By Sonya Barnes 4/4/2020
I’d love to hear what your frog is! Comment below or join me on social media: Facebook join the group Addicted to Teaching or Twitter follow me at AddictedtoTeac1. Don’t forget to like this article and let me know you like it so I will keep them coming!
There is a story from my childhood that comes up from time to time about when, after reading about the frog prince, I went outside, gathered a bucket of frogs and, one at a time, kissed the frog then tossed it over my shoulder and moved on to the next one when it didn’t turn into a prince. I adore frogs, but the idea of eating one seems completely out of the question. So when I was having a monthly chat with my instructional leader and she asked me about eating the frog, I definitely raised my eyebrows, before she went on to explain to me and encouraged me to share this concept with all of you. So here I am.
Brian Tracy wrote a book on this catchphrase of Mark Twain’s, equating it to our modern day lives and the tasks we do. As educators, we have many things we must do regularly, and they are not always enjoyable tasks. It took me many years to figure out effective strategies in my classroom for managing everything and that seemed to change from year to year depending on several factors from leadership to level of students in my classes. When I moved virtual teacher and working from home, it became even more apparent that time management was incredibly important, especially with family home during the day when I was working.
If you haven’t caught on my now, this phrase has little to do with literally eating frogs and everything to do with the figurative element of it. You see, eating a frog is a repulsive idea and something we will put off if possible. But the gist of this phrase is about taking on the most difficult thing to do and doing it first thing. For me, grading has always been the bane of my existence—grading is my frog. I have primarily taught reading and language arts in my career field, so grading meant reading a great deal of writing assignments several times checking for content and mechanics to help improve their skills. I’d procrastinate on this task due to having so many other things to do and not wanting to, that I’d have a massive pile with hours of grading to do. Sometimes, I’d have so much when it was quarterly writing time, that I’d burn a personal day to spend grading just to have a quiet house to work in—and I’d still procrastinate. I justified it by saying I was more effective if I graded at once, so I had the same mindset for all and wasn’t so subjective.
Now that I teach a technology course virtually, the grading isn’t quite as time consuming for each item, but it is still time consuming since many of my students will complete more than one assignment in a day and we have an expectation of grading within a certain time period. This has helped me make sure I make time for it in my day. I used to work it in when I could, sometimes leaving it to the end of the day, sometimes forcing myself to do it both in the beginning and end of my day. I even tried only grading every other day so that I didn’t have to deal with it as often but could still make the expectation. But after that conversation with my leader last month, I started grading as my first thing of the day every single day. My brain is fresh and rested and I can start on it early before everyone in the house is awake and moving—which is much more of a distraction now that we are all at home during the Covid-19 orders.
And do you know what I found? It really does work. Not only is my most challenging task completed, but it helps prepare me for the rest of my day. I can then run an updated report to see the exact status of my students which prepares me for the phone calls I have to make during the day to students and parents. If my student is successfully ahead and I call and they are stressed about some upcoming test or project, I can talk to them to plan around it. If they are behind or have a poor grade, we can talk about how to catch up or improve their grade and I know exactly what is needed. It makes these conversations less about what they are supposed to be doing based on a checklist and makes it a more personal conversation about their individual learning and success.
Considering parent calls were my second frog that I used to avoid in my brick and mortar days and now it’s a routine part of my day, finding this change has made those calls the most enjoyable task (second only to checking things off of my to do list!). I can tell mom, dad, guardian, student not to stress or worry, we can do this together— do you have a plan or here’s a few options, which works best for YOU?
This approach to my interactions has allowed me to be a blessing and they answer my calls, instead of the annoyance they send to voicemail. When I have called home during this challenging time of everyone home and sharing devices, I have been able to be the calm and kind voice in their day. I can hear the smile in their voice when they answer and saw me on caller ID or hear my name. I want to be a blessing in people’s lives, so if that means I have to eat that frog every day, I will do so with a smile.