As a classroom facilitator, time is a variable that can slip away if not properly managed. I’d like to share a few tips I use that can help you manage time regardless of the situation. Your lesson plan, a parking lot, and a stop watch are three tools that can be invaluable aids in the time management game.
Your Lesson Plan:
Most lesson plans will give you presentation times, lengths for activities, and even suggestions on when to take breaks. My advice is to stick to the plan as closely as possible. Rehearsing your delivery and sticking to the need-to-know information can help keep your presentation times on track.
Working through activities on your own prior to facilitating them will help you identify trouble spots. That way, you can provide cautions to your participants—or at least be ready for questions.
Finally, be sure to give your participants the breaks outlined in your lesson plan. Take the breaks when you are supposed to, and start on time after the breaks. If participants return late from a break, they will see that you start on time. As a result, they will adjust their behavior rather than expecting you to change yours.
A Parking Lot:
I’m sure we have all been asked questions that either go beyond the scope of our course or for which we do not have the information to answer immediately. Attempting to address these questions on the spot can derail your timing.
If you are not already doing so, consider using a parking lot chart. This is a chart posted somewhere in the room that has the heading, “PARKING LOT” or “ISSUES.” During housekeeping, explain to your group that this chart is available and will be used to post questions that go beyond the scope of the course. Also, inform the group that anything posted on this chart will be addressed at the end of each day. This allows you to address issues while also managing your time in a professional manner.
Who should add the information to the chart? You can post the items in the Parking Lot, or you can invite your participants to write the item on a post-it note and place it on the chart. Participants seem to take ownership of the issue and its wording when you let them post the issues.
A Stop Watch:
Athletes use a stop watch to improve their timing and performance in a specific sport. We, as facilitators, ought to consider our own performance in the classroom. If time slips away while covering certain topics, if discussions last a little longer than they should, or if an activity drags beyond the suggested timeline, a stop watch can help.
There is a show on ESPN called “Pardon the Interruption.” On this show, the commentators have a limited amount of time to cover one topic. Sound familiar? We, too, have a limited amount of time to cover each topic in our courses.
I own a watch that doubles as a stop watch. When I get the group started on an activity, I start the clock. When we take a break, I start the clock. Even when we get into certain discussions, I start the clock. Why? Because we facilitators have a commitment to cover what needs to be covered, facilitate activities, handle other classroom dynamics, and, oh yes, finish on time.
Time is a valuable resource in the workplace. With many companies trimming hours, staff, and other resources, efficient training is even more important than ever. When you use a structured lesson plan, a parking lot, and a stop watch, you have the tools for solid time management in the classroom.
What tips can YOU share on time management in the classroom!! Please share them in the comments section!