At the age of 32, I have a good handle of my strengths and weaknesses. Although I’m extremely judgemental – no surprise for a INTJ – I’m fairly open to criticism and have learned to take criticism very well. To some people, I look driven. But the reality is that there are some areas of my life where I feel I am “sloppy” and have not made much progress to improve.
For one, that includes my consistency in my day-to-day planning and how it connects with my long-range planning.
Our current administration does not check our lesson plans; I almost wish they would, just to keep me on the ball. During the late winter months, I find that my day-to-day planning starts getting very last minute. This can be true for most teachers as we can worn down, the snow drifts are high and we are counting down the days to our sunny spring vacations. You might think, “But you’re a teacher, how does that happen?!”
Remember, we are on performance every single day.
Most people who are not in the field of education forget this. If you work for a corporation, imagine that you had to do 4-5 presentations every day, often linking it to the ones earlier that week, recollect the skills of each and every audience member, assess them on their understanding, then make sure you have half a forest’s worth of paper handouts photocopied and prepared and then you mark the handouts.
I’m pretty sure all office workers would go crazy. I doubt there is anything that would even be equivalent to that. Teachers have a huge task on their hands doing this day in and day out without even realizing it.
So while slacking off and getting sloppy might not be unusual, but I’d like to hold myself to a better standard and I don’t want to make the same mistakes year to year.
I briefly followed a MOOC on Coursera last year, called “The Together Teacher” when I was feeling stressed, unprofessional and disorganized. While I did not finish the course, I made it a point to reread some of my notes in August and continue to apply some of the techniques and strategies I picked up. This includes having a clipboard with a Weekly Worksheet, keep my Google calendar updated and getting to school early.
In the past two weeks, I feel that work has been running really smoothly as I’ve kept my day plans organized. It’s been great! The kids have definitely been very responsive and been working hard. They know that we are serious and we are taking a new lesson nearly every day. So far, I haven’t had a single bad day in the past two weeks of teaching.*
But they know when a teacher isn’t organized and doesn’t have anything planned and that’s when things get messy. I don’t want to slip into that again, so here are a few teaching goals this year:
- Have lesson plans submitted by Wednesday 6 pm: In the Coursera MOOC, we read a profile of a teacher. I kept this interview of Nilda Velez and reread it. While I thought Tuesday was a bit early to submit next weeks’ lesson plans, I thought Wednesday would be a reasonable self-goal. (I also have no intention of getting up at 5:15 am every morning).
- Getting to school early: I don’t have to worry about fighting over the one school photocopier too much, but I should be in school by 8:15 am to get things going. I teach class at 9 am every single day and don’t have first period spares this year.
- Consistent planning: This is my second year using Planbook by Hellmansoft ($40 for desktop version). I’m gonna use it all year, dammit! Not like last year, where I stopped writing down my lesson plans in the middle of winter. I did get the iPad app ($10) that loads the plans through Dropbox, so I can easily access it and review what I have to do the next day if I don’t feel like turning on my laptop (not like I have much of an excuse, it’s a Macbook Air).
- Reduce clean-up time: The past two years, I have been cleaning up at the end of each period … a lot. I also picked up a lot of pencils and things off the ground. While it’s helped my hamstring flexibility, I realized a few kids had conditioned me to pick things up for them. As silly as this sounds, you’d be surprised how often this happens! You’re just trying to get things rolling and you’d rather just grab a calculator for the kid that doesn’t have one. Nope. I put my foot down and decided that it’s a bad habit on my part and doesn’t help my class flow. So at the beginning of the year, I set up a system that allows kids to be more accountable for their equipment and supplies. So far, it’s been going well. The last few days were a bit messier than I liked but I have a shelf full of erasers and pencils if the kid in the class finds out that his/her pencil case is missing the basics. I don’t replenish the kits anymore; they do it on their own! And yes, they always put their chairs up at the end of class (I’ve only forgotten once in the last two weeks)
- Teaching with investigations, rather than lectures: Read more about this on my teaching blog.
- Use games regularly: I didn’t do this enough last year. I will allow more play time by using math games, Quizlet and circle games. It helps kids move around, feel more relaxed and have fun in a positive environment. Even using Who Wants to a Millionaire with Order of Operations will kill 15 minutes of class and yet you’ll still be applying the curriculum (this was how the Grade 10s spent most of their Friday class).
Anyway, part of “keeping things tight” also means that I have to goof around less at night. It’s already 11:30 pm and I guess I should be in bed.
Yoga class tomorrow with the other teachers!
*Except for one morning where I accidentally stacked a set of photocopies on top of another and panicked, not knowing where they were. But I found them before the end of the period!