Saturday, May 4, 2013

Getting Things Done for Teachers

Teaching can be like a field trip back to 1982. Phone access is limited and the web is filtered (if it is working at all that day).

So trying to stay productive in a web 2.0 world can be a challenge.

1982 called - they want their technology back

One of the best tools I have developed over the past few years is adapting the principles of David Allen's GTD to the classroom.

The system is pretty inclusive, and you can read about it in lots of details in his books. For me there are two parts that have worked especially well in the classroom.

The first is changing how you tag your to do list. I used to keep it by noun- or topic. So it was sorted by APCS, Intro class, or Website. In other words I listed things by what part of my job they were related to.

Which had nothing to do with WHAT I actually had to do.

So now I keep the list by verb. By what I actually need to do. So I have a phone call category and a errand school category. And grade and email categories, you get the idea.

As you all know just getting to the phone or to the office to check your mailbox can be a real challenge. I want to make sure when I get to use the phone I have a full list of ALL the parents I need to call. If I am going to make the 5 minute trek to the front office (my lab is in the absolute back corner of the school) I want to make sure I have everything I need with me.

To support this I built a binder specifically for my planning period where I stick all the paperwork that fits these categories, so everything is in one place when I actually get planning time. That typically is about 30 - 45 minutes a day, so that time is pretty valuable.

I use Remember the Milk for my list. It makes filtering by activity super simple and I can add things on my phone. There is a free version of the app.

The second part I really use is the weekly review. The idea is you regularly go through all of your inboxes - email, mailbox, papers to grade, all of it, and you build and capture what is there and what needs doing. This year I am managing these reviews about every other week due to my limited planning time.

Again, there are tons of web resources out there describing different takes on this. I keep it pretty basic. The idea is everything you touch (or open in the case of email) gets planted somewhere. For me it is either a to do, something to store and reference later, or trash/recycle.

Included in this is a review of the calendar. I look over the past few weeks to see if there is anything unfinished still hanging out there, and look ahead and cross check my lesson plans so I am not tying to do a class discussion on the day of the senior picnic.

Anyhoo, I keep getting asked this year how I get everything done. Frankly I don't, but having this system in place lets me really concentrate when I need to without worrying that I am forgetting something. And sometimes the appearance of efficiency is almost the same thing.

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