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Teacher Tech Series Part Three: Calendar and Project Management

Nov 16, 2021

You’ve already taken the big step in being more efficient with your lesson planning by doing it digitally like we talked about back in episode 50, now it’s time to take it one step further, and really it just makes sense to take it one step further with your time and task management as a teacher.  Here’s the truth, as much as what we do in helping kids learn can be super simple, as educators we have plenty of spinning plates in the air.  We are in charge of lots of projects and other moving parts of our day, leaving us with somewhere around ten things we’re managing at any given time.  There’s got to be a better way to manage all that we do other than in a paper planner or calendar.

Because, here’s the thing… The management of time and tasks is the greatest low-grade, yet constant stressor of life, is it not?  Especially for teachers.  The autonomy we have as teachers is truly one of the best aspects of the career field in my opinion, but the inability to think long term and manage the creation of an entire year’s worth of curriculum, lessons, activities, projects, assessments, etc. will stifle the impact of any educator.  So it’s high time we streamline our time and project management as teachers.  And I’ve got a few ways to help you do just that.

In this episode I’m going to give you three ways to streamline your calendar and use a project management tool.  Each of the three suggestions build off of each other - you could implement all three if you’d like, or you could take each one as a baby step along the path of project management in your teaching life.  The first tip I give (let’s call it step one) being the smallest and easiest to implement, then step two is a bit bigger of a step, and same with step three, the third tip I recommend because it’s adopting an entirely new system.  Now, some of you may already be rocking the third tip I give in project management, but for others it may be quite the gigantic leap of faith to get into it, but either way, I hope this episode and my recommendations are ones that feel actionable at some point in your teaching career.  Maybe not today, and that’s ok, but definitely some time soon.

After listening to this episode you’ll be energized by at least three actionable steps you can take in reaching more efficiency with your time and task management, whether that’s individually or as a team of teachers.

So when you’re ready, and you may want to open your notes app or get out your trusty flair pen and notepad, let’s get into these recommendations for better time and project management.

I was 22 years old and in my first year of teaching when I came to the realization of exactly what area I felt most unprepared from my teacher-prep program in college.  I was teaching three preps - Sociology, Intro to Psychology, and AP® Psychology - I was also on the edtech committee, and a softball coach, a class counselor for the freshman class, had my own homeroom of students on the college and career preparatory path, and was working on teacher residency requirements from the state.  

In the three courses I was teaching alone, it was difficult for me to see more than two weeks ahead of time, and each additional role I held clouded that vision even more.  I just kept a mile long to-do list, and kept trucking along 12+ hours per day trying to get it all done.  And it hit me; I was most unprepared in project management.

Because that is exactly what we do as educators.  We are in charge of making things happen with our students and in the various roles we hold.  We are in change of helping our students master standards.  We are in charge of differentiating our lessons so that all students can master the standards.  We are in charge of meeting the needs and accommodations of all our students.  And the list goes on.  Each one of these things are called projects, and have a lead (as well as a team) to make things happen in each of these important areas.

So, what I’m proposing in this episode is that we see each aspect of what we do as “projects,” and that we are the managers of those projects.  I’m hoping to give some recommendations on using technology to better manage those projects whether just for yourself or for your team of teachers.

So let’s get to it.

The first tip has to do with your digital lesson plans or unit guides.

Assign Tasks in Comments of Google Doc

Like I said, hopefully you’ve listened to episode 50 on digitally planning, and have taken steps in moving away from your paper lesson plan book to a digital system that allows you and your team to truly and naturally collaborate.  And, if you have, I’ve got a super simple tip to help you in your team task management.

Let’s say that in managing the project that is the creation and planning of unit 4, for instance, in your Algebra II course, you’ve planned the unit as a team, but now need to divide up the tasks amongst your team members in hopes of it all being a bit more manageable and able to be accomplished a week before the unit needs to start in each of your classrooms.

In your Google Doc that is your shared Unit Guide, you can assign tasks to people on your team.  Let’s say that you are tasked with creating the guided student notes.  Go through the unit guide, highlighting the titles of each set of guided notes (that will later be linked to the notes you’ve created), make a comment and in that comment use the @ sign, then your name to assign the task to yourself.

Likewise, let’s say your colleague is tasked with creating all formative assessments for Unit 4.  He or she can go through the unit guide, making comments and assigning each of those formative assessments to himself.

Then, when you’ve created those items (the notes and formative assessments in this instance), you revisit the unit guide, find the comments assigned to you and click that they have been completed.

This allows you to see who has completed what before your next team meeting or when the deadline is approaching, allowing everyone to stay on top of their responsibilities a bit better, or at least a bit more visibly.  In addition, when a comment is marked as resolved, meaning the task was completed by the person in charge of it, everyone who is shared on the document will be notified that the comment was resolved.  So if you had been waiting on that last formative assessment, you’ve just been notified that it’s complete.  Now that’s efficiency, am I right?

Shared Course Calendar

Alright, on to tip number two.  Much like you’re now working in a shared lesson plan or unit guide document with your team (or just doing so individually), you’ll want to create a shared course or subject or grade level calendar in a tool like Google Calendar that allows you to share and collaborate on the same calendar.  

This is slightly different than the pacing guide calendar I recommended in the Unit Guide.  Again, go back and listen to episode 50 if you haven’t yet.  That pacing guide isn’t tied to any dates.  It lets you know what will take up one “day” or period of time, but the shared calendar, like a Google Calendar, allows you to tie each aspect of what’s happening in your course to a specific date.

Let’s revisit our example and say that you and I are teaching Algebra II and serve on a team with 3 other teachers who also teach Algebra II at our school.

At the beginning of the school year, or maybe you want to start this right now, which is totally doable as well, you’re going to get into your shared calendar tool - we’ll use Google Calendar for our example - and create a calendar called Algebra II Team (or whatever name you like to indicate it’s your master calendar for the year).

The calendar will show up in the left side navigation bar.  Hover over the calendar, then select the three dots that appear to the right of the calendar title.  Then select Settings and Sharing.  This is where you can enter in the email addresses of each teacher on our Algebra II Team and they’ll now see the calendar in their list of calendars.

Everyone can now see when the targeted test dates are, or end of unit dates instead of constantly wondering or needing to be reminded.  Everyone can play a part in backwards planning which we’ve talked about a lot on this podcast, and is something I teach inside of Flipped Classroom Formula when it comes to planning out the whole year on your calendar - yes, that’s absolutely something we do.  Everyone knows when each unit should be completed, and can be prepared for your team meetings.

Here’s a little bonus tip.  You will have your own calendar which acts as your personal and professional calendar to any extent that you would like, but is certainly separate from each of your course calendars.  Then, when you’re ready to see each of your course calendars, you can view those on their own or with your other course calendars.  This is helpful in seeing when each of your courses will be testing so as to hopefully space out your grading, or have tests all in the same day so you streamline your day a bit… totally up to your personal preference.

Camtasia

Today’s episode is sponsored by Camtasia.  The day I started making videos for my more accessible and flipped classroom ten years ago was the day I started using Camtasia.  Camtasia is a software suite, created and published by TechSmith, for creating video tutorials and presentations directly via screencast, or via a direct recording plug-in to Microsoft PowerPoint, making it super user-friendly for teachers to record, edit, and get their instruction in front of their students without all the hassle.  As you become more familiar and comfortable with the easy-to-use tool, you’ll realize more awesome features you can grow into when you’re ready - like adding thought bubbles, captions, awesome backgrounds and even music.  It is the best tool for beginners to produce quality, long-lasting flipped videos, and the possibilities are endless when you’re ready to explore more features.

And get this - they offer teachers a discount!  

To learn more about Camtasia and to get an ADDITIONAL 10% discount because you’re a Sustainable Teacher Podcast listener, head over to teachonamission.com/camtasia.

That’s a huge savings you don’t want to miss on what will quickly become the most used tool in your toolbox like it has been for me for 10 years.  Again that’s teachonamission.com/camtasia.

Now, let’s get back to the episode.

Project Management System

The last tip that I have for you is, like I mentioned earlier, a larger step in the task and project management arena that I’m recommending here today.  This may mean that you are nowhere near ready for this step, but maybe you will be this summer.  But for others, this could be perfect timing.  Either way, save this episode to revisit whenever you’re ready to implement a true project management system.

Which is exactly what this tip is… find a project management system, start using it for your own project in teaching, and eventually get your team of teachers on board.

To help you visualize how this can be used as a teacher, I’ll give you an example of what I would be using it for.  As a teacher with a full understanding of the stresses and pace of the school year, I would see all kinds of ideas and things I would want to implement in my classroom, and I would make the conscious decision to NOT do them that year, but instead plan to create and implement whatever it was over the summer, to be ready for the following school year.

The largest example of this was when I decided to flip my classroom.  Another example is when I made guided student notes for each of my flipped videos or set of slides.  Yet another example is when my team and I were working on aligning each of our formative and summative assessments to include and indicate specific standards that were being measured so we knew which standards were met and which were not.

Each one of these examples would be a separate project inside of a project management system.  The benefit of using one of the many project management systems available is that the deadlines to completing everything are right there in the project, and I can make subtasks.

The project management system I use and love is Asana, but there are many others including Monday.com, Trello, and even Google Task.  What I can say about Asana and how it can work for any of the projects I listed a moment ago is that I could, for instance, make the giant task of making flipped videos for Unit 1. Then I can create subtasks from there, like update slides, record video, edit video, publish video to website, etc.  It’s like I’m creating my master to-do list in a super organized, with deadlines, fashion all ahead of time, and don’t have to spend time thinking about the management of the project from there.  Instead, I’m using that brain space to actually get it done.

Another awesome thing about Asana, and the other systems I mentioned is that you can assign tasks to other people on your team.  So they can see what tasks are theirs, and mark them complete when applicable, letting the team work and function cohesively.

And, guess what, all of these functions are FREE!  At least in Asana, the tool I use.

Now, you may see this as another thing to learn and implement, and you just don’t have the space for that.  And that is totally fine.  In fact, it’s something I advocate for as a sustainable teacher - know when you can take something on, and when you can’t.  So this may be something you put down now, and pick back up over the summer.  I will say this… I believe so much in how a project management system can impact teachers that I will be providing training on it, probably Asana specifically, in the 2022 cohort of Flipped Classroom Formula.  After all, flipping your classroom is a huge project, so I will be guiding teachers on how to use Asana for their flipping project, see how it goes, and possibly open up the training to others if there is interest.

And there you have it, teacher-friend… three things to consider for your calendar and project management purposes in hopes that it allows you to not just manage your time and tasks, but do so collaboratively with your teacher team.

If you have been loving this podcast, particularly this episode, I would SO appreciate it if you would share it with a teacher-friend or two of yours.  Or even take a screenshot where you’re listening right now, share it on social media and tag me, Teach On A Mission, so teachers can find their way to the podcast.

Alrighty - next week we’ve got part three of the Teacher Tech Series which will be all about Optimizing Email in your Daily Teaching Life.  Raise your hand if email is a total drain for you.  Ugh, I have totally been there, and have some actionable tips to provide in making it much less of a daily drain so you can focus more on what matters most… your sustainability and effectiveness with students. Alright, I’ll see you same time, same place next week.  Bye for now.

P.S.

Before you go! I have to tell you about an awesome opportunity that I've guided over 500 teachers through, and is now available to you!  Ever wanted to flip your classroom?  How about flipping before next semester?  Well, if you want it, we can do it, together 😀.  Head over to my totally free Flipped Classroom Masterclass to learn how (and receive CEUs for the training) by signing up here.  Hurry, because it won't be available for free for long.  See you there!

 

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