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 6 years and counting. I am currently working on campus in the Center for Leadership and Service within the Involvement Center helping students and student leaders connect with one another to create a meaningful campus experience. I am also the president of an organization on campus called Tomorrow’s Teachers. 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. If you’d 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 really thought about the opportunity to work from home or what it would be like to be restricted to the 4 walls that hold your house together. Prior to the pandemic, I prided myself on my ability to manage my time, always wake up early, and be consistent with my planner. However, that quickly changed and I realized I had to as well. Student teaching is a challenge within itself but student teaching during a pandemic is a whole different monster. In order to keep myself focused and on my A-game, I began to try any and all time management strategies.
I never liked online calendars and organizing apps like the notes app on a smartphone, but during the pandemic, my google drive and google calendar became my best friend. I began to create folders for every class, including my student teaching and even had folders within those folders. I know you probably think I sound crazy but honestly, it has been a lifesaver. At Kean University, we have weekly assignments we have 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 and grade.
Some other tools that helped me adjust to a virtual space were to set alarms for myself. I used alarms not just for waking up in the morning, but to remind me 10 minutes before I started work or had to log onto my virtual student teaching class. More often than not, these alarms would catch me off guard which then gave me 10 minutes to transition into the next task of my day. Aside from actually remembering what I had to do, I also had to decide where I would work. I quickly found out that laying in bed for the class was not the smartest idea and that personally, working in my room, despite having a desk, was quite the challenge. I began to change up my workspace weekly to see where I would work best and what had the least amount of 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 are homeschooling 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.
Now, if virtual planning and managing is not for you, I have some other great tips that I used before the pandemic struck. I am a firm believer in a planner. I love planners that have a monthly view as well as a weekly view 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 may 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 your procrastination.
Some other tips, in general for time management that I found work best for me, is limiting my distractions so I could have a 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 that you can see the sunshine as well as feel its warmth, it may help you be more focused on your work. Along with limiting your distractions, you may also want to set your phone on do not disturb, silent mode, or just turn it off completely. Just so you don’t feel the need to check your notifications frequently. I don't know about you, but it’s been a while since my phone has been completely turned off and shut down. If you are someone like me who gets discouraged super easily, do yourself a favor and take frequent, short breaks. Set goals for yourself to write a certain amount of a paper and then reward yourself for a break. If we can do it as a behavior management tool for kids, we can do it for ourselves as well.
A massive piece of time management is allowing yourself to make mistakes but also knowing you have to try harder next time. There is no sense in beating yourself up 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.