Skip to content
SA Together Again: We’re back in classrooms and taking learning to new levels!

Mission Possible

Stories and insights on excellent education.

The Time-Management Tip That Saved My Teaching

Is there anyone happier than a six-year-old who has been entrusted with an important task? Kiddos, in my experience, like almost nothing better than to be taken seriously. They’re smart and capable and they know they can do it (whatever it is) — they just need adults to give them a chance. In my second year of teaching, I discovered that tapping into this desire was transformational to my classroom. Giving my students work — not just school work, but actual tasks — was an incredible time-saver but it also had other unexpected and profoundly positive effects. It fostered a spirit of community among my scholars, increased their focus and investment, and most importantly, gave me the space and confidence to let them take ownership of their learning. 

A teacher’s first year is usually the hardest, but for me it was at the start of my second year that I began to feel overwhelmed. I’d moved up as a founding lead teacher at Success Academy Bronx 3 and was alone in the classroom for the first time. Since I’d only ever taught with a co-teacher, all of the routines I had established were dependent upon having another adult in the room. Now, I was on my own.

Each day, I was working well past 6pm. I was swamped by what seemed like the never-ending, non-teaching tasks of a teacher; I didn’t have the time or the capacity to devote myself to my scholars the way that I wanted to and it was immensely frustrating. I loved my kids so much and I felt like I was letting them down. Something had to change.

I’d observed that other teachers saved time by getting their scholars involved with simple tasks, so I decided to try it out with the basics. I explained to my class that we were a family and that families help each other out. Then I announced the names of scholars who would be “table captains” or part of the “clean up crew.” I asked the table captains to pass out and collect the necessary papers to their peers, and the cleanup crew to keep our “home” spotless. And over the next few days, I watched in amazement as my first graders fulfilled these responsibilities perfectly and even began to volunteer to wipe down the tables — they wanted to be a part of this!

So I decided to double down. I made a list of all the things that were robbing me of my ability to focus on scholar learning. I picked ones that I thought my scholars would be interested in taking on, such as:

Snack Chef: The gourmand who would distribute and set up the snacks we provide for scholars. 

Librarian: The bookworm who would put books in their place and keep our beloved library in order. 

Transition Leader: The always-punctual time keeper and count-down captain. 

Mail Person: The dependable deliverer of important materials that need to be sent home via the mail cubbies. 

Grading Assistant: The first scholar to neatly finish math morning work and earn a 100% gets to grade the other morning work. 

Phone Protector: The highly-reliable keeper of my work phone, who would help prevent me from misplacing it during the day. 


My scholars were thrilled with their assignments and I started to notice that the changes taking place in my classroom went beyond saving me precious time. Our classroom community grew stronger as scholars vied to be responsible enough, kind enough, and focused enough to earn assignment to particularly cherished tasks. 

It’s very difficult for a group of sleepy six-year-olds to come in and be motivated first thing in the morning when asked to complete warm-up math problems, for example. When my scholars saw that they had the chance to be given the all-important task of checking the accuracy of each other’s calculations, however, the entire dynamic shifted. They were invested! At home, a parent told me that suddenly a kid who never wanted to do chores was asking to wipe down the table because it had become a special job, an important job.

Assigning these jobs to my scholars gave me time throughout the day to take the breath that I needed, but it also motivated and encouraged me to step back and let the scholars speak. I knew in theory that they could lead discussions and ask clarifying questions of each other, but until that point hadn’t had the confidence as an educator to allow that to unfold. Once I saw that my young learners could remember to set out the snack every single day, without reminders, I realized that I had been underestimating them. They are so smart, so eager, and so much more capable than we adults tend to expect. I truly improved as a teacher because I had more time and energy to focus on trends and on student work and to be strategic in my lessons — and because it gave me the confidence to allow them to take charge.

This year I spoke at our New Teacher Training about this topic because I truly believe it can be revolutionary. I hope our new teachers, who are a group of incredibly motivated and intelligent educators, find it as useful as I did to put our kiddos to work!


Ms. Inglut and her former scholars



Written by Hannah Inglut August 22, 2019


Related posts

“Happy Children Learn Better” – An SA parent reflects on the return to campus

October 7, 2021 Success Academy

Success Academy reopened its doors to scholars across the city in August, safely ushering students back into the classroom after an unprecedented 2020-21 school year. To keep our scholars safe — and learning — it’s more important than ever that we work together with families and guardians to ensure everyone in our community is on... Read more

Back to Basics: 3 Ways Parents Can Help Scholars Adjust to In-Person Learning

October 4, 2021 Success Academy

The school year is well underway, and it is so exciting to be together again in our classrooms. We love seeing scholars connect face-to-face and participate in hands-on science labs, team sports, and theatre productions alike. Nevertheless, we know returning to a new or unfamiliar learning space can be a challenging transition, and scholars might... Read more

Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

September 29, 2021 Success Academy

The deadly pandemic that forced children to isolate and learn remotely has only deepened painful issues of inequity. All around us, there is profound learning loss and lack of access to equitable resources. At Success Academy, we have a special obligation to get back on track and ensure that our students realize their full potential,... Read more

Enroll your child

We’re now accepting K-4 applications for the 2021-2022 school year.

Work with us

Build your career while making an impact at Success Academy.