Sunday, August 8, 2010

13 Hours and Counting

Disclaimer: Just quit reading now if you are someone who doesn't like sarcasm. I don't mean this post to be taken literally. It is a tongue-in-cheek way of communicating a teacher's perspective on prepping for a new year.

There are two truths that I have to accept as I plan for a new school year:
1.) I have a very large staff that works for me.
2.) Everyone on my staff is an idiot.

I know these are two shocking statements for a teacher, but let me explain why operating under these assumptions lets me set up for the smoothest school year possible. If I were to list my daily responsibilities as a classroom teacher, this post would go on forever. I really am running a small office in terms of paperwork, record keeping, and scheduling. The good news is I have a lot of employees--sort of. I do not have to check off every box with my own hand. I do not have to distribute every paper. I do not have to track every schedule. I do not have to sharpen every pencil and refill every paper box myself. I do have to idiot proof every job, routine, and organizational system in my room--let's face it: this includes the things only I touch because my wits will certainly be dulled when I am constantly attending to multiple tasks at the same time. I have to assume that every employee in my office is Amelia Bedelia (you should really google that if you didn't catch that referrence because those books are excellent). This sounds easy but it's not! I am going to give one concrete example to illustrate the myriad of these organizational quandaries that are my life right now.

If you have read this blog a while, you might remember that I consider pencils my arch nemesis in the classroom (you can read about that here, here, and here). Supplying sharpened pencils is one of those jobs I want to delegate to my "employees". If I didn't do this, I could almost provide a full time job for myself sharpening and keeping track of pencils. However, if I were to give everyone a couple of pencils and let things run their course, the pencils would last a total of two hours. If I just assume that my "employees" know what a sharp pencil is or when is an appropriate time to sharpen pencil, my "employees" will sharpen every pencil down to the erasers in a couple of days and will turn the electric pencil sharpener on during important meetings and will break and jam the electric pencil sharpener. Quickly, my room will digress to a Lord of the Flies state. So, I've got to "idiot proof things" a little. Each employee keeps two pencils in his desk. On the counter, are two pencil cups labeled dull and sharp. Employees may exchange a pencil from their desks for a sharp pencil. One employee is designated "the pencil sharpener." This is the only employee allowed to touch the electric pencil sharpener. I will give this employee special training on things like when to empty the pencil sharpener, when to sharpen pencils, and how to use the dull and sharp cups.

That is just one example of the hundreds of organizational tasks I have to attend to in order for the year to run smoothly. If you walked into my room, you would see clipboards and charts and labels everywhere. I think I am passed the new teacher stage because I have graduated from decorative tendencies to organizational obsession.

Anyway, school starts tomorrow and I have to think of it as New Employee Orientation for an entire staff of Amelia Bedelias. My goal is that if you walk into my room it looks like my job is easy, but parents, administrators, or anyone in my room who hasn't been in the shoes of classroom teacher for a while you should know that I have to take an incompetent staff and turn them into the dream team. It might look like they just know what to do, but trust me, I taught them!

1 comment:

Literacy Teacher said...

Good luck on your first day!!