Top 10 Back to School Tasks to Delegate

Does back to school setup give you anxiety?  Check out these tips.
This back to school season will present a new challenge for me.  Due to a major construction project at my school, I’ll have less time than ever to set up my classroom.  We had one day to pack things up once the kids left (obviously I pre-packed what I could prior to that day).  And we’ll have about one week to get everything set back up again, if things go according to plan.  So although that means I get to enjoy more summer vacation time, it means crunch time once the building is finished! 

As a result, I have to work smarter than ever before.  I already have a Back to School to do List  in place to be as efficient as possible (It's a free, editable download if you'd like).  But this year more than ever I feel the need to recruit help. 

Do you have family, friends, or former students who come help you set up?  If not, is it something you’ve considered, but you’re not sure how to delegate?  Here are my top ten tips for delegating those back to school tasks.

Top Ten Back to School Tasks to Delegate

1.  Clean desks.  Usually I like to do this before my vacation starts, because it’s nice to walk into a clean classroom.  But this year once they unlock the doors, my husband and I will be there.  He will scrub down the adhesive from the old name tags, Magic Eraser the surface, and Dustbuster the insides. 

2.  Staple bulletin board trim.  You’ll want to use your helper as a second pair of hands with this task; some non-teachers may feel intimidated if you ask them to do this on their own.  But you’ll still get it done in half the time with help. I have directions in this post.

3.  Sharpen pencils.  Sharpen at least 100 and hide all but 50 of them.  I’m not even joking; if you start this habit early, you will not bat an eye next time you hear "I don't have a pencil" or even "There are no more pencils in the cup." 

4.  Distribute textbooks, notebooks, folders, and so on to students’ desks.  If you’re like me, you number your students and books, and print off labels so names are already on notebooks and workbooks.  If this is the case, you will need to set out name plates and stick on name labels prior to assigning this task.  If you don’t have numbered materials, and/or you have students write their own names on items, this is even easier.  Sort the classroom library.  Now, of course, the organization of the classroom library is so individual to different teachers.  I have to take all the books out of the bins but I keep the labels on (I have my Book Bin and Basket Labels available for you).  Each book has a sticker to code which bin it goes into so the kids know where to put them, so my husband is able to sort them as well.  And of course, they are in neat piles so it’s sorting of piles as opposed to one book at a time. 

6.  Remove plastic (if you've covered shelves) and dust the shelves. 

7.  Wipe down the sinks and counter tops.

8.  Clean the whiteboards.  If you’ve never tried the toothpaste trick, check it out!  It really works!  Just be sure to use cheap toothpaste that is the white paste kind with NO GEL.  The gel smears and discolors, but using a damp cloth with a little toothpaste works great, smells fresh, and you have one less chemical to inhale. 

9.  Distribute supplies into caddies:  Crayons, 4 pairs of scissors, 4 glue sticks, and a box of colored pencils work for my students. 

10.  Set up the computers.  We tend to unplug, wrap cords, and cover the computer peripherals.  My husband plugs everything in and sets up everything where it belongs for use, and even checks to make sure the networks are either set, or at least lets me know that the tech guys need to be called in if it’s not working.

I’ve tried delegating a few other Back to School tasks, but it depends on the organization of your classroom as well as the comfort level of your helper.

Other Back to School Tasks to Consider

  1.  Make copies.  If your helper knows how to run the copier, be specific.  Write on a sticky note for each page the number of copies you need, and which should be double sided, stapled, and so on. 
  2. Sort crayons.  I like to have a spot in my room where “old” crayons live in tribes.  If someone needs a red crayon, they go to the cup of red crayons and grabs one quickly instead of fishing or fighting for one. 
  3. Recycle extras.  I usually end up with extra copies in my files that are meant to have a single original.  If you have a little extra time, direct your helper to go through and get rid of all but one of each. your helper starts in on these tasks, you will be free to set up and fine tune all those other things you need to do to get your classroom in order.  As you work, write down other tasks that come to mind that you can delegate once your helper is finished and asks, "Is there anything else you need?"  Prioritize your Back to School tasks.  You might find that some of the tasks that are less important could be done by your students later in the year.  If you already have this list started, you'll be able to explain your needs more clearly later on, and it will make your job easier in the future.
To get you, or more to the point, your helper(s) started, I've created a task list of the top 10 back to school tasks to delegate.  It's free and editable since everyone has different needs when it comes to back to school setup.  You can download this checklist here.  Then, while your helper is working, carry on with your own to do list here.
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An Introverted Teacher-preneur

I’ve been reading Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in preparation for the Teachers Pay Teachers conference.  This book is not what I was expecting.  I was sort of expecting it to help me (an introvert) use my strengths when out in social settings.  So far, after 3 chapters, it’s not really about that.  But I’m still enjoying it because it makes me feel empowered.

Although the book cover tells you that it's about introverts living in a society that celebrates extroverts, it’s not just a book dedicated to building up introverts at the expense of tearing down the extroverts.  For example, it starts out explaining how a certain partnership was more powerful because it was comprised of one introvert (Rosa Parks) and one extrovert (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.).  Introverts and extroverts shine in different contexts, so both traits are valuable. 

The book goes on to talk about the history of social expectations and the rise of the “big personalities” (because loud and bold were not always socially acceptable traits).  It gives examples in colleges and churches of how introverts today feel marginalized.  How introverts have made major contributions in law, literature, art, science, math and technology, but in modern times feel in some ways lesser than their extroverted colleagues.  I could relate to feeling "guilty" about my shy feelings and difficulty in certain social settings, and it's nice to know I'm not alone; at least a third of the population in America and Europe is with me on this.  But not only will there be lots of others with the same feelings as me at the conference; these feelings might not be because of personality, but may be because of societal values that are less than 100 years old.  That's pretty freeing!   

Another thing I loved about this book is it justifies what I have long known (since at least 6th grade) to be true:  not everyone learns best by working and talking in a group.  In my experience it is expected for teachers to seat students in groups for most of the day.  Some administrators are understanding, but some believe that students need to learn how to work in groups because that will prepare them for the real world.  This book calls out those administrators.  I felt like the author was saying, “Yeah, and if the business world told you to jump off a bridge, would you do that too?”  The book shares research and examples of times when group work STIFLES CREATIVITY.  Times when the open floor concept in a business setting has LOWERED PRODUCTIVITY. 

I spend a good amount of time socializing my students.  I know that regardless of where you are on the introvert/extrovert continuum, you need to learn how to communicate with others.  You need to learn and practice good citizenship and character.  I want that for my students, absolutely.  But I also know that there comes a time during math that some kids need to think in peace.  So this year, in the second half of the year, I did exactly what this blog proclaims.  I shut the door and taught.

After the 5 minute math mini-lesson, after the 15 minute group practice time, I handed out the privacy partitions that we use for testing.  I reassured the kids that this wasn’t a pop quiz, but the rules of testing applied.  No talking.  Questions are allowed, but I would be giving minimal help because I wanted them to take the time and make the effort to try to work through the problems on their own.  The first day was rough, but I told them this too, was practice.  Tomorrow we’ll try again, and tomorrow, practice good listening during the mini-lesson.  Use the 15 minute group work time to ask a LOT of questions.  And once the partitions go up, try out those new strategies during the quiet working time. 

That second day many of the kids LOVED it.  It was classic “I do, we do, you do.”  But the “you do” wasn’t “you kids working together,” it was “each of you, try this on your own.”  And they thanked me for it.  They felt empowered being able to work on their own.  Some realized they needed extra help, and were more focused when the time came for remediation, while others mastered the concept and moved on to focus on other math activities.  Some chose to work with a partner and some asked if they could keep working alone.  They were trying out different ways to learn to find out what works best for them, and isn't that equally as valuable as learning to work in a team? 

Now, this book has not made me look forward to the conference any less.  The book doesn’t say that introverts will learn nothing from a conference, haha.  In fact, it talks about how introverts make great ONLINE COLLABORATORS even when face to face collaborating is draining for us.  It has made me feel confident that I have a lot to offer, even though I will probably feel exhausted instead of exhilarated by meeting new people.  I will need to recharge afterwards and go over my notes on my own, but still reap just as much benefit from attending. 

So if you are an introverted teacher too, and you feel as though the system isn't working for you, know, at least, there isn't something wrong with you.  And at best, look for ways to bring your style back into your classroom, even if it's for small amounts of time.  Because some of your students are going to continue to benefit from the way things have been, but some are really going to benefit from a teacher who teaches for the introverts. 

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