Eating the Frog – A Taste of a Teacher’s World

One of the frogs living in my garden in progress posed for a picture with me

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. 

Attempting to catch a frog in the garden was about as challenging as trying to eat the frog in my work day!

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.

No frogs were harmed in the making of this blog.

Managing Your Time Effectively

How I get it all done in 3 simplified steps

Sonya Barnes August 1, 2019

Effective time management.  Good use of time.  We hear these buzz phrases often and we know what it means, but many of us struggle with the application and concept of what it looks like.  I’ve been blessed to work with and for several people that were great at this and trained me well.  I feel like I handle it pretty well, even though I still have my moments of lost days and utter confusion of what to do.  But I have taken several things from several places over the years and implemented them for awhile now and am quite proud that I have very few occasions of missing or forgetting something.  I have shared these with fellow educators over the years and thought I’d get this out there and share with a few more.  I will break it into a few different sections for easy application and will also create videos that break each step down into a visual, allowing you time to work them into your daily life so that you can not only get everything done that you need to, but also get more enjoyment out of life since you’ll accomplish more and stress less. So, without further ado, let’s jump in!

A generic version of my time zones – be as specific as you need to be!

Step 1: Assigning “Time Zones” Start with a weekly calendar that breaks each day down by hour increments.  Whether you find/create a digital version or create a paper one just comes down to your own preference.  Next, choose three different color markers or highlighters and assign a category.  I like to use green for WORK, blue for HOME, and pink for FAMILY/PERSONAL for association, but any color will work.  If you need to add additional categories such as self-care or a second job, then absolutely do so.  The final step in this category is to go through and color outline (or color fill if you are using a computer) and assign the times.  I usually start with my job since those hours are pretty set.  Then, I go through and sort out the remaining time for when I will complete home responsibilities like cleaning, cooking, errands, paying bills, etc. as well as the family/personal time for workouts, date nights, family outings.  There will be some weeks that this will vary, but for most of us, our weeks we are working are fairly straightforward.  I try and generalize this step so I can hang it on the wall, and it makes it easier to glance when I need to schedule something or decide whether to say yes or no to an invitation to something.

A simple post it in my planner reminds me of my tasks by day

Step 2: Assigning Task Days Now that I have my weekly calendar time zones figured out,  I can plug in my tasks.  If you are like me, you have some tasks at both work and home that are repetitive daily, weekly, or monthly.  Now is the time to go through and plug in when you will complete which tasks.  For example, in my job, I have lesson plans, copying, grading, parent phone calls, duty and meetings that routinely occur, so I assign them a day and time of day to do them.  I also will plug in a spot for monthly tasks to have a day, as well, such as data collecting or student chats so that they have a recurring time.  I do the same for home responsibilities like laundry, cleaning, yard work, shopping and bill paying.  I also like to leave a place holder spot for appointments so that I can plug in a doctor, dentist or hair appointment into that spot and it keeps the flow of our routine for everyone.  Family or personal time can get marked with a workout regiment or sports activities you routinely accomplish or would like to work in but have never found the time to do.

Digitizing everything into my Reminders app as weekly recurring tasks or calendar items can help on those super busy days

Step 3: Organizing and Digitizing It All This final step is crucial to making it stick and turn into a habit that will keep you organized and running a bit smoother.  In this step, I add the tasks to my digital calendar and invite relevant parties.  For example, recurring household chores or appointments get logged and I invite my spouse and children that have devices.  Personal or work-related tasks get added to my own calendar, but my family has viewing permissions of my calendar so that if they have something come up they need to schedule at an unexpected time, they know exactly how it fits into the schedule.  If you are not a tech savvy person or don’t use a digital calendar, then you can mark this in your lesson plan book, day planner or on a family command center calendar, or even just something as simple as hanging your color-coded and filled in schedule on the refrigerator or by the family calendar can help keep everyone informed.  Without placing this information somewhere that you will see it and be able to reference it, you will find it difficult to stick to it.  With my teaching tasks, I will write it on a post it note and tape it to my computer for a few weeks while I get into the routine, especially since it may vary from year to year, depending on my classroom assignments or month to month depending on my duty schedule.

This may seem like a very rigid and difficult thing to accomplish, but it will lend itself to a much less stressful daily life and a much higher productivity level.  I have been running this model for a few years now and have found that I take less work home with me, get more time with my family, and never miss deadlines.  All of these contribute to a happier and less stressful life.  It may take some tweaking to get it down to something that works with your lifestyle and if you don’t have as many directions to go in, you may be able to simplify some of it for your own habits.  Whatever you do, I hope that this helps you manage your time much more effectively.

If you are interested in the step by step videos to accomplish this, head over to YouTube and subscribe to my channel to get notified. I will have a video breaking down each step posted on Sunday, August 4th. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCupISfBEejlSrXzNPDhN7cg?view_as=subscriber