Time Management - for My Students and for Me
As a middle school teacher, one of the things I encourage most in my classroom is Time Management. I am forever reminding my students to manage their time, and modeling how to do this. Of course, I know that it may be years before any of my students master this essential skill, but I think it is important to emphasize nonetheless. When I think of how many stressors will be upon them in high school, college, and career, I want them to be prepared to meet these challenges instead of crumbling beneath their weight. But what about me? I am supposed to be the adult who has mastered the art of Time Management, but unfortunately, I find this skill still to be elusive. I struggle every single week to see that everything gets done that needs to: grades; creating (hopefully authentic) assignments, rubrics, tests, project requirements; logging character responsibilities; keeping in touch with parents; being an active participant in staff meetings; keeping my room looking neat and engaging for the students; etc. I only have 60 students, but I can tell you right now, with unbridled certainty, that I am not functioning at even close to 100% at any of the above-mentioned duties. Feeling Inadequate Accompanied by that is an intense feeling of inadequacy. Teachers deal with this in different ways: be a martyr, burn out and quit, give up and hope no one notices. But what really is the answer? Many seasoned teachers have told me, "Just do what you can. That's really all you can do." But I am continually frustrated by this advice. When you adopt this mentality and something inevitably falls through the cracks the feedback is never, "Well, you did all you can do!" Instead it's, "Well, you have to figure out a way to get it done somehow." I think it is often false to assume that teachers do not want to do the right thing by their students. For instance, I would love to do (but have not yet mastered the following things):
- Immediate feedback on grading
- More group work/ project-based learning
- More communication with my parents (not just random flyers home)
- Plan and create consistent (and cost efficient) incentives to keep my students motivated.
What I am currently doing (while functioning at max capacity) is this:
- Creating (modify for SPED)
- Modifying plans for upcoming days based on actual teaching (e., adjusting pacing)
- Grading and assessing
- Keeping in touch with a few parents regularly
- Helping kids complete make-up work/make-up tests
Now I must truly spend an entire Summer adequately and accurately crafting and molding the inner workings of next year's curriculum. The only thing is‚....I thought I did that last Summer? How many more Summers until I can balance it all? Or will I ever be able to? The thing that keeps me going every day is the month of June. When the students who had significant doubts about themselves finally get an A on a test, or believe in themselves for the first time, or reach out to help others. You can see their academic confidence shine through compared to the beginning of the year when just getting them to write their name was an incredible struggle. Additionally, it is important to see the beauty in the cycle of teaching. It is pretty amazing that at the end of every school year, we have the chance to take a step back, reflect on what worked, or didn't work, and move forward to plan the following year and make it even BETTER than what came before, all the while knowing that every year our students will be better off when they leave us for the next grade. The real question is, can one person live off one monthper year of utter joy and redeeming qualities? For now, I'll keep amending. Keep planning something new. Keep trying my myriad strategies. And who knows, maybe next year, it will be easier. But what if it's not? Then what should I do?