Sunday, July 19, 2015

Things I've Learned Lately

Good evening, lovelies!  It's been, like, almost 3 years since I've written or done anything with this blog... Oops.  Not gonna lie,  teaching full time has had me way busy!  Last year I was the team lead, had a new 1st year teacher on my team, and we got a new, very involved ELA curriculum that basically tied my brain in knots.  Let's just say that last fall I was a hot mess.  But don't worry! It got much better after returning from Christmas/Winter break. In the past 3 years I've learned several important lessons about teaching.  Here are the 3 biggest lessons I've learned lately...

Lesson #1 - Manage time wisely.

Whether you're talking lesson planning, grading or teaching, time management is key.  And I suck at it.  Ok, so I've gotten better, but J (my husband) still wishes I could spend more time at home, and be fully present in my time at home, not half paying attention to him and our dog, and half grading papers or something.

But how can a master procrastinator such as myself successfully manage my time?  Well, it's not easy.  I'm the kind of person that gets distracted from the important things by interesting, but less important things.  For example, one time I got so excited about an idea that I had, that instead of grading overdue essays, I created and laminated a poster to hang in my room. Not the best use of time...

Here are a few things that have helped me manage my time on the clock a bit better:
  • Daily and weekly to do lists (include dates on urgent items)
  • Set myself a time limit (using a timer or the stopwatch on my phone) to make sure I get things done
  • Collaborate with my team, divide up tasks evenly, and delegate or ask for help when needed
  • Spend at least 50-75% of my prep/lunch time working on school things, and the rest of the time to relax, chat with coworkers, use the restroom, or eat
  • Write down or make a list of all the little things & ideas that distract me from what needs attention most (if I can't stop thinking about them, I give myself the reward of completing those tasks after I complete what actually needs to be done)
  • More meaningful, involved, hands-on activities and assignments make for less grading
  • Stay organized and save it for next year. 
  • Spot check student work for 1-2 specific problems that I want to make sure the kids understood
  • Grade at least 1 class set of an assignment every day to prevent massive stacks of grading
  • For grading writing, I like to grade 6-10 essays/stories each day until they're all done
  • Ask and allow the kids to help--they love to clean, organize and file away papers to get sent home ;)

Lesson #2 - Be flexible. And realistic.

I've learned to plan a little smarter in order to accommodate the ever-changing pace of the school day.  School store, assemblies, picture days, testing, birthday treats, fire drills, emergency class meetings... There is always the possibility of some kind of unplanned kink in the schedule. And there are always plenty of things I can do, or have my kids do, if a lesson runs short. But let's be real, it almost never happens! And when things take longer than expected, it's hard to decide what to cut out and how to adjust for the next day or two to make up for the lost time.  It is much easier on me (and the students) if I over estimate the amount of time it will take to complete a lesson, assignment, etc.  It allows for more time for in-depth discussions, sharing and working with partners, etc. and if there's plenty of time, we can always get a head start on some of the next day's activities! Also, more hands-on activities = less wasted copy paper when you don't get to that other worksheet... :)

Lesson #3 - Understand that you don't know everything.

Amy Poehler wrote in her (amazing and hilarious) book Yes Please, "I know enough now to know I know nothing."  Oh, how true this is!  Growing and stretching hurts, and it's hard, but it's necessary.  Sometimes I hate it, but in the end I know it's what needs to be done.  There is always room to improve, and it's vital to try new strategies and broaden your horizons.  I am constantly learning new things from my coworkers, professional reading, Pinterest (you know it's legit!), and my students.

After 3 successful years, I know enough now to know that I will never be done growing.