Even teachers have an end of the school year countdown. These days, mine is not so much “50 sleeps til camp!” as it is “ONLY 23 days to get all that stuff done?” 40-something essays to mark, a busload of new assignments coming in next week, a play to read & analyze, final summative tasks to facilitate, and a whole unit on urban geography.
This past week was my much-needed Passover vacation, and I took advantage of every day (and yes, vegging on the couch reading a book during a late-April blizzard totally counts as taking advantage). I also spent a week with my mom in Arizona, eating great food and climbing mountains in Phoenix and hiking deep into the Grand Canyon.
I find myself now prepping for the final 23 days (minus assemblies & shortened staff meeting days) of the 2010-11 school year. My last 23 days as a first year teacher. I am calling on all my time management gods to help me squeeze all the juice out of this month. What am I going to do? Here are a few of my strategies:
1. WWPD: What Would Pamela Do? Pamela was a colleague of mine at a non-profit, and she is the Hermione Granger of Microsoft Outlook. She had colour coded everything, pop-up reminders, multiple task lists ranked by priority, and she actually DID her TO DOs. I’ll make lists, schedules, keep things in labeled folders. I will embody Staples (lay off on the ‘easy’ button jokes). But I will also…
2. Drop the perfectionism: Doing something imperfectly is better than doing nothing perfectly.
3. Time to Time Time: There are three kinds of time: structured work time (the time when I’m in class, in meetings etc.), unstructured work time (time outside of class that I dedicate to marking & prepping), and my time (time to see friends, relax, dance, cook, live my life). I need to know the difference between these three – particularly the last two. All too often, my work time bleeds into my personal life, which prevents me from really doing either one well. To that end:
4. Plizzans: Knowing that I have dinner plans with friends, a HotDocs film to catch, or a bellydance class means that I have finite hours to spend shuffling papers around and opening and closing windows on my desktop. The busier I am, the more I get done.
5. Count: One…Ha! Ha! Ha! Know how many papers I have to mark. Mark one. Watch the number shrink.
6. Break out the ol’ mantra: When I was an undergraduate, somehow just repeating the phrase “Stress is counterproductive” made me actually sit down and hammer out paper after paper. I don’t know why this phrase worked – it’s not even catchy – but it did.
As I wrote this post, there was a knock at my front door. My upstairs neighbour and vestibule confidante, Mary, dropped by to welcome me back home. Mary just happens to be a yoga teacher and author, and a very in-touch and self-aware woman. We were swapping our stories of stress, and she shared with me 5 sayings that her late yoga master told her (actually, she just ran upstairs to find the fifth…). Not all of them are apropos at this moment, but they’re worth having in my back pocket, and I’m sure they will all be salient at one time or another.
– Recognize that the other person is you
– There is a way through every block
– When the time is on you, start, and the pressure will be off
– Vibrate the cosmos and the path will be clear
The third one is really speaking to me right now. Please share ways that you manage scheduling, stress, and the time crunch of the teaching profession. And…..START!