Educators are currently experiencing a time of uncertainty. Many schools are closed, and at-home learning is the new focus for much of the Physical Education community. This teaching adjustment has possibly been the biggest obstacle PE teachers have had to experience. Schools are officially closed for the year in Washington State.
Over the last couple months, I’ve developed a “learning as I go” mentality. My daily routines have slowly adapted to this new teaching environment, and I’ve readdressed my personal and professional priorities. I won’t sugarcoat it, adjusting to a quarantine lifestyle has been difficult. Creating a new norm for myself as an at-home educator has taken time to adjust to, but now, I feel comfortable and confident I can support at home learning.
Adjusting to this new teaching setting, I’ve had to find ways to boost my productivity working from home. Here are 6 tips and tricks that helped me become better organized, and best of all, feel good about teaching in this new setting.
1. Get Comfortable
Productivity increases when we are in a relaxing environment. Find the perfect place in your home that will motivate you to focus on teaching while avoiding any distractions. Everyone has their own way to get comfortable. Think about what works best for you. My most comfortable work area is in my home office with a view looking outside. What does comfortable mean for you?
2. Post Your Daily Agenda
Daily agendas aren’t just useful for students, teachers can benefit too from posting a schedule they can follow. I like to create a daily agenda and place it in a visible spot within my working environment. Everything goes on my agenda, including start/stop times, lunch and activity breaks, office hours, and program-related tasks. Following a daily agenda can help teachers with organization, efficiency, and productivity in any teaching environment.
3. Prioritize Your Tasks
I prioritize my tasks based on their importance and deadlines. When determining how long any of my tasks will take, I like to base my estimation using 30-minute blocks. If I estimate a project will take 3 hours to complete, and it needs to be done by the end of the week, I will make it a priority to find 3 hours in my weekly schedule to complete this task. Depending on the length of the job, I can choose to complete it in one solid block of time, or break it up into two or more blocks throughout the week.
Categorize tasks that need to be completed during the work week based on importance and time needed to complete. Judging the importance of each task factors into how I plan my week. I like to color code my tasks as either red (complete ASAP), yellow (if I have the time), and green (it’s on my radar), tasks to be helpful.
If I know planning an upcoming PE unit for my K-2 students takes me about 2 hours, I need to plan accordingly and schedule 2 hours within my week to complete it. An important factor that determines the priority level for this planning is the deadline. If this planning was for a unit that is set to begin the following week, I would label this task as red (complete ASAP), whereas if this planning was for a unit I scheduled 3 months from now, I would label this task as green (it’s on my radar). When prioritizing your tasks, try to consider their importance, time to complete, and any deadline for completion.
4. Pre-Plan the Week Ahead
Getting the week off to a great start gets a lot easier when your week is pre-planned. I like to organize my work week first thing Monday mornings. This is a time where I can create a to-do list and then piece everything together on my calendar.
Don’t forget about finding time at the end of your week to plan ahead for the next work week. It only takes minutes to create a small blueprint for the upcoming week. Doing this can make a huge difference in how you start off a new work week.
Increase your productivity by planning ahead
5. Revisit and Recreate Your Goals
Many classroom projects of mine have been put on hold during at-home learning. I have had to re-prioritize my goals because some of them were best suited for the school building. I haven’t eliminated those goals, but simply put them on hold. For me, I now have a new set of goals that best suit the new environment I teach in.
Think about your goals for your Physical Education program. Which ones were affected by school closures and are temporarily on hold? What new goals have you developed now that you are teaching in a new setting?
Goal setting leads can be the motivator we need as educators. What are your goals?
6. Honor Your Time, Take Care of You
The best advice I can give to anyone during this pandemic is “take care of yourself.” Work can wait sometimes. If you don’t always complete everything you would at the end of your day, be okay with that. As simple as that sounds, this is a constant work-in-progress for me. I’ve found myself at times so entrenched in my work that I’ve lost track of time and my other priorities, specifically my family. I’m getting better at ending my workday at a consistent time. What’s really helped me is following my calendar and daily agenda.
My Challenge for You
Over the next few weeks, I challenge you to find a time to evaluate your productivity during at-home learning. Take a few minutes and evaluate what’s currently working and what may need to be re-evaluated. Every teacher has their own preference. Identify what works for you and allows you to be productive each day.
If you have successful strategies to boost your productivity as a teacher, I encourage you to reach out and share your ideas with the Physical Education community. Take care of yourself during these times and stay in good health. We will get through this together.