[Year 12, Days 4-6 #180blog post]
I procrastinate. I leave things until the last minute.
Last Friday, Day 4, was a particularly bad day in that regard. I got to school at 8:30, only 5 minutes before the required time and only 15 minutes before students begin first period. I basically winged period 1 (AP CSA), guiding students step-by-step through planning out an object-oriented Java class and then beginning to code it on my screen while they worked on theirs:
UML-style class diagram for theoretical eBook class, brainstormed by students
Second period, my planning period, I had a visit from an industry partner dropping off a donated printer, met with my department/team, and barely had time to write a quiz for my 3rd period AP CSP class before it began. Then I was completely unprepared for 4th period CIM, writing a warm-up activity on the board (usually I type and put on the daily agenda or a PowerPoint), and printing out worksheets the students needed during class instead of having them in advance. I only got by based on the fact that this is the 11th year in a row I’ve taught CIM (Computer Integrated Manufacturing), so I could teach it in my sleep – figuratively 🙂 I had the students sketch their initials and plot the coordinates, that this week we are using to turn into G&M code to eventually be milled out on the CNC machine. I do think the CIM students could tell it was an off-day and I was unprepared, but it still went OK. And then last period I covered another teacher’s class, so no time to catch up then either.
Now I can blame some of this on scheduling: this year I am teaching 3.5 preps [the 0.5 is Precalculus, since I am advising some students on an independent study, it doesn’t take up as much time & effort as if I were teaching them as a full separate class, but it does still take some time/work]. Baltimore City’s teacher contract says teachers should not teach more than two preps (i.e. two different subjects for which to prepare lessons) except in usual/extreme circumstances. I’ve agreed to 3 each of the last two years so that we can grow our computer science program (while still maintaining our engineering program and helping it thrive). But that does mean less time to fully plan for each of my 3.5 classes.
But I also have to blame myself. I agreed to those 3 preps. And I agreed to teach/advise the two students precalculus because if I didn’t we might not have had any precalculus at my school this year (senior students are scheduled for College Readiness Math if they do not pass the Algebra II PARCC exam). And I don’t plan far enough ahead (e.g. plan the whole next week’s worth of lessons over the weekend). I do some of this because I can: I am capable of looking at the big picture, scheduling out weekly topics and units, and widening/narrowing focus based on my knowledge of the curriculum and the students’ needs. And I use the 3 preps as an excuse, plus that I spend 10-11 hours each day at work, so I don’t want to take work home. But I often feel I would be a better teacher if I did plan more ahead.
I’ve procrastinated throughout my life, including pulling all-nighters before science fair projects were due in high school and before essays were due in college. It continues to this day: this Saturday I logged on to check on a project for my Artificial Intelligence course (at Georgia Tech) that was due Sunday and that we’d had two weeks to work on. I saw the deadline was pushed back a week due to Hurricane Irma, and I promptly logged back off and did zero work on that the rest of the weekend. I’ll be moving on to that AI project now tonight, once I’m done with this blog post. 😛
By the way, Tim Urban a great series of blog posts on procrastination, starting here, and also a TED talk. He gets inside the mindset of procrastinators and why it can sometimes be a dangerous spiral.
Monday (Day 5) was a little better, though still felt rushed. The main difference was I had a little more time to myself during second period (planning). I make a goal to provide grade printouts to my students each week on Monday, so they can track their progress and remediate sooner rather than later if needed, and I only met that goal for 1/3 classes. But I was able to prepare the lessons with a little more time to spare.
Today (Day 6) was a lot better; got the rest of the grading done, lessons were prepared and ready, all went well. Seven students again for tutoring / coach class after school today as well.
But while some days go better than others, and some days are more well-planned than others (which often though not always correlates), it is a constant struggle with procrastination. I am juggling too many things (3.5 preps, plus growing two programs, plus working with two new teachers at my school, plus collaborating with engineering and CS teachers across the city, plus my Georgia Tech masters coursework, plus Coding Club, plus Cyber Club, plus MESA club, plus coordinating with a variety of industry and higher education partners, plus applying for grants to help fund our programs, plus working as treasurer for our Baltimore City Engineering Alliance nonprofit charity organization, plus …). At the same time, I like juggling all that to some degree. As the other extreme, I don’t think I’d ever want to teach only one prep, three-four times a day: I would get bored! I like learning and teaching new things! So it may be somewhat personality-driven, but the overload does encourage procrastination, and I do often wonder, if I had fewer things to focus on, I could do each of them better.
Anyway, here I am, having procrastinated writing days 4 and 5 blog posts and trying to get away with rolling three days into one (and rambling on, at that, too…). And I’m using my blog post as a way to procrastinate my Artificial Intelligence work even more too! So let me wrap that up, and get on to that (unless something else comes up!).