental to-dos.
And so what happens is our brain gets overloaded.
And this cognitive burden not only adds stress, but it also hinders our ability to make other decisions effectively and be able to truly focus on what matters, like our students' growth and their learning experiences.
And this is where standard operating procedures, or SOPs, come to the rescue.
When we can document and implement these, we're creating this clear roadmap for ourselves and for other people who might need to complete the task too and removing that mental clutter, allowing us to focus on teaching, connecting with our students, all that good quality stuff.
SOPs can cover various aspects from our teaching practice, lesson planning, grading, communication, classroom organization.
And these can also be used with our students through like pictures or screenshots, like I was talking about before.
[9:23] Pictures specifically are helpful for those, especially for people who have maybe never done the task before. If you've ever created something to show students where to go for various things on your LMS, say you have like Google Classroom and you want to share student show students.
Say you have Google Classroom and you want to show your students where to find things, you have to screenshot that, kind of lay it out, that's one SOP you've probably already created in the past, but that's a little redundant. If you work with younger kids, you may have had these guidelines that show when they finish using the restroom, they need to wash their hands, have little graphics, things like that. These are just really basic or really simple things that I've seen done in classrooms, but SOPs are used in businesses to be able to hand off to a worker, and then they can just jump right in and follow the procedure, take on the job without a lot of explanation as to how, right?
Which means these are going to come in handy when you need to hand something off to somebody.
[10:25] Or you have something to reference when you need to do a task that maybe you don't complete as often, like those interim reports I was talking about.
And so not only is this a pretty powerful thing for determining areas that you need to automate with technology, it also helps you recognize that some of the work you're doing can be delegated to other people, whether it's a coworker, a parent volunteer, even your students.
You don't have to be responsible for every little task, even if it is put on to your plate.
[11:02] Removing some things from your plate, that's a very important piece of avoiding and recovering from burnout. So I want you to feel empowered to do this.
[11:11] So by creating an SOP for some of these tasks that you do frequently or even infrequently, that's going to release some of that mental burden and allow you to function in an optimal brain space where you're using your brain for things that really light you up, the creativity piece, more valuable ways to use your brain.
So there's three types of SOPs that I think about in the classroom.
Standardizing Classroom Tasks with SOPs
[11:38] So, like, one of these would be SOPs for your substitutes. I think the majority of us do this, but we don't even realize that this is an SOP. You're telling the substitute the most basic tasks and information that a substitute needs to know in order to effectively do your job in your absence. So the things that we need to know before maybe school starts or once it's in session, how to transition, what to do when they leave, those types of things.
Another area is grading. The way that we grade a rubric is a really basic SOP on how to really grade a given assignment or how even to enter grades into your grading management system.
That's another way that you could use an SOP. Tasks that students need to do in order to get an assignment into Google Classroom or Canvas or Schoology. Those are SOPs. But here's what I want you to realize. These SOPs, they aren't just the steps so that... But here's the thing I want you to realize. These SOPs aren't just the steps. It's so that we can delegate. We can also really...
[12:52] But here's the thing I want you to realize. These SOPs aren't just the steps so that we can and delegate, we can also use these to help us recognize areas of inefficiency or areas where maybe we can automate with technology.
Automation and Time Management through SOPs
[13:04] Automation through SOPs is the most powerful tool that really empowers us to focus on what matters most.
So here are 10 reasons that we need SOPs.
Number one, task standardization. SOPs define these clear standardized steps for various classroom activities, morning routines, distributing materials, handing off classroom disruptions.
[13:30] Handling classroom disruptions. By following some SOPs, we can start to ensure that each task is consistently executed.
That's gonna reduce some confusion and save us time in the long run.
Which leads me to number two, time management.
SOPs help us prioritize our time effectively.
When we're automating these repetitive tasks through SOPs, we can start to focus more on those lesson planning things, personalized student interactions, professional development, if that's what we want to do, ultimately improving how effective we are in the classroom and at our jobs.
Number three, efficiency and productivity. With SOPs in place, we can start to eliminate some of the redundancy or the inefficiency in our daily routines.
Delegation, Student Independence, and Classroom Management with SOPs
[14:16] That's gonna lead us to more productive classroom environments, enabling us to cover more material and engage students in a more meaningful learning experience.
Number four, delegation and substitution. I've already mentioned this, but I think SOPs allow for easier delegation.
That way we can give it to teacher assistants or substitute teachers or even parent volunteers.
When we have these clear procedures, we can confidently start to entrust other people to perform those tasks when it's needed, allowing us to maintain that consistency in the classroom, even when we're not the ones heading it.
[14:51] Number five, student independence. SOPs also empower our students to start to take ownership of their learning.
When we have these clear procedures in place for classroom organization or assignment submission, our students can start to independently follow those guidelines, fostering that self-reliance, responsibility, no matter what age they are.
I'm telling you, this is not just for high school. This is not just for middle school.
This is for our elementary students too. Number six, classroom management. I mean, obviously.
SOPs help in automating that classroom management by defining the procedures for behavior expectations, responses to common situations. And so, this consistently.
And so this consistency creates a structured, positive learning environment, which promotes that sense of security and engagement among our students.
Number seven, communication streamlining.
SOPs can be used to automate communication for parents.
[15:52] SOPs can be used to automate communication processes with our parents, with our students, with our colleagues, and teachers.
And we can start to set up these things for sending progress reports.
Newsletters, meeting invitations, which ensures that important information is regularly shared without requiring that extra effort each time, where we're not having to put that in our brain and be like, I need to do that later.
I'll get to it. And it just stays in our brain. It's actually a process that we go through.
Number eight, data management.
Number eight, data management. SOPs can automate data collection, organization, making it really easy for us to track our students' progress.
Their maybe attendance, assessments. So when we have this procedure for data entry and analysis, we can start to efficiently identify areas of improvement or adapt our teaching strategies more.
Sharing SOPs for Collaboration and Consistency
[16:50] Or adapt our teaching strategies. Another way that we can use SOPs is we can start to share those amongst other teachers in our buildings.
This is really awesome for facilitating collaboration, knowledge sharing within the school community.
And when we can start to adopt similar SOPs to our friend down the hallway, we're starting to foster some consistency, not just in our own classroom, but across classrooms and allowing us to start problem solving together, ultimately making our lives easier.
And the last one is classroom adaptability.
SOPs, they're not rigid. They're not like, here's this set of listed things that we've got to do.
They can be updated. They can be improved over time. And that can be really based on our needs as a teacher and then our students' needs as well.
This adaptability makes sure that our classroom procedures remain relevant and also effective, which accommodates those changes in maybe curriculum or technology, because that's ever changing, or even how we need to teach.
The importance of creating SOPs for teachers
[17:59] So if I haven't convinced you yet, this is what I want you to be able to do with an SOP. I want you to be able to create SOPs for those procedures, those routines that you do throughout your school year.
At the beginning of the school year, these might be where your students can find things in your classroom, where they submit assignments, where they can get more information or contact you. Same goes for parent communication. These also might be what you want to be able to hand off one day. Like I think a lot of teachers struggle with handing things off, especially to parents or their students, because they're afraid other people just aren't going to be able to do it with the same ability or skill level or, preciseness that would be if you just did it yourself. But I'm going to tell you right now.
[18:41] That is a sign of perfectionism. And we talked about why you need some boundaries if you are a perfectionist back in Episode 70. So highly recommend if you find yourself being a perfectionist, go back and listen to that one. But before you get overwhelmed just thinking about all the SOPs you would need to create in order to start automating or start in general just creating these things, I've got your back. There are two main things that I want to share with you to make this super simple, quick and painless. I don't want you to have to do the same things that I had to do when I initially realized, hey, this works.
Accessing a free resource with SOP templates and organization tips
[19:16] I've actually compiled a list of procedures that other teachers have used, and some that I've used myself, into a document so that you can make a copy of it and edit it for your own class to make organization of these SOPs really simple and really easy, which I will share at the very end of this episode, so make sure you stick around for that.
But this free resource, this is just a starting point for you.
That way you can adapt it, you can edit it, it gets your brain kind of thinking about, oh, maybe this would be a really good SOP, or wow, I never thought about doing it this way, just to kind of really give you a starting point and so you can make it unique for your individual classroom.
Not only can you automate some of the things within your SOPs once you've outlined them and seen those inefficiencies, but you can also automate the creation of these SOPs.
[20:08] So specifically for those things that you do maybe on your desktop, laptop device, something like that, whatever your students are doing on their computer.
And so this tool is completely free up into a point.
It is a Chrome extension, and it's called Tango. It is available on Microsoft Edge for those of you who are Microsoft users as well.
But the Tango extension gives you access to a Tango starter account.
These are free forever. I am not an affiliate whatsoever, just letting you know.
But you'll be able to store up to 25 workflows and even set up a basic shared workspace with your team so you can start to share these things with your co-teachers or your team members, that sort of thing.
[20:47] But an overview of what this is, is if you've ever spent forever just trying to screenshot things like I did back in 2020, where thing, you know, like you're screenshotting where things are, then you're emailing them over to someone to try to explain how to use a software or a program or whatever, Tango is actually a software that will capture your screenshots for you and then create a guide or a how-to step.
[21:12] For you to share. So once you download the extension, you'll click into it, you'll click capture, and then you'll just complete the task as you normally would.
No screenshots involved, it's doing it for you. So once you've completed the task, you can stop the capture, you go in, and then you adjust anything as you need to do it.
[21:29] So if there's like personally identifiable information, you can blur that out, so it's not being shared with whoever you give access to.
You can add pointers and boxes and things like that to really highlight what needs to be seen by the other person, and then you can share that as a PDF or use this really cool feature called Guide Me, which is kind of new on the platform, but it basically brings up a window next to the person's window and just highlights the click path for them.
I mean, I'm telling you, I could have saved two days worth of eight hour days just making these screenshots for my kids back in 2020, but this is a pretty new feature and I love it.
I'm obsessed with it. Like I said, creating these SOPs and especially using a tool like Tango to automate this procedure and this task can really free up a lot of that time that we spend throughout our school days, not to mention having something to reference for your students or for your coworkers or even for yourself so you're not wasting all of that brainpower.
I wish that I had had Tango when I couldn't figure out what I was supposed to do with interim reports.
But this, doing all of that and having all of that brainpower focused on all of these different tasks, that's adding to your stress.
That's adding to your decision fatigue and all that not so fun stuff that leads to teacher burnout.
What we wanna see happen is a self-running classroom where we can start to focus on the reason that we became teachers, right?
[22:53] We cannot reduce that overwhelm or that chaos if we don't start to streamline and simplify these tasks.
And I want you to have this clear-cut framework or method to do this quick and painlessly.
So like I promised, I have a free resource for you with templates for SOPs that can get your creativity spark for what would work in your class.
And inside of it is a video training on how to use Tango, some examples of some Tangos to share, and just more ways to automate some of this whole process too.
You can grab that for free at teachingmindbodyandsoul.com slash S-O-P-S.
And the link will also be in the show notes. Until next time, don't forget, you are a resilient teacher.
We're in this together and you've got this.
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