Category Archives: Fly Lady

Interrupting School Work and Sleep


From 2011 Cisco Connected World Technology Report as quoted in Backbone November/December 2011

In a given hour of school work, 90 percent of [Canadian university] students (84 per cent globally) reported being interrupted at least once by instant messaging, social media updates and phone calls.  Twenty-three (19 per cent globally) reported interruptions six times or more.

Most university work that is not tested with multiple guess exams requires a period of uninterrupted thought to understand what is being learned.  In math, it is the understanding of the problem, then the working out of the answer.  The more difficult the math, the longer that period can be.  In the humanities such as English or history, it can be reflecting on patterns until you see a bigger or smaller pattern e.g. a metaphor that emerges over the length of a novel or correlations of epidemics and war.

Interruptions of those periods of thought waste a student’s time and may lose her the concept she was just beginning to explore.

The Chronicle of Higher Education as reported in the Globe and Mail, Tuesday, November 22, 2011 tells of a study of 200 university students and their use of cellphones. The students were losing an average of 45 minutes of sleep each week due to the cells.  One student, woken by a text message, reported that she felt her friend might be upset if she didn’t answer.

I won’t go into what lack of sleep does to the ability to think, perhaps in another post, another day.  I am astonished by the power given to social media by intelligent people to disrupt the most important parst of their lives.

Perhaps I am making two assumptions: that their studies are more important to students than their social lives.  I am also assuming that these students are both intelligent and of an age to make mature decisions.  In fact neuroscientists seem generally in agreement that brain development goes on until age 25.  At least one has speculated that the frontal lobe which among other things, is responsible for making judgment calls, may continue developing for another five years.

This does make sense of the British tradition of giving children the key to the door on their twenty-first birthday and the medieval apprenticeship tradition that had children working and learning with a craftsman until the age of 21 .  That there are similar traditions in other countries and that versions of the apprenticeships are being revived in many countries is probably no surprise.

So what does this mean for parents of teenagers?  Remember who has the fully developed brain and whose brain is almost there but still in training.  Help your children create a habit of nothing interfering with study or sleep time.  You will have to model it yourself by letting people know that you won’t answer calls after a certain hour.  Letting the phone ring when you are working can be irritating at first, but the mantra “it can wait an hour (or whatever the time is until you take a break)” will help. After all, that’s what the answering machine and caller identity were created for: your convenience.  In my household we also have specific rings for certain people so we know who we must interrupt for and whose call can wait for an hour.

The computer is easier as most instant messaging can be turned off and ignored as can your email and messages from Facebook.  Recording TV programs for recreational time will make it easier to turn the television off when the members of the household are working.  I hope you take regular breaks and can use that time to return messages and calls.  How long a period you allow yourself to work without a proper break is a personal thing.  For most people it varies between 15 minutes and an hour and a half.  Fifteen minutes is for things you really don’t want to do (for more on this see Fly Lady) and most people can focus much longer on other things.  Things that really get my attention will keep me going for an hour and a half so I set a timer for a couple of mini stretch breaks in between (check out Time Out).

When you are doing what you expect your children to do, they can’t cry “no fair” and they will see this is what adults do.  Self discipline and using social media instead of letting it use them is the lesson you want to send with them to any post-secondary education.

Welcome to the Teaching Profession


Classroom

Classroom (Photo credit: James F Clay)

This is what I tell all my student teachers:  teaching is the most rewarding profession there is, if you truly love it.  Don’t do it for the money or July and August or because you don’t know what else to do; if you don’t enjoy teaching there is very little which will adequately compensate your efforts.

A typical classroom in a Japanese elementary s...

A typical classroom in a Japanese elementary school. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember that this is a job you can do 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year and still not get every task done, reach every child in the class or please every parent or administrator.  If you allow yourself to be swallowed by the classroom you will shorten your career as a teacher.  Illnesses will plague you and your students will eventually irritate rather than delight you.

Your first duty is to yourself.  Put aside time for fun, exercise, family and friends but most especially yourself.  Make that time sacred.  Cultivate a hobby that will

Horse Riding

Horse Riding (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Magyar: Siklóernyő

Magyar: Siklóernyő (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

absorb and distract you when you are not teaching.  These are the things that will renew you and make you a better teacher in the long run.

Plan to arrive and leave at the same time every day.  Creating habits for things that can be routine is a way of freeing yourself to spend your time and creativity on the more demanding work.

Plan to eat lunch in the staffroom; eating lunch at your desk is counter-productive.  You need to know your colleagues and become part of the team.  You don’t do that eating lunch in your room.  By the way, in most schools, it is poor etiquette to bring a parent into a staffroom.   The staffroom is the one private place teachers can relax and be themselves.  If they need to let off steam, let slip a couple of colourful expletives or  lie down on the floor to soothe a sore back, this is their room.

English: The Teachers Lawn outside the Staffroom

English: The Teachers Lawn outside the Staffroom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Visit other classrooms.  Chat with your colleagues, but be careful not to take up too much of their time.   Keep abreast of school news.  Teachers can’t afford to go into their classrooms and shut the door.

There are lots of excellent books out there on how to organise your classroom and your time.  What is important is to use a plan that works for you, no matter who recommends what, and create habits that allow you the freedom to put your mind to real problems.

You should be aware that a great deal of paper crosses a teacher’s desk and your sanity depends on you being able to triage.  Ideally get your desk cleared daily into appropriate files.

I do have a few tips that worked for me.  I had two bumf files.  By bumf, I meant

English: Paperwork

English: Paperwork (Photo credit: Wikipedia)  A messy desk is counter productive – I learned that from bitter experience!  Create a system and stick to it.  Daily.

the kinds of information and social announcements that are difficult to classify.  One file was labelled Board Bumf and the other was labelled School Bumf. I put the papers in them in chronological order.  This was easy as it just meant putting the latest one at the front of the file.  Before I filed these papers, I noted anything I needed to know such as dates of events in my calendar; I learned to note all dates that had anything to do with the school even if they concerned another section.  However, if I forgot to note important information, it was all easily accessible.  I often forgot that we were supposed to bring certain papers to staff meetings; having a Bumf file meant that they were easy to locate.  At the end of June, I emptied the files into the recycle bin without needing to sort them.

Secondly, a copy of the class-seating plan with squares large enough to note

The desk

The desk (Photo credit: Wikipedia) some teachers desks are almost always this tidy.  It takes careful planning, organisation and at least two mini-tidies a day.  It also requires training students not to dump anything on your desk.

behaviour, learning progress or questions concerning each student is invaluable.  I always had several copies.   I dated one when I started using it and dated it again when I filed it because it was full and I had to get another one out.  These were extremely useful when I was writing report cards or assessing how a student was progressing.  I also used them to leave notes for occasional teachers.

If organisation is a major problem for you I suggest you take a look at the Fly Lady site.  It includes a system for helping teachers get organised and stay organised as well as a system for organising the home.  I have used some of her tips with students.  One of the best is the fifteen minutes work period.  For specific systems for classrooms, browse the shelves in education libraries; remember that you don’t have to implement everything at once.

One thing that you want to try to implement is smooth transitions in your classroom.  If your students go from one activity to the next quickly and with a minimum of fuss, time is saved for learning.  That time adds up.  It also means a calmer and happier classroom.  It takes time, careful preparation and self-discipline to create these smooth transitions but it is worth the effort.

Communication is very important.  Talk to each student: the good, the bad and

Communication

Communication (Photo credit: P Shanks)

the ugly. Too often poor behaviour is rewarded by our attention and we ignore good behaviour.  Casual chat with students before class starts often sets a mood or gives them the confidence to talk to you later when they have difficulties. Talk to the parents, too.  Face to face is best but any form of communication is better than none.  Keep your administrator up to date with life in your classroom.  Principals especially appreciate storm warnings.

Finally, when you find yourself unhappy or grumpy at school or at home, it is a sign that you are in need of a mental health day or two.  Take them and do something you love.  If they happen often, get help in identifying what is troubling you beyond fatigue or temporary stress.  Remember, you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first.

Interesting or Useful Web Sites for Educators or Parents


These are a few of my favourites and I expect to add to them from time to time.  Please let me know if you have come across particularly useful books or web sites in your travels.  I would be happy to check them out and add them to these lists.

http://www.beingsmart.ca/

Go to the Links section for notes from the authors’ presentations and links to excellent sites on gifted children and adults.

http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/

Information on policies, publications and laws.  Some publications are free to the public or parents. Some are free to teachers if ordered through the schools.  Teachers can download  publications and instructional videos .  Other instructional DVDs will be sent free.  Great if you missed the latest initiative.

http://www.nfb.ca/

Our beloved National Film Board offers the opportunity to watch its films free, on-line.  This is a good way to preview films that might be suitable for your class.  While the films are free for individuals, schools must take a subscription.

http://www.statcan.gc.ca/start-debut-eng.html

Statistics Canada.  Stats can be very difficult and dry to learn how to use, but fascinating to read.  For example, did you know that Montreal and Ottawa are both 60:40 bilingual?  The difference is that in Montreal, the 60% represents the francophone population, whereas in Ottawa it represents the Anglophone population.

Stats Can is happy to share the joy with teachers.   Explore the web site and look out for publications specifically aimed at schools.  Math and geography classes can be a whole lot more interesting when there is real world information to discuss.  There are even lesson plans.

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/

Put the CIA to work for you.  You can find the basic vital statistics for all the countries of the world here in their World Factbook.  Select a country and find information on the economic, political, social and physical geography.  It is important to remember the source.  For example, Palestine is not recognised as a country.

http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2qi9SD/www.sciencegeek.net/lingo.html

For teachers whose principals are only impressed by a liberal sprinkling of jargon, here is a generator to raise a smile for those weary moments in a staff meeting or in co-creating a report.

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm

Lots of great information about Canadian history, geography, literature, sports ….

http://www.mccord-museum.qc.ca

This is the web site for the McCord Museum in Montreal.  Naturally, it has its own perspective and so is an excellent complement to the Canadian Encyclopedia.  The museum itself is worth a visit, too.

http://www.flylady.net/

A website for people who problems with organisation and want to get some control over their lives.  If you need to bring some order into your chaos, check it out.  She addresses the issues of teachers, students and office workers, too, but her main focus is running a household in a minimum of time with a maximum effect.