Back in the Saddle

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I teach in a district where I am the only English as a Second Language
instructor, so have students from grades 1-12. I work very hard at
coming up with interesting lesson plans. It’s particularly hard because
I have many of the same students for several years, so it is difficult to
recycle old lessons. I really work hard during the year and try to take
time off in summer without pushing myself too hard to prep. But now I
feel like someone who stopped doing yoga three months ago and has
wandered into an advanced class. My thinking muscles have gotten
lazy. I’m used to sleeping in and functioning on my own schedule. How
can I get used to a full day’s work and making time to come up with
lessons plans. Extra credit if you can make them re-usable.

Back in the Saddle

Dear Back in the Saddle:

Most of us know we’d benefit from a daily schedule but they’re hard to
keep. Virtually impossible during holiday and vacation time, but very
necessary during workweeks. Making the transition is hard but easily
reinforced by your desire to keep your job. My suggestions may not be
practical for your exact schedule but adapt as needed.

Take inventory of everything you need to do in a week. Tag them as
daily or weekly chores. Once you have a list of daily tasks, start with a
fixed M-F day, say 6 am until 8 pm. You should be sleeping before
then and relaxing until bedtime after. Allocate time for everything from
morning ablutions to commuting and fixing your lunch. Try to
accommodate your lesson planning time into the period before dinner,
with 7-8 as your safety valve. It would be great to be able to pull the
plug on life and have family time starting say 6:30 pm. Save weekly
chores for Sat/Sun, and don’t be shy about delegating them. Make a
schedule and test it for a week. Take notes about what works and
doesn’t. Adjust as needed.

When you are in lesson-planning mode, take an idea and adapt it for
elementary, middle-school, and high-school. As in, Write a story about
something that happened in your family ion the last week. You could
adjust the number and complexity of vocabulary words to use, the
amount of time to write, etc. Try to get two lessons done in each
planning session so you are a week ahead within a month latest. Then
you have a buffer if you get sick or in a jam. Make sure you have at
least 1.5 weekend days for relaxation, or you will burn out fast. The
good news is that your mental muscles will revive quickly, assuming
you like what you do.