Saturday, January 3, 2015

Blame the Clutter Fairy

 School opens for 2015 on Monday.  Many of the Facebook posts I've seen have been from fellow teachers lamenting over the still giant pile of grading and lesson planning brought home to "work on" over the course of the break.

For most of us, the quantity of work completed is disproportional to the to the size of the pile, and this makes us sad angry at ourselves for not making better use of our time.  The reality is, every moment not spent on schoolwork during the break actually served to re-energize us as we head into the home stretch of the first semester!  (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!)

One thing for which I am grateful is the January supply of Te@chthought prompts for blogging.  Quite frankly, my mind is a bit numb, and it's difficult to write about school and teaching when I haven't been there since the 22nd of December.  So today's prompt is:

What is one area I know I need to work on? What actions am I going to take to improve?

Given the haste with which I departed my classroom on December 22nd, after receiving a phone call from my sister who said "Mom's been hit by a truck while walking...", you can only imagine that the chaos of my desk and room, one day pre-break, matched the chaos of my mind after that phone call.  I have recently gone to an elaborate system of post it notes on which I lay out my "TO DO" and overview of Lesson Plans for each class over the course of a week, each post it representing a different day.  We were two days from vacation, and there were FIVE post it TO DO lists representing the previous week.  The problem is that the post it is only disposed of when the list is completed -- and often it is just moved to the next day until, two or three days later, the TO DO list is completed.  Clearly this system is just another attempt at organization for me.

I am a random abstract person.  I've known this most of my life, and it was confirmed when I took the Meyers Briggs test while working on my certificate in Gifted at U Penn.  There aren't too many of us in education, though, because we drive people crazy  forcing people to abandon us   tend to burn out when we can't juggle all the balls we need to juggle without dropping more than a few.  In fact, when the class finished the analysis and the professors sent us into separate corners to meet our classmates with similar traits, it was just Kevin and me standing in one corner.  (For the record, we've stayed friends, mentors, and colleagues with each other since 2006, because we understand and forgive each other for our randomness, appreciating the creativity and insanity that we share.)  

There are people who walk into my room and cringe.  There are even more who ask me for a paperclip or a pass, or GOD FORBID a BLUE pen, and I scurry though drawers and cups in search of the elusive item.  Remember when I did the commentary on my two desk drawers?   Sure, I can clean them up, but is it really worth the time?

So what am I doing about this insanity?  I bought a lined blank book (not to be confused with the Virginal Bare Book to unleash my creativity).  This is a brilliant technique mentioned to me by the desk organizer, Sarah, herself. I write student names, upcoming deadlines, and what we're looking for on the left hand page, and the subsequent followup done on the opposite right hand page.  It's pretty easy to glance through, gather data for GIEP reports, and confirm attendees and meeting dates all in one place.  So far, it's worked for 3 weeks -- two of which have been spent at home, resting in my school backpack.  But I'm on a streak, and may make it a full month!

Can I find a paperclip in a hurry?  I can now -- because there is ONE (count it, ONE) on the first page of my blue lined book.  

2015 is my year to stay organized.  If only with data, meetings, and post it notes.  Meanwhile, I will keep myself grounded in my random abstractness by chatting with Kevin when I feel the need for a 12 step program in organization, and take baby steps from the tips that Sarah shares about organization.

Heck, I've already maintained my new car with a new clutter-free lifestyle for a month.  Perhaps I can transfer that to my classroom and my backpack.