back to school, new teachers

Back to School: Organizing Your Time

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Once you’ve got your physical space all set, you can refocus your mental energy on the “big picture” of the year. I’m a planner. I have calendars and to do lists galore. A few years ago, I resolved to exclusively use an electronic calendar. I’m now doing a lot better with my time management despite a few initial hiccups. My to-do lists are all now in one electronic repository, resulting in no longer having post-its and bits of printer paper floating around my school bag, car, school desk, home desk, kitchen…you get the picture!

With these important pieces of information loaded onto my school laptop and home desktop computers as well as my iPhone and iPad, I have 24/7 access to knowing when I need to do something. A paper calendar can’t nudge me, but push notifications and calendar alarms are reminding me when to go to meetings, when to start working on a certain project, and when I’ve got a day off. I am on top of things!

One thing that isn’t decided – or at least shared with me until a few weeks before school starts, is my schedule. For us planners, this level of uncertainty can be unnerving. It can also hold you back from making schedules and class lists. This is when I need to embrace my inner yogi and command every iota of flexibility I can muster. I must say that over the years, I’ve really adapted to this lifestyle. It did, however, take years.

When your school has finally given you all the bits of information you need to know for the year, put it into your calendar. Use whatever system works for you. If paper still rules your world, then so be it. You can use color coding or highlighting if necessary. If you like electronic calendars, there are many from which to choose, such as the iPhone or even Gmail.

When I know I have large assignments due, like the grades and narrative comments that are due at the end of a marking period, I like to build work time into my calendar for that work to get done. After twenty years of doing this, I have a decent sense of how long this particular dreaded task takes and I make appointments with myself to do. Once you’ve got your unit plans worked out, put them into your calendars. Estimate when you’ll be assessing your students. When will projects be completed and due? Put these all into your calendar.

Be kind to yourself and space out the things that have heavy time constraints. Don’t put a massive amount of grading on your birthday. Or during vacation. Be kind to yourself. You have some degree of control over your calendar – so use it. You’ll thank yourself later.

As the year progresses, you’ll see a pattern emerge and you’ll be savvier about how much time to block out for certain activities. Good luck at organizing yourself for the demands of your time, one of life’s most precious resources.

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