Have I drunk the Kool-aid, again?

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Slice on Tuesdays with Two WritingTeachers

Slice on Tuesdays with Two WritingTeachers

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Yes, I’ve drunk the Kool-aid again; perhaps this allusion is in poor taste, but it seems apropos to how I am when I find something that I am so crazy about that I can’t help but join the cult/group and share the love with others. Usually the Kool-aid I drink is grounded in literacy, writing, reading, or something pedagogical that I just have to share.

Examples:

  • In 2011, when I was a fellow for the Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project’s Summer Institute, I was rejuvenated and inspired and have stayed involved. KMWP also served as my inspiration to blog.
  • In 2013, when I read Notice and Note over a a weekend, I found myself compelled that same weekend to make  anchor charts for each signpost (see post). This obsession was followed up with leading a book study, teaching at a conference, joining a FB group of N&N teachers, teaching at another school in my district, and spreading the good new of N&N.

Occcasionally, the Koolaid is grounded in a  product I love (like those Calbee Snap Pea Crisps–yum, I could eat a whole bag and sometimes do).

Never, though, is my Kool-aid drinking related to organization, structure, efficiency, time management, and planning. Please, you people who love The Container Store and who alphabetize CDS, books, and spices are just too weird!).

Well, for the first time in my 18 year teaching career, I have drunk a new flavor of Kool-aid. In a quest to make meaning out of my word for next year, prioritize, I have found myself searching and seeking ways to prioritize and become more efficient at work, so I have more time for family, exercises, and friends. I need to work to live not live to work.

After I blogged last week, I Googled “prioritize” and “teaching” and found myself looking at a blogpost on a site called The Together Group.  I read over the site, read the sample chapter the site offers, read the preview on Amazon, and downloaded the book on my iPad. I could stop reading. Maybe I’m finally ready to make another one of those mid-life sort of changes.

Knowing it takes a village to raise a child (and when it comes to organization, prioritization, and efficiency, I suppose I’m the village child–no, not the village idiot–the child!). With this in mind, I asked some teacher friends to join me in a quest to become more “together” and more organized.

Throughout my 17 1/2 years of teaching as well as throughout my 46 1/2 years of life, I have struggled with getting things done, managing my time,  staying on task, completing tasks  feeling scattered, and feeling like I cannot juggle all the balls. I struggle with getting things done at work, I struggle with meeting deadlines, I struggle with blogging weekly, I struggle with getting home in time for dinner, I struggle with doing what I should do as a wife/mom (mostly because I have the most amazing husband in the world), I struggle with going to bed at a reasonable hour.

My brain is conceptual, abstract, divergent, right-brained, global, and ADD. The idea of taking simple tasks and prioritizing them has had no appeal to me until I started reading this book (possibly because I don’t naturally break things down into their smallest parts). Many people have tried to fix me, organize me, share their systems with me, but all  have failed (or I have failed at them all). Perhaps because I need the minutia, the nuts and bolts, the nitty gritty.  Perhaps I needed to see a model. Perhaps I needed to read words and see pictures and examples. Perhaps I needed to have choices/multiple ways, so I could figure out things for myself. Perhaps I needed a system with a lot of structure that would offer some flexibility.

Now I need to make it work for me. To make it work, I need others to travel the path with me.  A  few teacher friends who are a lot like I am in terms of organization will be joining me in reading this book, and some teachers who are a lot different than I am and who I think are really organized will be joining me, too. Now I cannot wait to see how this works out for us all. At this point, I have eight teachers who are planning to read the book, so I won’t have to  drink my new flavor of Kool-aid alone.

With a new iPad Mini and a love for technology, I have done a lot on my new toy to play with ways I might implement the ideas of becoming a Together Teacher:

1. I have read, highlighted and annotated much of the book including this passage that resonated with me:

“Now let’s return to the scene of what typically happens to most of us. Sunday comes around and by the time you eat breakfast, go to the gym or spend time with your family (or both), do laundry, and grocery shop, it is past 3: 00 PM. The tote bag taunts you from the corner of the living room. Eventually you open it and try to comb through its contents. You have no idea where to begin. It takes an hour just to sort everything into piles— papers to grade, scraps of paper with scribbled notes on them, graded papers that need to be recorded in your grade book, agendas from staff meetings with notes scrawled across the page, and graphic organizers to copy for next week’s lesson plans. By the time you have sorted through everything, it’s 5: 30 PM. By the looks of it you still have about five more hours of work left and your alarm will go off at 5: 15 AM tomorrow. For most teachers this is the weekly challenge: How on Earth do I get it all done? ”

Heyck-Merlin, Maia (2012-05-09). The Together Teacher: Plan Ahead, Get Organized, and Save Time! (Kindle Locations 2505-2512). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

2. I have used an app called TaskBoard (had to add both extras to give me color/background and lots of boards) to begin to think of how I might visually organize my upcoming tasks/To Do list in order to begin to prioritize my tasks.

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3. I Have used the same app to serve as what the book calls “thought catchers”  to catch my thoughts related to many areas of work and life.

Thought Catcher for Family and Fun (there are more areas of to the side-that you cannot see from my screen shot)

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Thought Catcher for School Stuff (Grade Level ELA, Grade Level, Data, and ELA Dept.) 

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These boards give my thoughts and plans a place to live while I am still processing my thoughts and before I share them with others (these are the times my sharing sometimes takes me away from my priorities). This will give my thoughts a place to live before I put them in my calendar, before I share them with others, or before I spend 20 minutes composing a long email that could have been handled in a 3 minute conversation. Ah, priorities…

The Master List of All my Boards: 

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4. At the end of the week (I am thinking Friday afternoon or Sunday afternoon–not sure when yet) in order to avoid the above scenario in the book, I will try to go through my next week by prioritizing my tasks (I will review my task boards and adjust them).I was even able to use Word on my iPad with the template I modified from the book. I feel so tech savvy now. 

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This may sound quite cumbersome, but as I see it my upfront setups and my up front planning will save me time in the long run because I will know what I’m doing when (of course, I know I will have to shift stuff around, but I can see this benefiting me in the long run and teaching me how to prioritize). My greatest hope is that I will find a way to be more balanced with family, friends, health, exercise, sleep, and work.

5. I have set up a long range (comprehensive is the terminology in the book) calendar for the rest of the school year (the place with the due dates, recurring events and meetings, committee stuff, DH stuff, TechEds trainings, nights I cook dinner, grade posting windows, days I exercise and even the time I spend teaching), the work of plugging in the tasks will be easier. Here is a slice of my comprehensive calendar (this is will I will plug in my prioritized tasks from above). 

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I am still processing how I will be putting all the pieces together, and I know I cannot do everything at once. Right now I’ve got a comprehensive calendar with a plan to plug in my prioritized tasks for the week. More that that, I have finally found the way to hold all the organizational systems on a device, and I can keep up with devices much better than I can keep up with notebooks, binders, clipboards, Post-its, and pieces of paper.

My iPad even has a lanyard, so I can tether myself to my tasks and work to live instead of seeming like I’m living to work.

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As for now, I haven’t begun the bedtime on my calendar yet. If I had, I would be asleep and not blogging right now. Please tell me if you’ve seen this system before and what you know about it. I would love to have some cyber support from my writing teacher friends.

Happy almost New Year.

I am getting ready for my OLW: prioritize.

Bring on 2015–I’m ready.

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10 thoughts on “Have I drunk the Kool-aid, again?

  1. Oh Maya! You do exude energy for your new word and system. I think the best part of it all is that you are not on the road alone. Others will keep you grounded and accountable. Good luck with this journey! 🙂

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  2. I wondered if this would end with a OLW! Good for you. Look at all you have done already! 🙂 Your word is serving you well and will be a great one to hold onto well into the new year.

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  3. Wow, Maya! You’ve really done some great planning! I just fell on The Together Teacher website yesterday. I am going to get the book – maybe I can get my balancing act together, too. Thanks for sharing your great ideas and fabulous mind!

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  4. I hope you get a commission on all the books your writing teacher friends will be ordering. I just signed up for the sample.
    My approach to my OLW is quite different, but I can see the value in this process for anyone.
    I think it will free up some brain space for more creative thought.
    Thanks!
    L.

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