Category Archives: Organisation

Track your day

In a previous post, I wrote about how I am currently tracking the activities and work that occurs each day.

I started this task as I wanted to see what I was doing each day and where I was spending my time. Whilst I went into each day with a plan, I was noticing that the day rarely went to plan. I was frequently being interrupted from my work and wanted to see if there was any pattern or theme to these interruptions

Initially, I used a hard copy spiral notebook and would write down daily notes from meetings and conversations along with tasks that came up and I needed to complete. I liked its simplicity but as someone that uses a computer most of the time, I can usually type faster than I can write and found the process of writing slow and inefficient. I also didn’t like that I couldn’t ‘search’ my notebook. Finding previous notes meant flipping backward and forward between pages to find what I was looking for.

I have since moved on to digital format and am currently exploring Microsoft OneNote. I like the ‘notebook’ feel and the ability to create sections whilst having the freedom to move things around. I like that I can sync my notebook across my iPad, iPhone and computer and have my notes with me.

What it looks like

I’ve played a bit with the template I use to track my day, but my current format looks something like this.

The top of the page is dated – I’ve recently added in the term and week as part of the heading.I keep track of any CRTs we have in during the day and if the teacher they are replacing has APT.

At the beginning of the day, I track any CRTs we have in during the day and if the teacher they are replacing has APT. I keep track of any extra time I give to teachers to release them.

I also keep a note of any students I am checking in with for their behavior and the times I check in on them. I also keep a note of any students who are out of the yard for inappropriate behaviour.

Below here, I then track my work for the day. I keep a note of the start and end times and give each task a heading.

I highlight the heading with a colour depending on its context.

Underneath I then keep track of any notes.

I recently added in the ‘energy’ column as I wanted to see how I was feeling throughout the day. I currently give a score from 1-5 each time I start a task. A ‘3’ is average and on track. Anything higher and I’m on a roll. Below a 3 and I know my energy is fading.

I also added in the gratitude section as a way of keeping track of the great things that happen each day. It also serves as a good reminder at the end of the day to reflect on what’s happened and to find a highlight or something positive about each day.

Initially, I kept a section for each month and then used a page for each day. I then worked towards grouping my pages together in weeks.

I was grouping my notes by month but am thinking I might move towards having each term in a section and then group pages by each week.

Limitations

I do wish though that OneNote had a little bit more grunt at times. I would like if it could perform calculations from tables I insert (similar to a spreadsheet) or create graphs based on the data I enter.

Whilst it’s great at keeping notes from conversations, phone calls, meetings etc.. it’s also not really serving my purpose of knowing where my time goes each day. At the moment, I need to manually go through to add up the hours and collate the data.

Do you track your work? If so, how? Do you use any tools to support you to do this?

What patterns have you noticed as a result of tracking your work?

A blank canvas – Part II

This post is in response to a comment I received in relation to my “Blank Canvas” post and and expands on my thoughts in relation to my ideal learning space.

I remember once having this idea that I wanted to start the year with a totally empty classroom.
No furniture. No chairs. No desks. No displays. Nothing.

That together as a learning community, we would talk about how we liked to learn, what resources we needed in order to learn best and what furniture and layout best supported that. Together we would source the items and materials we were after and collectively create a learning community that reflected our needs.

What would begin as a blank canvas would become a masterpiece that we would paint together.

masterpiece

Somewhere in the middle of my dream though, reality set in.

28 students in an open space with nothing seemed like an invitation for chaos…. Or a great place to play game of gang up tiggy.

The principal taking school tours of prospective parents walking past beautifully arranged classrooms; sending out an unofficial message of ‘calm and order’ to only to arrive at my room to see an empty and unprepared space.

The logistics of storing all the furniture that was in the room previously. Where would it go when storage in most schools is already at a premium?

And what if they ‘got it wrong’? Previous attempts at having students ‘design their ideal classroom’ lead to them arranging the desks in rows. Because that’s what a classroom ‘should’ look like (according to American movies and TV Shows). Aren’t I supposed to be ‘professional’ here? Shouldn’t I be the one with the knowledge of learning theory and what works best? Not that I’ve been to hospital, but I can’t imagine going into operating theatre the day before my operation and rearranging the layout of the room based on my needs.

I’ve probably gone to the extreme here and I’m certain somewhere in the middle is a ‘happy medium’. For example, while I arrange the tables in our learning space I don’t believe in having ‘set seating’ arrangements for my students; I’m one for allowing students to choose where they sit.  If someone is annoying them or disturbing their learning, they then have the choice to move and find somewhere else they would like to work. Part of this process centres around choosing ‘good’ locations for learning and what this looks like (ie: not always next to your friend). If this continues to be something students have difficulty with, I will then let students know they need some help to make a good choice and offer 3 of my own suggestions.

Like most changes in education, until perceptions change around what ‘should be’ we continue to do what has always been done. Maybe one day I’ll challenge this perception.

Blank Canvas

With school set to go back in a few days in Australia, I’ve been busy preparing my classroom ready for the start of the school year.

It’s also been interesting to read a few posts from other who have focused on how classroom design and layout impacts on pedagogy.

My process for setting up my learning space at the start of the year begins by moving all of the furniture out or into the centre of the room and starts with cleaning: wiping away the dust that has settled over the holiday break, removing pieces of old blue tack, taking staples out from pin boards… so that I have a ‘blank canvas’ to begin with.

My next step is to usually setup my desk. I know there has been a lot of discussion about the need for a teacher desk within the classroom. In some years, I have had a separate “office” either adjacent or away from my classroom whilst other years it’s been in the classroom. In deciding where to position my desk, I don’t like facing the wall and like to see people as they come into my classroom. I’m also mindful of sun glare on my laptop screen and access to power points.

Once I’ve located myself, I then work on the layout of student tables and resources such as bookcases and other materials. Again there are so many variables to be considered in doing this. I like my students to work in groups so I usually position my tables so that they are in groups of 4. Usually I will have 1 larger table of up to 6 for larger group activities that require extra space. I try to space these out so that there is enough room to allow for good ‘traffic flow’ as students transition from one task to the next.

Photo from author's collection.

Photo from author’s collection.

I also try to make sure I have ‘floor space’ for students to sit. I like to use use ‘circles’ as a way of sharing, solving problems and presenting new information.

Finally, I then add posters and displays to make the environment feel warm and inviting. Some of these include:

  • Daily Schedule\List of what’s on for the day
  • Map of Australia\World and World Time Clocks
  • Classroom Agreement\School Rules\Values\Procedures (eg: start of day, end of day, wet day etc…)
  • Class Mission Statement
  • Literacy Support Materials – eg: writing processes, vocabulary etc…
  • Numeracy Support Materials – eg: times tables, processes etc…
  • Birthdays
  • Information\Posters related to our Unit of Work\Inquiry topic
  • ICT Acceptable Use Agreements and links to websites, our blog, class twitter etc…

I also like to ensure I leave enough space to display student work and photos of our learning throughout the year.

Creating good classroom displays are not my strong point. Earlier in my career, I would have made these myself but have now come to realise that my time could be better used so I am happy to rely on Google and Pinterest for inspiration and am willing to download free or pay for the odd display to save time.

Whilst the layout of my room generally stays the same I think it’s important to remember that it shouldn’t stay static. Depending on the activity planned, it is sometimes necessary to move and alter the layout to suit the learning that is occurring.

What’s your process for setting up your learning space?
What additional resources\materials\displays do you use?
What considerations do you have when you setup your space?