Tag Archives: time management

Just Say No?

As teachers we are often expected to go above and beyond. Sometimes it is schools that place these objectives on us requiring more paperwork or lengthier lesson plans. Sometimes parents expect it: asking teachers to call home every time a homework assignment is missed or wanting 24/7 contact to discuss every detail of the child’s schooling.

But sometimes it’s us. We expect a lot of ourselves in this profession. Raise your hand if you’ve ever worked passed the close of the work day? How about more than two hours after work? Taken work home? Bought school supplies? Paid for a field trip? Shoot…right now, you’re probably reading this on your own time hoping that there’s something here that might help you tomorrow. And if you’re reading my small blog, you’re probably reading a lot of other blogs, too. Are you on the EC Ning? Twitter? Are you a fan of educational sites on Facebook? Is most of your personal reading really designed for young adults?

It’s a lot of work. So the question is…when is it OK to say no?

I used to wholeheartedly belive in the teacher-as-martyr philosophy, but with kids of my own, I just don’t want to spend tons of time on school work. I blog mainly because it is a good way to get my thoughts in order (and receive occasional advice through comments in return). But I’m coming to believe that it’s OK to not be a part of everything. To not spend hours on in-depth assessment for every paper. To not be connected to other teacher every single day. To not have every lesson be innovative and chock full of meaning (meaning lots of planning time). That if I were meant to work a ten-hour day, I would be paid for a ten-hour day. So I’m asking again…

When is it OK to say no?

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All in One URL: Krunchd

Usually when I take a class to the library to do research, I try to incorporate as many real life strategies as I can: tabbed browsing, social bookmarking, google searches… But that isn’t always possible when working with kids who need more structure in their lessons (or the ones who just don’t follow directions very well).  Plus, teaching those skills, or just using them during class, can sometimes take up too much time.

I was facing that problem when I decided to take the class to the computer lab for some background research on Mt. Everest for the novel Peak.

That’s when I found Krunchd. You can load mutiple URL’s into their site and it will give you one web address. When students type in that one address, one window opens that allows students to scroll through all the websites you’ve inputted. Here is the one I set up for my students. See the arrows on the upper right? They move you back and forth throught the different pages, but they don’t stop you from exploring the different sites. Pretty cool.

fur.ly is another site that does the same thing, but with Kruched, you can name part of the URL, while on fur.ly you can’t. Both sites, though, are quick to set up and use with students…no learning curve necessary.

What works: This site lessens the time it takes for students to type in the address and to move from page to page. Cutting down on the time it takes to get ready to learn, the more time students have to actually learn. Plus, by loading the page with lots of different types of text, students can choose what they want to look at (words, pictures, videos, etc.)

What to watch for: While student were easily directed to the sites I wanted, they were not stopped from exploring each site. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but one of the sites I chose had videos and many student got side-tracked from the lesson by looking at videos. The videos, although educational, didn’t really help them understand their reading. For another lesson though, I can see this being a plus point.

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Minding the Store

I have to take a week off next week. Can’t be helped. Of course that means I have a ton of work to get done this week. So I brought the kids into work tonight.

This is what bringing the kids to work is like:

  • Arrive at 4:30, 15 minutes after the bell rings.
  • Give kids a snack (french fries) while I print out recent data reports.
  • Stop printing to divide fries into two cups since sharing is difficult.
  • Start correlating data for data board.
  • Stop correlating to see why kids are washing out fry box in classroom sink.
  • Continue correlating since fry box seems to be clean enough.
  • Take ten minutes to walk down hallway to data boards (lockers make cool noises).
  • Start moving magnets on data board.
  • Stop moving magnets to yell at kids to not move other people’s magnets.
  • Repeat magnet moving-stop and yell-magnet moving cycle until kids decide to see what under the boardroom table.
  • Come close to finishing magnet task when kids start throwing pencils at each other.
  • Break up pencil fight, continue with magnets while kids play tag.
  • Return to classroom quickly (coworker offered lollipops as a bribe).
  • Start imputing test grades.
  • Tell child 1 to turn light back on.
  • Continue inputting grades.
  • Tell child 1 to turn light back on.
  • Continue inputting grades.
  • Tell child 1 to turn light back on.
  • Tell child 2 to turn light back on when child 1 points out that it isn’t her this time.
  • Continue inputting grades.
  • Rush out of classroom to capture escaped child.
  • Give up hope of accomplishing anything else and go home.

Tomorrow, they come again. Sigh…

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The Grading Stopwatch

I just finished grading some awesome projects for Banned Book Week. Students started by researching issues of censorship in schools.  They had to form an opinion about how much control parents and community should have over school libraries and create some sort of display sharing their opinion and utilizing their research to support it. Most displays were posters, but I did get one movie and quite a few Power Points (four of which were shown on the morning announcements today).

While grading them, I saw so many opportunities for mini-lessons that could be held with students or small groups. Things like how to properly attribute a quote, how to paraphrase, how to write a clear thesis, etc. I had many students who had obviously thought about the issue, but simply hadn’t had the practice to put their thoughts into writing.

But I didn’t meet with any of them.

Projects were due two weeks before Banned Book Week, but I just got around to grading them on Monday. It isn’t a matter of procrastination, just time management. I have been working non-stop for weeks, but I haven’t been working effectively. I have a ton of excuses as to why it took me so long to grade, but the end result is I missed an opportunity to really help kids create something great. Because of me, they had to settle for just good. I have to make sure I get grades done in a timely manner.

I heard Carol Jago speak one time about the paper crunch that Language Arts teachers face. I was so eager to hear her advice. I knew there was some special secret to how to organize and manage papers that I simply hadn’t thought of. I had my pen out ready to copy down her time tested system. Her advice? Grade them now. Don’t put it off. DO IT NOW!

Sigh.

So I stayed at work until 7:00 last night grading. (I could have left a half hour earlier, but I had put in A Bug’s Life to amuse my girls and they wanted to see the end of it.) I dropped the girls off at children’s church tonight and sat outside and graded papers. It’s 10:30 and yes, I am grading more papers. These papers are all a lost cause when it comes to feedback, but they need to be imputed.

But we start portfolios tomorrow and I am going to make sure I can get those done AND hold writing conferences within a week’s time. Start the stopwatch….now.

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The Teacher/Parent See-Saw

I know that being a parent has made me a better teacher.

I am more compassionate towards my students since I have a daughter that I hope people are compassionate towards. Especially since she pulled the fire alarm at her preschool. I am more concerned about creating lessons that my students not only learn from, but enjoy, since I have two girls that love learning now and I don’t want them to ever lose that. I more tolerant of parents since I know now the job isn’t as easy as I once thought. Most of the advice I gave to parents over the years certainly hasn’t worked on my kids. But mostly I want to be the teacher I want my kids to get.

I am not so sure that being a teacher has made me a better parent, though.

I have so much patience during the school day for students, that I seem to have very little left over when I get home. Patience is a requirement when raising preschoolers, and I’ve heard it doesn’t change as they get older. I am so tired of repeating myself period after period to students whose first question is always, “What are we supposed to do?” that I get easily irritated when one of my daughters conveniently ignores me when I tell her it’s time to go or clean up. I am so concerned with giving my students my complete attention at work that I leave myself no time for planning and grading. Then I have to take it either from the time I spend with my children or the time I sleep thereby worsening the whole patience thing.

I want to be good at both.

I know that it must be possible, but I just can’t seem to find the balance; the fulcrum keeps moving. Some days I am the better parent and falling behind as a teacher; others I am a better teacher but missing my kids in the process. I am always at the top of the see-saw waiting for the big drop. Here’s hoping the landing won’t be too hard on my behind.

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Where Has the Time Gone?

Ohh….I had so many ideas for this year. I was going to organize reading around a big question. I was going to implement project based learning. I was going to try a Socratic seminar at least once every other week.

But what I have really done is throw some new buzz words into a typical, traditional Language Arts class.

The problem with all the things I want to implement is time. Time to find multiple articles around the big questions. Time to design more in-depth projects that still have flexibility. Time to assess each student individually. Time to find one good article with many entry points and at a reading level that all my class can handle. Time….and time is something I just don’t have.  Where I have started something new, it has either failed for lack of planing or succeeded but other things suffered because of the time I put into it. This is especially true since I had to pick up an extra class and lost a planning period. I get paid for this and it was my choice, but it still makes it harder.

What I need to do is take a breather and reexamine where I am taking my class. But to do that I need…TIME.

I am feeling like this is a lost cause right now. That maybe I should give up and go back to the textbook.  Hopefully by getting my fears out on paper (or computer screen), I can let them go. Right now, though, I don’t have any more time to write.

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Plus Cool

I just bought a new phone. Yesterday morning when I put my phone in my purse, it was in one piece. When I took it out that afternoon, it was in two. I am not sure what happened but my daughters were looking a little guilty. Since I have no home phone,  I bought a new phone against my will.

The man said this phone was an upgrade. Since my daughters use the phone to call grandma, my main concerns when purchasing one are cost and durability. But the upgrade cost the same as my old phone, so I was intrigued. When I opened it up, it looked pretty cool: sleek new cover, keypad, speakers you can actually see.

You know what my new phone does? The same things my old phone does. The keypad is nice since I text my husband a lot and the speakers are easier for the kids to use for speaker phone, but neither was a problem with my old phone. Neither makes my life any easier or more efficient now.

My phone reminds me of how schools think of technology. Some teachers are so excited to get something new, something better, that they don’t realize that they are doing the same old things. Teachers who flip on the doc cam only to use it like an overhead. Teachers who take kids to the computer lab only to limit what they see and read, treating the internet like a textbook. Yet they feel, honestly feel, they are using technology in a new way. The gizmo is, after all, new.

I teach writing. I know that there are a lot of programs that I can use to teach writing, but many of them aren’t any better than pencil and paper. Sure the kids might like to use them, but we run into the issues of how to save it so they can continue to work on it after we leave the lab, how hard is it to teach kids to use the program, what to do if a kid is absent on the day we are in the lab, etc. In order for a new program to be worth it to me, it needs to do what I can do in class better, not just differently. It has to provide an opportunity to do something that I can’t do in class. It has to show students something that I can’t demonstrate in class. It has to engage the students beyond the means that I can without it. It’s  too much hassle to take them to the lab just for something cool.

By the way, I do know of some programs that are more than cool. Those I am willing to try, use and teach to others. Those are worth the time. Those are plus cool. Edmodo. Open Office (not new, but easier). Google Wonder Wheel. Plus cool.

And my husband loves the new phone.

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