Makes Good Use of Time

My wife used to enjoy the weekends before report cards were due.  A lot of cleaning happened at our house on those weekends. She enjoyed the weekends before parent conferences as well.  Many cabinets and shelves got reorganized during that weekend. Nowadays, my conferences and report cards are synchronized, so there is a bit less time for these household binges.  Plus, we don’t really deal with CDs anymore, so there’s no cause for me to re-alphabetize them. They’re still in order from last decade anyway. I have had to develop new ways to procrastinate.

Two weekends ago, as I prepared to write report card comments, I suddenly became attracted to the push broom in the garage.  I felt this tremendous urge to sweep out the sand, dust, and leaves that had accumulated since the fall. I also decided to take my daughter’s car to get its emissions inspection.  This, of course, had to be preceded by a clean-out of the car’s interior. One couldn’t risk an inspector thinking we didn’t care about our car’s upkeep. Sarah was in New York, so I had free reign over the purge.  However, knowing that even the crumpled bag from Dunkin’ might have significance, I preserved a whole bagful of what I deemed garbage. The cleaning was fun. I enjoyed finding interesting things under the seats (an ATM card, a jewelry box with earrings), and I particularly enjoyed cleaning out the center console. The quarter inch of dehydrated coffee spills were a fascinating consistency, but surprisingly, no match for Windex and elbow grease.  

Last weekend, having commitments on Sunday, I actually HAD to work on report cards. The looming deadline provided the motivation.

I came home with all of my student file folders and a whole bunch of unfiled papers this weekend.  My plan was to get ready for conferences, but there’s something so un-fun about that activity, that many other tasks suddenly became more attractive. There were so many other things that I could do as pre-writing work before writing notes for conferences. I could file papers in the students’ individual folders.  This process of laying out the folders, taking out the pile of graded papers, dropping the papers on the correct piles, stuffing the papers in the correct file folders, and then repeating with the next assignment or assessment, creates the illusion of important business, but it really involved zero thinking.  That finished, I created a new form to use for the conferences. On the forms, I added all of the relevant information that I almost never share at conferences: spelling percentages, vocabulary scores, NWEA percentiles, math quiz scores, F & P levels. I suppose it’s all information that I could need, but frankly, at conferences we usually talk about work habits (I’ll undoubtedly make some hypocritical comment about their use of class time!) and social issues and we look at writing samples and notebooks.   The form is superfluous, but it makes me feel prepared, somehow, like the papers that the newscasters keep in their hands even though we all know that they read a teleprompter. I also go through the big folders and find the papers that came in late and never got scored.  I must write comments or score them for closure. In addition, I find this the ideal time to make sure that I have updated all of the assessment scores on our online data sites. This feels very official and important. Another checkbox on my to-do list.

I know it would be wise for me to figure out what exactly it is that I so dislike about preparing for conferences.  Is it just the specter of the meetings themselves? Is it the self-scrutiny that the process involves? The, “What am I not doing that I could be doing for this kid?” thoughts.  I think it’s probably the latter. Realizing that should be the first step in conquering the procrastination problem. I like to think that I have a growth mindset and that therefore I could work toward a change.  Perhaps the issue is that I regularly come to this realization at the end of a weekend in March, and then I don’t really need this valuable self-knowledge until next November, by which time it has fled from the steel trap mind.

Will someone remind me next fall? I’d put a note in my calendar, but right now I’m too busy sorting my dogs’ toys by color and level of chewed-ness.

12 thoughts on “Makes Good Use of Time

  1. A slice of self-awareness! My procrastination is nowhere near that productive. As for changing your mindset about dreaded tasks, perhaps planning a reward after their completion might be motivating?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yesterday, my phone was chiming when a bunch of teachers were complaining about coming up with good comments for their students. One teacher was trying to find a comment that she had not used before. Another teacher chimed in that he writes the same comment for everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yikes! We’ve actually gone from lengthy narratives to much shorter comments (500 characters!). I don’t really think there is as much value in those short comments, now, but they are certainly less time-consuming.


  3. At least your procrastination is useful! I have a friend who procrastinates by doing Sudokus.
    I think your re-invention of the conference form is not really procrastinating but preparing.
    Love the last line!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yup, this is me, procrastinating. Oh… the push broom! And if I get multi-colored tabs I can re-organize all the student papers by, um, subject and then, um, pen color…which will be useful…for, um, conferences. The whole post made me laugh. Like you, however, I suspect that the heart of my procrastination is that I worry I am not doing enough for every kid. There’s nothing like the folder full of evidence, laid out in front of me, to make me see the gaps in my own teaching. Still, onward! How else will the floorboards get scrubbed?

    Liked by 1 person

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