Why is this important in the classroom? Over the past few years, there has been a shift in the best practice of teaching world language. Our more traditional, grammar-based lessons have been shoved over for language that is conversation-focused and authentic. While it sounds fabulous, overhauling curriculum takes time! Over the past 5+ years, my district has worked to change EVERYTHING we teach to focus on “Can Do” statements and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language’s (ACTFL’s) proficiency guidelines. While the work is arduous at times, we have seen results.
All of this work, of course, requires time. Whether summer work, after school meetings, or searching resources at home, this curriculum shift cannot be accomplished without time. But how does Vanderkam’s book apply to this? Vanderkam suggests creating a log for the 168 hours in the week; take a close look at how you are actually spending your time. Every person and every family situation is different, but we all have some hidden time in our schedules. Whether it is time spent venting to colleagues at work or checking e-mails and Facebook, there are hidden time sucks in every schedule. Finding these unproductive times and turning them into work-focused time can create a huge difference in what you accomplish.
Just creating time for work does not necessarily solve the problem if this time is used poorly. Another tip Vanderkam gives is to determine what is most important, what she calls our Core Competencies. Within your work sphere, what is important to you? What do you want to focus on the most? Using your time to focus on these Core Competencies is more important than being on multiple committees and volunteering to do everything. Block out time in your work schedule to focus on each of these Core Competencies; you will feel a greater sense of accomplishment and you will move closer to your goal.
Once you’ve set aside time and determined your Core Competencies within the work sphere, Vanderkam suggests you plan ahead. For most teachers, this isn’t a problem. We already look ahead to what our students will be doing, but do we ever focus on what we will be doing? Each week, take some time to plan for the next week. What article or blog post will you read? Will you join #langchat on Twitter (Thursdays from 7-8 pm CST)? By planning ahead, you don’t lose time in the moment trying to decide what to work on. Just like teaching, however, if something comes up, allow your time some flexibility. This does not mean blow off the time you set aside, but rather be flexible in what you work on in that time slot. If you are trying to write and nothing comes to mind, Vanderkam suggests taking the time to meditate on your practice or determine your next step.
We all feel pressed for time, but you do have more than you think. Determine your focus and center your professional activities and extra work time to meet your goals.