Photo by Nojhan
When I became a teacher, my brain was immediately supersaturated with details, dates, notes, emails, and requests from students, parents, and colleagues.
I could no longer rely on my memory. I was simply overloaded.
“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” ~ David Allen, Getting Things Done
As David Allen points out, our brains really aren’t that great at remembering. So let’s shift that responsibility to simple tools that are designed purely to remember and remind so you can concentrate on being a present and powerful teacher!
1. Mr. Byrd’s Brain
No matter how prepared I was for the day, something always came up that needed to be taken care of during a recess or lunch break. And, naturally, I always forgot.
So I gave one student the class job of “Mr. Byrd’s Brain.” This person simply kept notes for me, such as:
- make another copy of the yearbook order form
- ask Miss Chan about the date of her next science test
- check with office about Friday’s music assembly time
At recess, lunch, or the end of the day, Mr. Byrd’s Brain would hand me my notes and follow up.
I’m sure you know the students in your class who are perfect candidates to be your personal reminder system.
2. Use A Simple Tool
Here are a few ways I use a tool to unload my brain:
- I set a timer for everything around the house: steeping tea, filling up the sink to do dishes, move the laundry. If there’s a chance I’ll walk away from it, I set a timer.
- I use a cooking thermometer to alert me when my water is boiling, or else I will forget and the whole pot will literally boil away.
- I set an alarm for anything that requires a specific time: picking up a friend, leaving for (not arriving at) an event, even ending a meeting calls for an alarm!
Whenever possible, no matter how silly it seems, offload the burden of remembering onto a tool designed purely for that purpose.
3. Rewrite Your Todo List
Finally, we have the old “todo” list.
David Allen’s book Getting Things Done is a must have for learning to break “todos” into manageable chunks.
My old todo: Plan social studies unit 3
This is way way way too big. I’d avoid it until the last minute, causing tons of stress and ruining my weekends and nights since I was always aware of this monstrous, looming task.
It’s amazing how easy this todo becomes once it’s broken up into “doable” steps. Each item on the todo list should be ridiculously simple, not a full blown project.
Here’s a hypothetical break down for the old todo:
- Read Unit 3 Lesson 1 in textbook
- Write down three most important ideas in lesson
- Plan three questions to ask for think, pair, share throughout lesson
- Find an image to introduce the lesson
- Write out a big question for closure to connect to larger idea of the unit
- Plan three questions from this lesson for the unit test
- Read lesson 2
- and so on…
Your tasks will look totally different, but the idea is that I can feel confident checking off each task. You can definitely say you’ve Read Lesson 1, you can definitely say you’ve written down three important ideas. Each task is “doable” in a way “Plan Unit 3” is not.
Plus, you can set a due date for each task and truly feel like you’re making progress. Need the unit to be ready in two weeks? Space out these tiny tasks so that you’re done in a week and a half. Checking them off is so rewarding, that you might even finish early!
There are more than enough challenges in teaching. If a kitchen timer, app, or well-written list can take some of them off your plate, let’s hand those tasks over as quickly and frequently as possible!
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