Making the Most of your Week Lesson #3: Using Small Pockets of Time

Mar 27, 2013

Are you like me? Do you sometimes find yourself completely wasting small 15 – 20 minute chunks of time?

Of course, sometimes they should be wasted (see our hot chocolate post from the start of 2013). But for the most part, my orientation is to try my hardest to use those pockets wisely. This leaves me more overall time to watch more episodes of Breaking Bad, plan nice baby showers for my friends, and spend QT with my husband, daughter and son.

Here’s the rub: if I am not prepared for HOW to use that time, I can all too quickly fritter it away via blog reading, Facebook checking, and general online nonsense-browsing.

Lesson #3: How To Use Those Small Pockets of Time

Meet Sue, a middle school English and Nationally Board Certified teacher who’s been rocking it for 16 years. I also happen to quite envy her freezer full of healthy homemade dinners to feed her husband and son on busy nights. Over here at the Together Teacher, we have a *big* professional crush on Sue.

Sue is very committed to being efficient during the workday so she can take VERY little, if any, work home in the evenings. To accomplish this, she’s learned to master her use of small pockets of time. Here’s how she does it, using…bags.

Main School Bag: Huge LL Bean tote. But that’s not her secret. The secret to Sue’s success is her two “mini-bags,” equipped to take advantage of the little chunks of time that emerge on any given day. Sue says,

“Their small size makes the task a bit less intimidating and I can easily take one wherever I go! I always bring one to my son’s Saturday morning Judo class.”

Mini Bag #1: The Grading Bag. Sue notes: “The contents of the bag are just what I need to do the task, but not enough to distract me.” Smart!

This is where she keeps:

  • a paper grade book page for each class that’s punched for her Flexy Friend (an Arc notebook)
  • a few stacks of student work
  • sheets of stickers
  • an EZ-grade slide calculator, and
  • a pouch with colorful pens, pencils, sticky notes, binder clips, and correction tape.  

Sue says, “I always keep the stack of student work small; no more than three or four different assignments for about 50 students.  Anything more is not a small task, and I also only put “easy” grading into this bag.  This work is meant to be accomplished in 10 to 30 minutes. ”

Mini Bag #2: The Planning Bag

 Look in here and you’ll find:

  • a folder with lesson planning documents (Common Core Scope and Sequence, lesson plan documents, unit overviews, etc.)
  • the related student text
  • my lesson planning notebook

Sue says,

“My planning mini-bag is a bit wider than the other one, so I can slip my laptop into it too.  I usually do my initial unit and lesson planning on paper, so I don’t always need my computer.  Having a separate bag for lesson planning means I’m always ready for coaching or curricular meetings.”

In both mini-bags, Sue keeps:

  • her Smartphone, used as a timer (more on this in an upcoming post!)
  • a healthy snack like granola bars or trail mix
  • a pouch with: pens, pencils, sticky notes, binder clips, and correction tape.

Too many of us have strange 15 minute windows of “nothing” to do! These can often add up to real work time if we are prepared and ready to go, with both mindset and materials. Sue is prepped to capitalize on any and all spare moments—in the interest of both being a great teacher AND getting more personal time on nights and weekends to spend with her family.

Together Teacher Discussion Question: How do you maximize small chunks of time?