With time to finally think about myself, I am determined to accomplish long-abandoned personal goals in the summer days ahead. After several drafts, I published my own summer goal chart.
*Not written is my long-term goal of becoming a better chart illustrator.
Enter panic-mode: HOW WILL I FIT IT ALL IN? (sound familiar??)
Following my teacher instincts, I made a schedule. A schedule would keep me accountable and prevent me from falling into the 6-hour Netflix trap.
I used what I know about making schedules for kids to make my own schedule. I sandwiched more intense or stationary parts of my day with highly enjoyable or active components. I scheduled the most intellectually-demanding jobs in the morning, when my brain is most fresh. I made most blocks about 45-60 minutes long. Before long, my summer day was planned, nerves eased. If I follow my schedule, I will accomplish my goals.
Reflections from Day 1 of attempting to follow schedule:
- I wanted choices. After a longer-than-typical walk at the park, my body felt like it needed a more gentle workout, so I opted for a Yoga video rather than a toning workout. I revised my schedule by adding choices in blue.
- I needed breaks in between segments on my schedule. If I felt like my task was complete early, I used the extra time to let my brain and/or body rest.
- Doing it alone was hard. I needed motivation. Since I didn’t have a teacher or peer to coach or cheer me on, I used a goal tracking app called Strides. Checking each item off was rewarding.
- My work environment mattered. Noisy/quiet, bright/dark, laying down/sitting up – these needed to change throughout the day, depending on what I was doing.
- I was hungry. Seriously. I bribed myself to work with food. “If I can have apples (to dip in peanut butter and chocolate chips) then I will start writing.”
- NOTHING BAD HAPPENED WHEN I DID NOT FOLLOW THE SCHEDULE. Shocking, I know. Remember the longer-than-typical walk I had? It was because I talked to my mom on the phone (notice “Talk to someone” comes later in the day on schedule). I had already accomplished this task in the morning. I used the extra time to write longer, because I was onto something engaging and didn’t want to stop when the schedule said I was supposed to stop. So lunch got pushed back into the time when I was supposed to talk to someone. AND IT WAS ALL OKAY!
- Finally-and perhaps most importantly-I cannot do everything on the schedule at my absolute best. Today was a REALLY good writing day. I wrote longer than planned. I feel like I put my best writing forward. However, my workout was meh. My reading time was pretty short as well. Reflecting on that helped me plan where I’m going to put my biggest effort forth tomorrow.
A schedule in my classroom makes MY day fly by. But what about our students? How do they cope with back-to-back hours of demanding content areas? Are they getting enough opportunities to rest their brains, to move, to eat, to make choices, to keep going when they are really onto something great? Why are we pushing them to keep working after they are mentally unable to?
I’m going to look at our schedule differently next year.
Instead of viewing a schedule as a way to fit in content-required minutes, what if a schedule’s purpose is a tool to organize our day in order to accomplish student-made goals?
We can start the new school year with a question: What do we want to accomplish as learners and a community this year in K-313?
From there, we can decide, What do we need to do every day in order to make those goals happen? Teaching point option: When goal-setters have so many things they want to do in a day, they can organize these things by making a schedule.
This is a perfect time to launch a mini-inquiry on schedules. Ask experts, interview people with different schedules, study schedules around the school, create pretend schedules during choice time. Finally, use all we know to make our own schedule, together. Like anything we make, it’s important to reflect on our schedule and revise it throughout the year.
Other small steps I will be making:
- When my kids tell me they are hungry, they can eat. Have an extra snack bin always available for kids, donated by families if possible. Teach kids that this snack is “brain fuel” or “body fuel” and needs to help us learn. It’s not an option to eat snack instead of doing our jobs.
- If productivity and engagement is high, I’m not going to stop it in order to follow the schedule.
- We will not be bound to the order of our schedule. If my kids are really interested in math in the morning, I’m not going to tell them it needs to wait until the afternoon. Can you imagine if I had said to my mom, “I can’t have this great conversation with you right now because you aren’t on my schedule until 12:30,”?
- We will reflect on parts of our day where we got really smart thinking and work in. We will make plans to work harder in other areas on the next day.
- I will be more flexible when thinking about how my kids are meeting standards and content-area goals throughout the day. Reading doesn’t always look like a book in a kid’s hands. There are countless ways to practice math facts. Kids deserve choices for how they will learn.
- I’m thinking about providing windows between parts of the day for the brain and body to rest and refuel. To read more about how schools in Finland give 15 minute breaks after each 45 minutes of instruction, check out this article: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/06/how-finland-keeps-kids-focused/373544/
- I will approach off-task behavior differently, with empathy, helping the student realize what’s causing the off-task behavior and giving the body and brain what it needs to get back on track.
If we practice reading and writing habits to become more empathetic and authentic literacy teachers, shouldn’t we also practice meeting the demands of the schedules our students follow? Discovering and sharing the challenges of our own work habits is a small step we can take in order to make big changes in the lives of our learners.