Thursday, December 3, 2009

Plan Your Time Wisely

My girlfriend asked me today what I did on my planning period. She'd noticed that no matter what I did during it, I always planned my lesson at home anyway. She was trying to tease out of me the fact that I might not use it as wisely as I could.

My planning period is right after my first period class. Last year it was often spent wondering how I could salvage for my other classes a meticulously-planned lesson that had just crumbled away before thirty eighth graders. That sometimes meant rewriting a PowerPoint or scrapping the whole thing and getting something new for the rest of the classes in order to preserve order.

This year when first period is over I first head into the hall and make sure it is cleared. That always takes a few minutes, as I help clear the hall of eighth graders and then of the ninth graders who pass through the same hall after the eighth graders are done passing (we don't have any official passing periods- an effort to reduce incidents in the hallways; students move directly from one class to the next). When that's all over I generally use the restroom and then head to a small science prep room that fits a couple desks and refrigerator. I pull up the detention log for our grade and write down the names of our detainees for the day on post-it notes to hand to the other teachers on my team so they can lasso the rapscallions who owe us time at lunch. From there I make any alteration to the day's lesson plan that need to be made for the rest of my classes, answer any emails that need answering and attend to any paperwork or errands I need to run around the school (talking to the secretary or an AP, making extra copies for my classes after my prep, etc.). Other than those things, I feel like I've been doing a lot of putzing around during my planning this year. I sometimes start planning the next day's lesson, but know full and well that it won't get done during that period, so I'm generally not as focused as I could be. This problem is exacerbated by the knowledge that I haven't taught that day's lesson to most of my students and therefore cannot know exactly what I'll need to cover the next day- I may change my mind about what to teach based on how my students perform on a given day in class.

From now on I'm going to try to get my grading done and entered during my prep period. Up until this point I've been dedicating about four hours of my Saturday to pouring over my students' work and getting an idea of what they have or have not learned in the past week. Grading every day will allow me to more easily catch those who are having issues with an aspect of the unit. It will also hopefully make me more productive during my planning period.

Advice for the First Years- Pick one part of your job that fits into the time you are allowed for your prep period. Make sure that thing gets done every day. Last year after school I retreated to my bunker apartment in Queens and the time I spent there was very unstructured, which oftentimes meant it took forever to get anything done. That's fine if everything gets done, but I should have used the structured part of my day- the time I spent at school- to organize my job and make it easier for me to complete.

Today's Wine: Domaine Vigouroux Gouleyant Malbec Cahors 2007. Lately the reds I've been drinking have not struck me as fruity. This is no exception. It was pretty good- smokey and herby. It hails from the region called the South West of France.

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