How My Errands Can Apply to Your Classroom

Sep 3, 2014

Though right now I’m wrapping up my Seven-Week-17-City-Tour, when I’ve been back on the home front in the DC area, I’ve been trying to squeeze in both fun and errands. And of course, like that whole “hair adjustment” situation, I’m always on the lookout for ways to make things run just a little bit more smoothly—and how to apply those lessons in our classrooms.

Lesson 1—Give Structured Choices—with Pictures. For her first haircut in a year (whoops!), I took the 4-year old to some suburban cartoon type of chain. As I started to explain the reverse bob we were after (sort of layered, but not too fashionable), the stylist interrupted me and simply pointed to the wall where there were five clearly labeled little girl photos with a name for each style. All I had to do was say, “Mostly like #2, but fewer layers.” BAM! The stylist didn’t have to listen to another second of my blathering, and we reduced the likelihood of any miscommunication.

Classroom Application: I really like the use of pictures here. A teacher could have a binder they use for family conferences that includes the top five examples of math misunderstandings for a particular unit. Then, instead of explaining and drawing things out each time, the teacher may simply say, “Joseph is doing really well and you may also want to focus with him on X skill, here’s what that looks like.” Or, “Here are three pictures of how you can set up a great homework space for your child at home!”

Lesson 2—Visual Cues are a Helpful Sorting Strategy. In early celebration of my birthday, my husband accommodated my wish to see Dave Matthews (now, before you worry about my taste or pass any judgment about how often I wear boat shoes, do know that this year I have also seen Beyonce and Arcade Fire!). Because one of my friends that joined us was 7 months pregnant and I have a strong aversion to being stuck in 2 hours of traffic at 1 AM, we purchased Premium Parking. The kind folks at the Jiffy Lube venue sent a bright yellow hang tag for our car. This seems a lot smarter than having the security team stop each car and check a plain old white receipt.

Classroom application: I’ve been watching a lot of student registration events recently. What if each grade level or classroom was sent a different colored piece of card stock identifying their grade in advance and there were color-coded lines to avoid line back up for families? Or what if when you were checking for understanding, you had students hold up a colored index card that corresponded to an answer choice? Or what about this school in New Jersey who only sends home parent notices on green sheets of paper?

Lesson 3—Keep Commonly Used Items Well-Stocked. Did I tell you I had a bizarre allergy attack when on vacation in July? My eyes swelled shut and after a trip to Urgent Care, and a week’s worth of prescription steroids, Zyrtec, and Benadryl, I went for real allergy tests. While waiting for the results after getting poked 40 times, I nosed around the exam room when no one was looking. I’m always fascinated by how doctor’s offices function, or in my experience, don’t function all that well. So when I see a bright spot of efficiency, I pounce. And take pictures. This one appears to be a file box for the most commonly used forms within the office. What I really love is the Table of Contents attached (albeit sloppily, but you know that I don’t care how things look) so the medical folk can clearly tell what is in there without having to rifle through the folders. Genius!

Classroom application: Think of the top five forms that your office, families or students need. For families, I’m thinking instructional tips. For students, it could be absent work, field trip forms and the like. Whether in a file box, cabinet or hanging file, make multiple copies and have them right there—and write up a table of contents to ensure everyone can help themselves without having to dig!

Okay, what lessons have you learned during your errand and fun time lately? And PS my teacher-husband thinks I’m super nerdy for thinking about these things when out and about, but for real, systems for teachers are everywhere!