Updated: Aug 3
Hi there! My name is Stephanie Plaza, and I am a senior student at Kean University. I am studying Elementary Education (K-6) with a teacher of students with disabilities certification and a concentration in Mathematics. I've been working with children at a local YMCA for the past don't years and counting. I am working on campus in the Center for Leadership and Service within the Involvement Center, helping students and student leaders connect to create a meaningful campus experience. I am also the president of an organization on campus, Teachers of Tomorrow. I am an active volunteer within my campus community and love to give back to those in under-resourced communities. You can usually find me at a concert or on social media.sixyou'dTomorrow'sow's like to connect with me. On social media, you can find me @letmyspiritfly_x (favorite song lyrics from a favorite small band) or on LinkedIn as Stephanie Plaza.
I bet none of us have ever thought about the opportunity to work from home or what it would be like to be restricted to the four walls that hold your house together. Before the pandemic, I prided myself on managing my time, always waking up early, and being consistent with my planner. However, that quickly changed, and I realized I had to. Student teaching is challenging, but teaching during a pandemic is a different monster. To keep myself focused and on my A-game, I began to try all time management strategies.
Don't let organizing your student teacher binder stress you out! Get the EduMagic Student teacher binder here.
I never liked online calendars and organizing apps like the Notes app on a smartphone, but my google drive and google calendar became my best friend during the pandemic. I began to create folders for every class, including my student teaching, and even had folders within those folders. You probably think I sound crazy, but it has been a lifesaver. At Kean University, we have weekly assignments to send to our Kean University faculty supervisors. With that, I had a folder for my journal entries, weekly student logs, and lesson plans. I then took it a notch up and created a folder within my lesson plans that separates the format my school wanted us to use, the format my district uses, and sometimes those other lesson plans that professors would have you write for a class grade.
Another tool to wake that helped me adjust to a virtual space was setting alarms for myself. I used alarms not just to wake up in the morning but to remind me 10 minutes before I started work or had to log onto my virtual student teaching class. These alarms would often catch me off guard, giving me 10 minutes to transition into the next task of my day. Aside from remembering what I had to do, I also had to decide where to work. I quickly learned that lying in bed for class was not the smartest idea and that working in my room, despite having a desk, was quite challenging. I began to change my workspace weekly to see where I would work best and what had the least distractions. I am happy to say that after many months, setting up a folding table on the couch has been my saving grace. This may not be for everyone, and since we are all future teachers, I have seen parents who homeschool their kids decorate and put up trifolds to keep their children on task. I have never tried this, but I think this could work as long as what we display on the boards helps us be productive and not distracted.
If virtual planning and managing is not for you, I have some other great tips I used before the pandemic. I am a firm believer in a planner. I love planners with monthly and weekly views with large enough boxes to write homework and assignments. When looking at the monthly view, I would write any meetings I had recurring, big deadlines I knew would not be changed, and any other monthly occurrences such as bills, appointments, or adulting tasks. I also love whiteboard calendars since sometimes we forget to check our planners (guilty!) However, whiteboard calendars or even cork boards are so functional to hang on your wall and be constantly reminded of that deadline to limit procrastination. Fecich tip: Get your EduMagic Future Teacher Planner here.
Some other general tips for time management that I found work best for me is limiting distractions so I can focus on my work and assignments. If possible, work in a well-lit area. Sunshine is such a great source of natural light, and if you can work in an area where you can see the sunshine and feel its warmth, it may help you focus more on your work. Along with limiting distractions, you may also want to set your phone on do not disturb, silent mode, or turn it off entirely so that you don't need to check your notifications frequently. I don't know about you, but it hasn't been a while since my phone was completely shut off. If you are someone like me who gets discouraged easily, do yourself a favor and take frequent, short breaks—set goals to write a certain amount of paper and then reward yourself for a break. If we can do it as a behavior management tool for kids, we can do it ourselves.
A massive piece of time management is allowing yourself to make mistakes but knowing you must try harder next time. There is no sense in beating yourself up by overtaking a longer break than expected or prioritizing the wrong assignment first. It is okay! We wouldn't be human if we didn't make mistakes.