Today's blog post comes from a good friend, Dr. Frank Buck. He is a specialist in getting organized, and is the author of the book, Get Organized!, which is coming out at the start of the school year. I highly recommend it! Enjoy his recommendations for finishing the year right.
Getting May Right
One of my vivid memories from junior high is the first ride on the “Scream Machine” at Six Flags, a wooden roller coaster towering over 100 feet traveling downhill at almost 60 miles per hour. The ascent up the tall incline was slow and deliberate. But when the coaster crested that hill, the bottom fell out. All around me, smiles turned to looks of panic. Laughter turned to screams as my comrades and I were thrown from side to side and jerked up and down.
Ninety seconds later, the coaster came to a stop just as quickly as the thrill had begun. We had survived! Nothing had prepared us for the sudden transition from calm to panic.
The next time I would experience something similar was also in junior high—only this time, I was a first-year teacher experiencing my first May. Nothing had prepared me for what was about to happen.
What about you? Do you find the final month of school to be overwhelming? On the other hand, are you in your first year as a teacher or principal and have no idea what is about to hit?
Here are five tips to help you navigate May productively:
1. Make two lists. Tasks arrive at warp speed during this final month. Get really good at recognizing which ones must be handled before students scatter for the summer and which ones can wait until the “roller coast ride” is over and the pace is less hectic. Begin every day with a list of pre-defined work. Keep that list front-and-center throughout the day. Whittle it down during every spare minute. Other good ideas will surface. Trap those on a second list, one that you can work on at your leisure during the summer.
2. Work ahead of deadlines. If the frantic pace of year’s end has not yet hit, do yourself a favor. Look ahead to the tasks which have May deadlines but you could work on now. The more tasks you can tackle while things are relatively calm, the easier the final week becomes.
3. Expect the unexpected. On April 1, your agenda for May doesn’t look that crowded. Just wait. Other people procrastinate, and their failure to plan means work gets dumped on you at the last minute. If your dance card is already full, get ready for long days and lots of stress. But, if you are working ahead of headlines and judiciously postponing non-urgent tasks until the summer, you leave yourself breathing room.
4. Trap repeating tasks. We close school every year, and the tasks which lead up to the final day repeat themselves every single spring. When one of these repeating tasks lands on your radar, you should never have to think about it again. Any good digital task list will allow you to specify that a task needs to be done on a certain date each year. My favorite is Toodledo.
5. Enjoy the ride. The groundwork you have laid all year long is coming to fruition. First-graders are reading well. The French I class has an unbelievable mastery of the language. Those shy students in Drama now take the stage like champions. Savor the moment as the coaster speeds down the hill and roars around the curves. Experience the thrill of a job well-done. Relish in all of the end-of-year celebrations.
When the roller coaster comes to its sudden halt, some exit the cars physically and mentally exhausted. Others exclaim, “Wow! Can we do that again?” For those who are in the profession for the long-haul, you will do May again, and again, and again. Getting May right is a gift to both you and your students.
Frank Buck served as a middle-level band director, principal, and central office administrator during a career of almost 30 years. He now speaks and writes on the subject of organization and time management. He is the author of Get Organized!: Time Management for School Leaders and Organization Made Easy!: Tools for Today’s Teachers, both published by Routledge. You can read more of Dr. Buck’s work at FrankBuck.org.