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81. Template Secrets: Unexpected Ways to Streamline Your Teaching Workflow [Simplify & Systemize Series]

Nov 15, 2023

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Teachers are busy. One day we’re in a college thinking the rest of our life is planned out; the next we’re juggling fifteen thousand tasks as a teacher. In order for us to accomplish everything we need to do, we’re going to need some energy.

The best way to gain energy is through doing more of what you love. But here’s the conundrum - how do you get more done with less available hours in your day?

That's where a simple yet powerful teacher system comes into play. You need a way to identify those repetitive tasks that eat away at your precious hours and find a solution – whether it's automation, delegation, or elimination.

Unleashing Classroom Automation with Templates

One of the most underrated ways to automate your classroom is through templates. And no, we're not talking about those generic templates that leave you feeling uninspired. We're talking about game-changing templates that can revolutionize your classroom, streamline your workload, and give you the energy and time you need to do what you love.

In this episode, we’re diving into the third installment of The Simplify & Systemize Series to unlock some unexpected templates to simplify your teaching life. Whether you're looking to create templates for lesson plans, enhance communication with parents, streamline classroom announcements, or even discover templates for aspects of your teaching routine you might not have considered before – we've got you covered!

But this episode is not just about crafting the usual Excel spreadsheet lesson plan templates. No, we're delving deeper, exploring how templates can transform those relentless, seemingly urgent tasks into powerful, repeatable systems. These templates are your key to regaining control over your teaching workflow in unexpected and innovative ways.

By the time we wrap up, you won't just appreciate the power of templates; you'll have a toolbox full of practical tools and strategies to implement them effectively.


  • Recognizing the importance of templates in optimizing time and energy in teaching
  • Exploring the building block of automation: templating
  • Understanding the power and benefits of using templates in various aspects of teaching
  • Creating effective templates for lesson plans, communication with parents, and other teaching routines
  • Discovering ways to create templates for tasks you may not have considered
  • Implementing practical tools and strategies to streamline your teaching workflow - Prioritizing tasks based on impact and frequency to determine which ones to template first
  • Breaking down tasks into smaller steps to identify components that can be templated
  • Designing user-friendly and intuitive templates using available software and platforms
  • Customizing templates for flexibility to adapt to different teaching situations and student needs 
  • Challenging yourself to not only create templates but also share them with other teachers in your community


  • Teacher Email Template Toolkit - This guide will provide you with strategies for your simplifying your teacher workload and for use in your classroom.  You will learn to:
    • Use templates in your e-mail server
    • Use swipe-copy templates to reduce the amount of time you spend writing and responding to e-mails
  • IEP Input Form If you are special education teacher and require general education teacher input, this form is perfect and editable for you to get important information about specific students prior to the IEP meeting.
  • 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
  • Join The FREE Resilient Teacher Community to participate to connect with other educators & engage in the challenges along with this series





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.


Are you subscribed to the podcast? If not, I encourage you to do that NOW so you never miss another episode! New episodes are added every Tuesday, and if you're not subscribed there's a good chance you might miss out on notifications that a new episode has gone live. Click here to subscribe on iTunes!

And if you are feeling extra amazing, I would be super grateful if you would leave a review on iTunes, too! Those reviews help other educators who are burned out and needing support find the podcast, and I love shouting you out on the Community Reviewer of the Week Segment! Just click here to review, select "Ratings & Reviews" and "Write a Review" and share what you are loving about the podcast!

Some links on this page are affiliate links. This helps to support this podcast at no additional cost to you.


The Problem of Time Waste in Teaching

[0:00] Teachers are wasting a lot of time. There, I said it.
I think we've all been doing these repetitive things that just aren't a good use of our time. So I am not counting myself out here.
I have fallen victim to wasting a lot of time too because we're so bombarded by a million different things that we don't optimize our time.
We don't have the brain power to optimize our time.
It's all too easy to get caught up in the daily grind, doing repetitive tasks that really eat away at our energy.
And that's why in the last couple of episodes in the Systemize and Simplify series, I have been giving you some step -by -steps to get you to a point where we can start to create automations and slowly work our way into the technological automations that are going to allow tech to do the work for you in the background, and you don't even have to think about it.
So in this episode, we're going to be focusing on the building block of all automation, which is templating.

The Power of Templates in Streamlining Teaching Workflow

[0:57] Templates are what provide the structure, the blueprint, really allows you to simplify and streamline your processes inside, and dare I say, outside of the classroom, and make room for the real priorities in teaching.
We're gonna explore in this episode how to create and utilize templates effectively, whether it's for lesson plans, communication with parents, classroom announcements, any other aspect of your teaching routine, and how to create templates for things you might never have even thought about.
By the end of this episode, you're not only gonna understand the power of templates, but also have some practical tools and strategies to implement them in unexpected ways to really streamline your teaching workflow.
This isn't just some create yourself an Excel spreadsheet lesson plan template episode.
We're talking about ways to transform those repetitive, seemingly urgent tasks into repeatable systems with these templates that will help you regain your control.
Make sure to stick around to the end because I've got a challenge for you, and some free resources and templates to get you started on your journey towards systemizing and sublimation.
So, let's get into it.

Introduction to the Systemize and Simplify series

[2:04] Before we get into this episode, I want to remind you that this is the third installment in the Systemize and Simplify series here on the podcast.
In the last episode, we talked about the three simple ways that you can reduce your workload and turn that to -do list into these repeatable automated systems.
And prior to that, we talked about some time -efficient principles that are going to reduce the time that you're wasting. each episode in this series is really created with action steps to help reduce your burnout and overwhelm.
So if you haven't checked those out, I highly recommend going back, starting with that first episode in the series, and then working your way through those action steps so that you can stop letting time be one of the reasons that you're cycling in burnout year after year.
I said this before, but just listening to this podcast, that isn't gonna change your life. As much as I wish my words of wisdom could just sink into your soul, at the end of the day, we got to take some action.

Importance of taking action and making your workflow flow

[3:01] So I'm giving each of those to you in these episodes in this series to help get you started.
And today I want to make your workflow like actually flow, and it is no secret when we are in the classroom, things pile on over time.
They leave us doing some tasks that really don't make a whole lot of sense.
Like, we're just wasting time and our precious energy.
So last episode I had you go through that to -do list and highlight or use some type of indicator for those tasks that are repetitive.

[3:33] Always urgent, or just aren't a good use of your skill set as a teacher so that we could make it to this episode today and actually do something with those tasks. And I want to tell you loud and proud.
You do not have to approach those familiar situations as though you've never seen them before.

[3:51] Like, I know this is revolutionary, but think about it for a second.
You've done this. You've come to a familiar task like it's brand new.
We've all been there, haven't we? Like, we've come to a task countless times, yet every time we start from scratch.
We've talked about how decision fatigue leads us towards the cycle of burnout, but templates are what can guide us to making these decisions more efficiently without expending our energy and our brain power.
I'm thinking about some of you that maybe are neurodivergent out there who are reinventing the wheel time and time again because, you know, squirrel, right? Just me? Okay.
Well, I love templates. I think they are so underrated as a source of automation because they aren't necessarily those ones that do the work for you in the background.
Having an automated system in place is really the key to getting these more technological automation systems to work for you, and I love to find ways that you can accomplish tasks without ever lifting a finger, which we will totally get into later on in this series, but templates are the way that I think of as like stepping stones to this sort of thing.

Templates as stepping stones to automation and innovation

[5:02] We can't create these automation systems without first creating the template.

[5:07] I think some teachers shy away from using templates because it seems repetitive or it seems boring, but templates aren't about monotony.
They're about creating a solid structure that allows you to focus on those unique and exciting aspects of teaching. We want to reignite your passion, right?

[5:26] But you're bombarded with like fifteen hundred and eleven things in your head, on your to -dos, whatever, so you can't access flow.
You can't reignite that passion.

[5:37] Templates free you from reinventing the wheel each time, giving you more room to innovate and connect with your students.
Templates are like your wingman.
They're ensuring that you don't waste time or brainpower on every lesson plan, every email, every feedback comment, everything.
Take, for example, the ATPC template for lesson planning, activating prior knowledge, teacher -led instruction, practice, and check for understanding.
It's straightforward, but it's really a powerful framework that really guides your teaching without requiring constant mental gymnastics, right?
You're hitting those essential elements for effective teaching.
So you're not going to find yourself wondering, what was I supposed to do next?
Because you already have this framework.
Having a consistent structure in your lessons helps you, but also helps your students know what to expect. everyone then has this sense of security and predictability in the classroom.
Remember that unpredictability, that's what's adding to your stress.
So creating these easy to use templates is what's going to support you and your students long -term.
Now, obviously, lesson planning can be more in -depth than that.
Maybe you wanna incorporate some small group or something like that.

[6:52] ATPC is just a super basic framework. So it really comes down to recognizing those priority tasks and then having a structure to get all that stuff done.
You've probably been like me, where you're making the same comment on a student assignment, and you're grading it over and over.
It's like, don't forget your punctuation or some other repetitive feedback comment, right?
Maybe it's a reminder about field trip money, and you type that out.
Or just really any of the emails that you're sending, template those out.
Template out the responses to those common email threads you get to be a part of, you know?

[7:33] Automating using templates eliminates the thinking for those repetitive tasks.
Separate from that, I think of time blocking as a way to kind of template out your day.
So we've talked a little bit about that in previous episodes as well, but it's a pre -organized set of tasks within your week where you're looking at those reoccurring meetings, those reoccurring daily tasks, that sort of thing, and creating this organized set.
So quick story, when I found templates, it was initially for emails and I talked about how communication and email templates were a lifesaver back then in episode 45.
So if you haven't checked that one out, totally recommend.

[8:14] But when I really started using templates more often was when I was creating individualized education plans.
Now obviously the true individualized portion, That was the student data, the descriptors, the strengths, the needs, whatever.
But every single time, I would think to myself, how do I start this out again?
Like how do I explain the strengths? And I would end up typing that out.
But I started creating a template for starting this, and I made it super easy.
I needed a disability statement. So instead of typing that same thing every time that I was writing, I just created a simple template, and then added the student identifiers to that, which helped me stop thinking about, what do I type with this?
Even though I did it 100 times over the course of 13 years as a special educator, it still was one of those things that I didn't have templated out.
And I have a lot of templates for things I've used personally, but I think it's way more powerful when you create your own.
Because you guys know, I'm not about cookie cutter solutions.
We are all unique. So while I'll give you some swipe copy ideas and some things that to do that within this in the next episode.

[9:27] I want to help you create templates that are tailored to your specific needs and your teaching style.
These steps are meant to empower you to design templates that truly resonate with your unique approach to teaching.
So the first step is to identify those time -consuming tasks.
What is consuming a lot of your time?
These could include lesson planning, grading, communication with parents, creating educational resources. is, this is exactly what we did in the last episode.
So go back, do that action step, then complete that challenge, then listen to that episode, if you haven't already done that.
And then come back and finish out templating this.
But once I had the writing the IEP down to a science, I'd really had that templated out so that it was a really easy process.

[10:16] I realized that one of the things that I struggled with and that was taking up a lot of my time was getting teacher and parent input for the IEP.
Like, I was wasting a lot of time.
I was printing. I was rushing around to teachers' classrooms.
I was calling a parent, trying to get all this information over and over and over again.
And working in a middle school, like, I was tracking down multiple teachers.
But those essential questions needed to be asked of those teachers and those parents because they are the stakeholders in this child's educational plan.

[10:46] But then it struck me. Like, I could simplify this process using a template on Google Forms. Like, I could include those essential questions.
I wouldn't have to run around. I wouldn't have to print it out.
I could receive those responses and have those responses automatically recorded.
This made it super easy for me to access and then utilize that information.
But then there was another step.
Like, I needed to structure that gathered input to put it into the IEP.
To tackle this, I created an automation that would take that collected input and then populate it into another template seamlessly.
This way, like I could ensure that each IEP was tailored to that student while saving me time and effort, still getting that input from those stakeholders.
And it just, I mean, honestly, it just saved me a bunch of time.
So you can see a lot of those smaller individual tasks were used creating these templates.
Those repetitive, I need this data or need to ask this question.
Those were simplified and then systemized into a larger system so that I never had to worry about where this information was, where to keep it, how to get it. Every time it was just a simple IEP parent teacher input form.
And if you're a special educator and then that just blew your mind, like no worries, you can grab it at teachingmindbodyandsoul .com slash IEP input.

Prioritizing and customizing templates for efficiency

[12:08] And customize that to make it work for you.
But the second thing to do is really prioritize based on impact and frequency.
So when you're deciding to create these templates, you have to prioritize which tasks are done frequently, which ones have the most significant impact on your teaching and your student learning.
I'm telling you, these are step -by -steps that we've done in the series thus far, like I'm trying to help you out here. And then, number three, break down each task.
Breaking down the tasks into smaller steps is the key strategy for effective templating.
It's gonna allow you to identify the specific components that can be streamlined and that can be templated.
While you might not initially template every single step, and please don't, you're gonna overwhelm yourself even more, this approach makes this process more manageable and ensures that your templates are truly impactful.

Designing user-friendly templates for time-saving and streamlining

[13:06] Consider this as a step -by -step process. Start by examining that task, whether it's creating lesson plans or grading assignments or any other teaching -related activity, break it down into those individual components, then ask yourself, what are the repetitive elements within this task?
What are you constantly having to type out?
Which parts can be standardized without sacrificing that individualization or that differentiation.

[13:33] Are there specific instructions or maybe criteria that apply across multiple instances of this task?
For example, when breaking down grading, you might identify some common elements.
Maybe it's the grading criteria, the feedback you're often making, the assessment methods.
These elements can be templated to create a consistent structure for your grading and your feedback template.
We're going to talk more about this in Friday's episode, and it's a real game changer for helping you with this, so shameless plug here.
But by starting with that most time -consuming part of the task and then templating those, you're tackling the areas that are going to have the most significant impact on your efficiency.
And over time, as you become more comfortable with templating, you can gradually expand, refine those templates to cover additional steps or aspects of the task.
Think about how I did that with the IEP input form.
Or you could even create it into a more automated system, which is obviously what I did.

[14:34] Remember, the goal is not to eliminate individualization or any of that, but it's to streamline that routine and those repetitive aspects of your work.
This is going to allow you to allocate more time and more energy to that personalization and those more creative aspects.
So when it comes to creating templates, the fourth thing is just to design it.
The design is just as important as the content. Your template should be user -friendly, it should be intuitive, and most importantly, it should save you time rather than adding complexity to your tasks.
The good news is that many commonly used teacher software and educational platforms, they have these built -in features for designing those templates.
For instance, like you can design templates directly within Google Docs by customizing fonts, headers, any of those types of things.
It's an excellent choice for creating documents like lesson plans, handouts, newsletters.
Canva, which offers a free educator account with your teacher email address, has tons of different types of templates already embedded with inside of it. It's pretty great.

[15:43] Gmail also allows you to create email templates. This can be especially handy for communicating with parents, colleagues, students.
You can design and save email templates that include like common messages, common announcements, comments, common reminders.
So if email is a big time suck for you, I have an entire free teacher email template toolkit.
That is a tongue twister.
And it comes with several teacher email templates that you can just swipe and copy.
You can customize them as well as a tutorial on how to create your own email templates inside of your email service provider.
You can grab that for free at teachingmindbodyandsoul .com slash email templates.
Google Forms obviously is super versatile for creating various types of templates, surveys, quizzes, feedback forms.
You can customize the look and the feel of them. You could add images.
That's kind of like some extra fluffy stuff there.
But also most learning management systems like Google Classroom or Canvas, Schoology, Blackboard, whatever LMS that your district is using also has some options for some templates as well.
So by taking advantage of these built -in design features, you can create these templates that not only save you time, but they also enhance your overall workflow and your teaching experience.
Number five is to customize for some flexibility. You want your templates to be adaptable to different lessons, student needs, different other variables.

[17:13] Like with chat GPT prompts, for instance.
Like I found that having a library of templates for different teaching situations really allows me to engage with the AI in a more efficient and personalized way and get those responses that I want.
I can easily switch between templates depending on the topic of discussion or maybe the specific assistance that I need.
And if you're a member of the Automate Your Classroom program, there is the prompt bank and the entire Automate Your Classroom with AI workshop that are available inside of your portal, so don't forget that you have access to that.
And if you're not a part of that program, the doors do open in a couple of weeks, so you'll want to head over and get on the wait list for that at teachingmindbodyandsoul .com slash automateyourclassroom.

[17:56] Obviously, using ChatGPT can be a very efficient way of working.
And if you're using these templated responses or having that prompt bank, that is really the key.
And lastly, I want to encourage you to take on the challenge of not only creating a template for that repetitive or time -consuming task, but also sharing it with your other teaching friends.
Like, there is a thread this week that's part of this challenge inside of the Resilient Teacher community on Facebook.
It is completely free. There are hundreds of teachers over there along with threads for the other challenges from this series.
You are more than welcome to join in by heading over to teachingmindbodyandsoul .com support squad.
I'm also gifting members over there during this series, but I want you to think about sharing your templates.
Sharing what types of templates you're creating. What are those repetitive things?
Because that's going to get the wheels turning for other teachers who are inside of that community or inside of your other teaching community.
So get to thinking about that, okay?

[18:59] The link for the group as well as any of the other free resources that I discussed in this episode are over in the show notes at teachingmindbodyandsoul .com slash episode 81.
And in this week's second episode on Friday, we are going to be taking these templates a little bit further as we chat with Dan Baric, who is the CEO and founder of Text Blaze, which is a way that you can automate the use of your templates to really optimize this no matter what software or program you're using.
This is one of the many different plug and play tools that I teach inside of the Automate Your Classroom program, but we get this really exclusive interview with Dan to talk more about the ways that you can use these templates to automate those repetitive and time -wasting tasks, and you're not going to want to miss out on that.
So if you're not already following along with the podcast, make sure that you hit that subscribe button so you'll never miss out when another episode goes live.
Don't forget, you are a resilient teacher and we are in this together. You've got this.

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