Using the "Ideal Week" to Cut Down on Teacher Overwhelm

There is always so much to do. Always. Being a teacher just doesn't have a start and stop. There's no punch card for this job. Yet there are ways to contain the overwhelm. 

Slowly and surely, I've been learning them. One great option is to plan your ideal week and stick to it when you can. Of course, dozens of things will come up to fit in between your main priorities, but if you can schedule a basic system, the routine will make your life so much clearer and help calm the racing to-do list in your head. 

When I became a blogger and podcaster, I started reading more widely about productivity and writing. I soon came across the concept of the ideal week. I've never heard anyone talk about it in the teaching world though, and that's got to change! Using the ideal week plan has really helped me organize my life, and I think it can do the same thing for you.

How to PIVOT in your Teaching Career

Well, no one ever says teaching will be easy. So I guess it's no surprise to most of us to discover how totally integrated our personal and professional lives can become in this career, and how tricky that can be.

Though I usually focus on creative teaching strategies here, I wanted to write this time about some of the major challenges and transformations I have experienced in my career in education. Sometimes the end of the year is the perfect time to pause and consider whether what you are doing is working well for you, or if you might need to do some pivoting so that you can be happier.


Summer Playlist: 10 Podcast Episodes for the ELA Teacher

Summer is so close now most of us can taste it. The air smells different. Books and beaches are calling, though I know you are keeping things creative and engaging up to the last moment! I know from the great things I'm hearing over in Creative High School English, that you are probably mulling a lot of things about next year in the back of your mind as you wrap up this year. It's only natural in a time of transition.

Obviously the summer is a great time to unplug and recharge your batteries. But if you're like me, you usually have a project or two you will really enjoy doing in between all the rest and relaxation. And you'll probably like the feeling that you are investing in next year's happiness and success even as you enjoy your time off.

I spend my summers on a tiny lake in Minnesota, going with my family to the one good restaurant in town, The Lazy Moose, and then listening to the loons as I go to bed. It's a time for paddle boarding, sunsets, and lots and lots of family games and books. But almost every day I go for a rollerblade. And almost every day, I listen to a podcast or a book. It makes me so happy!

In case you, too, enjoy a bit of friendly chat in your ears as you do some of your summer activities, I want to recommend my favorite ten podcasts I have done this year to you. With topics like helping you start a reading program, getting going with genius hour, and teaching your students how to blog, each of these episodes offers some significant contribution to next year's success for you.


Rock your Felt Letter Board

Ok, guys. Sometimes I get pretty excited about the learning space. I'm not going to lie. I love to see beautiful classrooms. Flexible seating and amazing displays of work are my jam. I like creating  posters and photo walls, and sometimes I put my bookshelves in rainbow order.

So I guess it's no surprise that I bought one of those felt letter boards that are popping up everywhere you look. Yes, I succumbed to the Insta-pressure.

And yet, when it arrived from Amazon with it's hundreds of tiny white letters that I had to individually break off from their tiny plastic stems, my enthusiasm quailed a bit. Luckily, my six-year-old got excited about getting them ready for me. #Parentingwin

Which brings me here, to this post. Perhaps you, too, have purchased a felt letter board in a moment of Instagram-fueled enthusiasm. Perhaps now you too are wondering what on earth to put on it, now that you have it.

I've got your back! Here, with no further ado, are seven ways to use your new letter board and a lot of fun options for what to put on it.


5 Ways to Cut Stress at the End of the School Year

As the end of the year approaches, sometimes survival feels like the name of the game. Keep showing up, keep trying to smile, keep from getting mad at anyone when you're feeling exhausted and in desperate need of a break. It's so tempting to put up a big countdown chart on the board and root for summer along with everyone else. 

But the problem with counting down is, it doesn't really speed things up. Or make you feel much better. It puts all the emphasis on what you don't have yet. 

I remember one summer in college when I worked in a candy store. The summer afternoons dragged when customers were sparse. When beachcombers and weekenders crammed in happily demanding custom jelly belly mixes and gift wrapped boxes of chocolate rocks, the time flew. 

The end of the year will actually come much sooner when you and your students are busily engaged doing good and important work right up until the end. The tempo and type of work just needs to shift a little to fit the season and everyone's mood. 

Here are five tips, based on my own experience and a lot of great conversations inside my Facebook group, Creative High School English (are you there yet?), for taking some of the stress off you and making the end of the year smooth and successful.

#1 Don't Leave MAJOR Grading until the End

Oh man, this is such an easy mistake to make. You are likely going to have a giant final exam project, paper, or test to grade already. There is no need to also collect a huge assignment, like a multi genre autobiography, semester's worth of blog writing, or research documentary project, on the last day of school. 

So many teachers across the disciplines stack their major assessments in the last week, so not only will you save yourself a super stressful grading frenzy by scheduling your due dates a bit sooner, but your overloaded students will appreciate it so much.

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