October 2, 2017

Prepping System

This year I'm teaching three (substantially) different courses and my prep periods are consecutive* so at the beginning of the year I knew I'd have to find a good system for making sure I kept track of everything. It only took until the sixth day of school for me to have a close call:

Prepping has several stages. I usually complete them in this order:
1) decide what to teach
2) write/edit paper materials
3) make slides
4) copy paper materials

But when I have three different courses it's easy to get distracted with an idea for another class (or an email or a student showing up or...) and then forget what step I'm on. I had a detailed plan including handouts for precalc that day I had a close call, but nothing to project which would give students instructions and remind me of the plan!

Based on my #1TMCThing I'm using a google doc to plan. Here's the one for Algebra 2:

I am using this to keep track of steps one and two. Sometimes I get motivated to do some long term planning so I fill in the agenda with broad ideas of topics for each day. Then as I get to more detailed level planning I use the to do column to remind myself of what I need to find/edit/write. I have a paraprofessional in all three of my algebra 2 classes, which is awesome but new for me. I've had coteachers in the past and I know how to work with them since they also get prep periods and are expected to stay after school once a week. I'm still figuring out how to collaborate with someone when we don't have any time to chat except for 5 minutes between the two classes we teach in a row but we do take some teacher time outs in the middle of class to check in and game plan. Anyway, that column isn't getting much use yet but maybe eventually. The notes column I fill in after class in case I'm stuck teaching algebra 2 again next year (can you tell it's not my favorite course?)

There are still two more steps - slides and planning. My school computer is a Mac so I'm using the Stickies program for those steps. There are 3 notes: slides, copies and to do. At the beginning of my prep I bold the whole slides note. Then as I finish a set of slides I unbold the course name and update the filename and date. Once all three sets of slides are complete I update my agenda board (which I never look at and I'm pretty sure the students don't either, but it's ready for any admin who would like to know what I'm up to). As I complete handouts I add them to my copies sticky, once I make copies I delete them from the note. The final to do sticky is general stuff like randomizing seats (weekly) or updating my google calendar with the staff meeting schedule they sent out.

I'm still overwhelmed trying to get everything done. My contained class is following the IM curriculum so I need to read the lessons, figure them out for myself and then consider modifications for my students. My algebra 2 classes are sort of following a textbook but we are supplementing a lot, luckily the teacher next door taught it last year so she has some materials. My honors precalc class is back on solid ground after we added a bonus unit, I've been teaching this class since 2012. It still takes some effort to prep though because I have a small class of quick thinking students so I have to be sure to adjust previous plans for the pace of this group. But at least with a system in place I'm pretty sure I won't be forgetting about a class anytime soon!

*We run an alternating day schedule. I have prep last block one day and first block the other day. This means that I teach all my classes in a row with no break between. I would rather have to prep algebra 2 one day and precalc the other day, but with this schedule I prep all three classes during the last block and then do all my copying during the first block the next day. I thought I'd have time to grade during the first block too but so far that hasn't happened. Maybe after the first month insanity is over?

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