We’re nearing that special time of year when teachers must cram as much information as possible into their heads, along with setting up classrooms, along with planning for the first week of school, along with meeting students, along with memorizing their names, along with ALL THE THINGS EVER.
And that’s if you’re coming back to teaching at the same school and position you had last year. If you are new to teaching, your school, or your position, the amount of new information is easily multiplied by ten.
So, good luck. I’m praying for you.
Just kidding. I mean, I will pray for you, but I have some practical advice that may help. Or, since it’s more information, maybe it will bounce off your already-full brain. If that’s the case, keep reading, because nothing is better than procrastinating on the Internet when you should be doing something productive, amirite?
Step 1: Take deep breaths.
And not the hyperventilating kind. It is not possible to get all the new information you need, so don’t even try. Listen as best as you can. Some of it will stick. The rest, you will get later if it’s really important. People will find you, don’t worry.
Step 2: Attach yourself to a friend.
This could be your mentor, the teacher across the hall, or your work BFF. Look into your friend’s eyes, and tell her, very seriously, that you are never letting go while you are in meetings. That way, when anything is said, you can quietly repeat it to each other to check for understanding. Or, you can be attractively outraged and/or confused, whatever the situation calls for. You can also share snacks. You can keep each other on task or provide comic relief as needed.
Don’t do to your friend what Rose did to Jack.
Step 3: Take notes.
I like to take notes on my laptop, but I know a lot of teachers have the most adorable notebooks where they keep track of all their info. Whatever it is, make sure you bring it everywhere, and make sure it’s something you will find later. Also, do not write in code that only you can understand in that moment. I don’t know how many times I’ve written down something, only to find that it makes absolutely no sense because I was trying to be “save time.”
Step 4: Make a list, and focus on your top priorities.
Making lists can be extremely helpful in getting everything out that’s cluttering your mind. Then, put a star next to the things you absolutely have to get done, or rewrite them onto a VIL (Very Important List). Here are some things that might show up on your VIL:
- Students have a place to sit
- You know where your classroom is, and the quickest exits (for emergency drills, of course)
- Books are ready to give out (numbered, organized, in your room)
- You have a plan for the first day of school and hopefully the first week
- You know what your rule(s) and routine(s) are
- Classroom walls do not resemble asylum walls (well, maybe just one wall does)
- Your computer is running
- You know how to turn on your computer and check your email
- Your floor is cleared of hundreds of dead ladybugs (true story, this was on my VIL one year)
- You have a working pen
As long as you have the above items done, you’re in pretty good shape. Everything else is just icing on the cake!
Step 5: Treat yourself.
I strongly believe that with all difficult things we do, we need to have a plan to reward ourselves, and the first week of meetings is definitely cause for rewards. I suggest having one per day, and then a bigger one at the end of the week. Here is a sample chart of rewards for five days of meetings with three types of possibilities, which can be experienced by themselves or in combinations:
|Day 1||Starburst||Office Supply Splurge||Margarita|
|Day 2||Oreos||Lock self in bathroom for unspecified amount of time||Beer|
|Day 3||Twizzlers||Sit next to scented candle and stare at flame||Wine|
|Day 4||M & M’s||New Shoes||Beer and Wine|
|Day 5/Last Day||Cheesecake||Massage||Hard Liquor|
Now, I hope I can take my own advice! What are ways you cope with information overload at the beginning of the year?