This guest post was written by Lauralee Moss, author of The Language Arts Classroom blog. Lauralee writes about write about ELA, coffee, teaching, and her self-described nerdish love of grammar.
As an educator, I work from home sometimes. And I’m not alone - especially during this back-to-school period. Many educators are laminating, writing, and prepping from their own home offices.
A major component of working at home is motivation.
For me, feeling motivated is the key that allows me to unlock creativity and passion for my work. If my drive is crushed, I'm disappointed and overwhelmed, and it becomes tough to rally. Motivation becomes fleeting and I struggle to reinvent it.
To prevent as much of that negative feeling, I've created multiple schedules - maybe blocks of tasks; I've chunked my work.
This chunking of my schedule at home allows me to get short bursts accomplished, feel accomplished, and then move onto the next schedule, planned family activities, or a mini-emergency. I think of my chunks as physical blocks that I can pick up, carry with me, and place in my life.
Here’s how I chunk my time as an educator when working from home.
Chunk: Personal Planning
This is actually the simplest task of the week for me! My husband and I share a family calendar on our phones. On Saturday and Sunday, we outline family events for the week. Ball games, school meetings, doctor appointments, and music lessons take precedence.
Once they are on a digital calendar, I have an image of where I can fit the rest of my chunks.
Chunk: Lesson Planning
I complete lesson planning on a continuum. I track an overall lesson planning map, as well as daily tasks.
When I learn what classes I will teach for a semester or year, I do a broad outline of the semester. This includes the order of materials and a loose connection to the standards. I need a layout before I can create specific lesson plans.
I use Google Docs for this so I can share with a department chair or principal and they can offer feedback.
A chunk of time must be daily lesson planning - deciding the activities, content, and message. I have two files open when I create lesson plans:
1. I keep standards in a Google spreadsheet and note when I am addressing topics.
2. I write lesson plans in a Google Doc. This enables me to share with a substitute or other teachers.
When I work on lesson plans, I do that: lesson planning. I set a timer and work for 20 minutes. I know that in 20 minutes, I’m closing the document and moving on to another chunk.
That motivates me to work and finish.
Most grading happens at home. Chunking helps me with this.
What is the difference between these two scenarios?
I sit down with a class worth of papers, tell my kids I’ll play with them in a little bit, and start grading.
I sit down with five papers, and tell my kids I’ll play with them in 30 minutes.
In scenario 2, I have boundaries and I’m not overwhelmed. I can grade five papers in 30 minutes. I end that time period accomplished.
Staring out the window? I’ll stop myself. In 30 minutes, I’ve got kids coming at me and they’ll hold me accountable. That chunk of time is grading.
When I had kids, a huge goal of mine was to keep electronics balanced in their lives. I could get my work done faster with them in front of the tv, but I never wanted that.
To meet that goal, I needed to change my thinking. I want my kids to see me work - they should see the devotion educators have. Plus, creating and designing takes time, numerous rough drafts, and determination. Those are life lessons for them.
To meet those goals, I go where they do. I write; my two-year-old “reads” books. I grade papers; my son does a math book. I create lesson plans; my daughter builds blocks. Is it perfect? No - I’m often taking pretend sips of tea as I add commas to a paper, but I am working.
My kids also know that I’ll be with them - they get a chunk of time - we’ll do this puzzle, we’ll read a few chapters at 10:30. I won’t have a phone, notebook, or laptop in hand; it will be their time.
Since chunking my time, I accomplish more. It returns to the motivation factor, a circular pattern. I accomplish a chunk, feel motivated, and have completed work.
That motivation - that feeling of accomplishment (endorphin surge? pride?) propels me into the next chunk of time. These blocks of time can be moved in my life and since they are short, I stay motivated from completing chunks, and I accomplish more - goals of most educators.