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August 6, 2013

Put An End To Thinking

emotionbaggageSo, in the continued saga of Maia-running-this-business-while-trying-to-be-a-great-mom-friend-wife-and-colleague, I’m constantly trying to think of things I can do to make my life easier. With so much unexpected stuff coming my way every day (ummm. . . please refer to previous pinkeye post), like a broken box of books in a shipment to New Orleans, a gas leak in my new house that required my family of four to evacuate and meet my new neighbors with a fleet of 10 hazmat and fire trucks screeching down our suburban street (can you tell I’m traumatized?), schools that beg “pretty please can you fit in a last minute training next week?,” and getting stuck in Atlanta when trying to get to Kansas City. . . Okay, I’ll stop because this blog isn’t about me…

But I do spend a lot of time contemplating challenges so you don’t have to—and so you can learn from my trial and error life about how to be Together ENOUGH—personally and professionally.

It’s probably no surprise that I like checklists. I also like literally NOT HAVING TO THINK ABOUT THINGS. This instinct ensures that when I’m hanging with my three-year-old in the backyard, I can be completely and totally present and not wracking my brain for forgotten items, missed deadlines and more.

I’m a decently Together person, but there’s one issue that’s been killing me lately: Travel. Lots of it.

While I’ll probably never write The Together Traveler, I have done a few things this season to make multiple planes and trains per week a tiny bit easier on me and my family. I think they could also help with everyday classroom challenges. Here they are:

  • Created a packing checklist and made multiple copies. Not only do I have to clothe myself and look reasonably presentable, I often transport massive amounts of special Sharpie markers, Post-its, sample organizational systems, and a million power cords for all of my beloved gadgets. Instead of running around the house like a crazy woman the night before a trip, I just pull out my travel checklist and assemble. I can now get ready in 30 minutes flat; it used to take me 2 hours! Are there any crazy moments in the teaching day when a checklist would help you? We like this nifty little sample from  a teacher at Collegiate in New Orleans. Are there some classroom materials that you’d benefit from having 100 extra copies of on hand?
  • Determined a standard outfit. Mine: Leggings, flats, long funky tunic, and cardigan. I used to scramble around before a trip and think, “Will this be comfortable? What if the plane is cold? Hot? Will it be easy to get through security? Is the weather going to be rainy? Sunny?” Now, I just put on my travel costume, and I’m OUT. Translation for you: Can you have five ready-to-go outfits in your closet for the teaching week, so you can literally grab and go—no more fumbling in the morning? Camilla L., one of my favorite Brooklyn principals (and fashionistas!), takes pictures of her go-to outfits on her phone so she can scroll through to remind herself of her choices!
  • Packed snacks in the same containers. Half of my bad moods can be attributed to hunger. And when I have to eat beef jerky at the Detroit airport for dinner, things get ugly. Before every trip, I pack my trusty Lunchbots with nuts and dried fruit, Wasa crackers and peanut butter, packs of dry oatmeal, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. When I coach principals, one of the first things I do is check their offices and cars for non-perishable snacks and enough water bottles. Are there pre-set meals you can have on hand to bring for lunch? Snacks that you can stock for the school year? Do you have at least two water bottles you trust? I’m liking this one lately. I’m sure the plastic is bad for me, but the shape is great, and something about being able to see the water makes me drink more.
  • Clean as I go. After losing my driver’s license somewhere near the Texas-Mexico border last fall (I swear TSA didn’t give it back to me) and having the New York City bureaucracy create a circular cycle which resulted in it taking me SIX MONTHS to get a replacement, I have learned my lesson. At every step of the way, take the time to put things where they go. Don’t just shove your license and boarding pass in your back pocket, Maia. Carefully place both back in your wallet in their designated spots. And if they don’t have designated spots—CREATE THEM. Same rules apply in your classroom. Take a few moments and put that stack of grading to-do’s in the right place so they don’t get buried in a paper pile. You’ll save yourself an hour in the long run. Don’t just shove that note from a parent in your pocket; place it in your inbox where you systematically go through everything every day.
  • Prepared for the worst. Okay, Delta, you want to get me stuck in Atlanta for 24 hours with lost baggage? Well, guess what? I have enough food and travel items to survive you! HA! You won’t break ME! My old boss called me “positively pessimistic,” but, hey, why not?! What could go wrong in your teaching day? You get sick? Do you have a week’s worth of sub plans all set out—including copies? Your students come to school hungry? Have snacks on hand. Fire drill that gets you stuck outside for an hour? Bring some pre-made math games or flashcards that you keep near your emergency student lists.

I will likely never be the most Together Traveler, but I’m working hard at it. And goodness knows, even more things pop up unexpectedly in your classrooms daily. Let’s prepare for everything we can, so we can handle all the important stuff so much better!

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