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July 11, 2012

Face the Project Monster: Take the First Bite

Cookie Monster with cookieOutside of the daily hard work of planning, teaching, grading, and data analyzing, we teachers are often responsible for school-wide projects outside of our immediate classrooms.

The following rule often applies: The better teacher you are, the more projects your administration “asks” you to take on. Summer school scheduling? You’ve got that, right? Organizing next year’s talent show? We can count on you, right?

Or, maybe you’ve spotted something in your school that could use improvement—dismissal procedures, student work displays, or the science fair. You have a great idea for a change… you just need to run it by your colleagues, type up a proposal, obtain administrative approval, notify parents, and get your students on board.

So where do you start? And how do you get started???

Sharon, a school social worker in Detroit, was responsible for creating a school-wide bully policy to comply with Michigan’s new law regarding bullying.  As you can imagine, a huge task like “create school-wide bully policy” can linger on a to-do list for a long, long, LONG time.

Sharon's weekly worksheet with bullying policy image

Brief interlude: Sharon made this awesome hybrid Weekly Worksheet by pasting her Google calendar and then breaking her To-Do’s down by category. She carries this around all week and this allows her to be half-electronic-half-paper-based as she runs around school all day. Nifty, huh?! You can get really creative with Weekly Worksheets.

But back to our story . . .

For most of us, big projects take on a life of their own, building themselves up into complete and total PROJECT MONSTERS while we hide beneath our metaphoric covers:

Where do I start? This project sounds HUGE. It’s gonna take me HOURS. I don’t see any HOURS in my day, so I’m just going to keep recopying this to-do week after week, and maybe . . . just maybe . . . it will actually go away. Maybe…just maybe…everyone will forget all about it and it will just…disappear.

This is exactly what happened to Sharon. Every week, she looked at “create school-wide bully policy” on her to-do list, and every week, she hoped it would just go away.

The deadline for producing said bully policy was approaching like a freight train…

Sharon set aside a portion of her own school vacation to get started…

She nervously logged onto the website with the state guidelines for bully policies…

and… GUESS WHAT WAS WAITING FOR HER???

A perfectly awesome and already written sample bully policy! Sharon promptly downloaded it, made tweaks to apply it to her own school, and had a draft ready for her principal in one tiny little HOUR.

PHEW.

Lesson Learned: When you’re facing a Project Monster, pause to break down the steps. Then “take the first bite.” It may not be as big as you think!

Together Teacher Reflection Question: What big, scary Project Monsters are lurking on your to-do list this summer? What’s the first bite for each one?

For additional resources, see our book chapter on project planning!

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