A quick reflection on October’s goals:
-Leaving work ready for the next day’s teaching was moderately successful. I estimate I was ready for the next day before leaving for the night about 80% of the time. It freed my mind in the evening to take a true break, and it cleared my mornings to work on other things – data, paperwork, projects. I intend to continue this habit as part of my routine.
-Keeping sweets to twice a day was very successful! It was easy to resist temptation during the day because I knew something was waiting for me in the evening if I was still craving sugar. Once again, I recognized the difference between how it feels after eating too much sugar and how it feels to eat well. I even chose to dial back how much sugar I put in my coffee in the mornings, and by the end of the month I was really only having a serving of sugary food in the evening, most days. Experiencing something is almost always the best way I learn, and despite my instincts that lean toward “all-or-nothing,” working through this goal gave me experiential evidence that moderation can be more successful than extremes.
New goals for November:
Just like last month, new goals began to make themselves clear to me a few days before the end of the month.
-At work… To build off of the adjustments to my afternoon routine, I’m going to try assigning general categories of tasks to particular blocks of time. You can see a first-draft schedule above. The job feels so big, so complex, and so unpredictable that there is no way to say, “On Tuesdays from 7:30-8:30 I will work on _____.” But there are categories, general goals under which individual tasks fall. I need to plan. I need to work through and respond to math data. I need to work through and respond to guided reading data. I need to attend to materials like sharpening pencils, stapling blank books for writing, and cutting out any laminating. The specific tasks might be different from week to week, but every week needs time to accomplish these general goals.
There are also tasks that may happen only once, or only once every few months, that don’t fit into a general category. For example, this week I did paperwork for my career development goal for this year. I also filled out a somewhat time-consuming survey for my principal. And a student moved away, so within the next few days I’ll have to update his cumulative file to send on to the next school. These tasks are big enough they need to be assigned to a block of time or they won’t get done. However, they are not part of the weekly rhythm of my job, so they are harder to schedule. I’m simply calling these things “projects and tasks.”
You can see there are some unassigned blocks, and obviously most days updating the class Facebook page or responding to parents’ emails or voice mails won’t take my whole plan period. For the moment, call those spaces “room for surprises.” Maybe organizing time and tasks comes easily to other teachers. Maybe, if you’re a teacher who is reading this, you think I’m just being a big baby about all of this. Maybe the immensity of the job is specific to my school district. But I know this: If I am going to survive this job for much longer, I need to find out how to make it less overwhelming. Also, I’m not willing to do less than excellent work. I’m not ready to give up on making those two things work.
-At home… Did you know that November is NaNoWriMo? National Novel Writing Month, for crazy people who have a stirring in their heart to write a work of fiction but need a burst of motivation. It sounds fantastic to me…except that I have no desire to write fiction. I do, however, have an addiction to reading fiction! And to prove it, on top of the shelves of books I own but haven’t yet read, I have a whole shelf of novels borrowed from other people. So I am calling November BarNoReMo: Borrowed Novel Reading Month! I don’t expect to finish the whole shelf. I intend to read at least 50 pages of borrowed fiction per day, on average. That means on certain busy days I might not read at all, but on a free Sunday I might read a couple hundred pages. Since this adds up to 350 pages per week, I estimate I will read about a book a week.
So four or five people might get a book back that I borrowed from them.
Or my sister-in-law might finally get the three books back that I have borrowed from her.
That math is not very impressive. I’m currently looking directly at a bookshelf in my home and realizing just how much time is represented on those shelves. 🙂
This goal is actually two-fold. In order to read more, I need to leverage what little free time I have. And what sucks up everyone’s free time? That flat black rectangle in your living room! I’m going to change up my TV habits a little bit. In particular, I want to change one specific TV habit. For the month of November, for meals I have at my home alone, I will eat at the table with the TV off. I tend to start an episode of something to fill the house with noise, and after I’m done with my meal, I sit and finish watching the episode…and another episode starts…(Thanks, Netflix.)…and before you know it, two hours have passed, it’s 10:30 p.m., I should really go to sleep, and not one ounce of progress has been made toward anything productive or meaningful. Dinner does not take two hours. I am curious to find out how much of my free time I would effortlessly get back without that one little mindless habit. I am curious to find out what I would do when I was done eating, if the TV wasn’t already on.