DISCLAIMER: this post might be as scattered as my brain feels right now.

I am back in the full swing of work and I feel like I am being swallowed up in a tornado! Feeling like a complete and utter scatterbrain! To do lists everywhere! Remember to do this, remember to call that person, remember to send this email, and let’s not forget: what are we eating?! I feel like the only time my kids aren’t hearing me yell, is when I’m working. And THAT is a PROBLEM!! Thought: But really Toya, are you expecting them to not be tearing up the house while you’re working? Yet, I can’t function if everything is a mess! And I get it and CLEARLY realize I’m not the only person going through this storm.

Over the last few weeks of back to school prep I have learned or affirmed these things about myself:

1. I compartmentalize my life because that is what works and how I work best. (My planner is divided into four sections: home life, church, work, organizations.)

2. I am probably a terrible multi-tasker. Although Dr. Jim Taylor says we aren’t even really multi-tasking we are serial tasking. (YouTube all the videos on how multitasking is actually counterproductive. We are 40% less productive if multitasking.)

3. If I am able to multitask in any way, I do it best in a linear fashion (aka I need to create check lists.)

With this in mind I couldn’t help but think about students that will be going back out to school in less than two weeks (here in RI).

So, here are helpful things to consider for students or your “babies” at home as they either head back out to the classroom or resume distance learning:

1. When thinking about linear taskers, breaking things down crucial. Executive functioning disorder is real!

I’ve had students come to my classroom or office so overwhelmed. If you’re a teacher you may have even had the student(s) with tons of incomplete assignments that seem to keep piling up. Often times those students are overwhelmed or assignments are incomplete because THEY JUST DON’T KNOW WHERE TO START!

To that point, who doesn’t like a good check list? Yes it may seem overwhelming with all of the things you have to get done, but once you start checking things off, man that feeling is heavenly.

My daughter said to me, “I have a book to complete by next week. I’ll read two chapters a day.” My response was, “that’s great, you have a plan! Now, let’s look at that plan in more detail.”

__Count how many chapters you have left

__Count how many days you have between now and when you need to complete said book

__Divide the amount of chapters by the amount of days

By doing those three initial steps, she now has a clearer sense of whether her goal of reading two chapters a day will be enough or not. Maybe she’ll find out she actually needs to read more, or can lessen the load.

Note to self as an educator: help students create a visual of what they need to accomplish. Be it a checklist, calendar view or some other medium.

2. Thinking about all of the students that fell off the grid during distance learning in the spring, I am realizing I probably would have been one of those learners. I need someone to walk me through things. I need an explanation of what I am looking at, for, or expected to do (I am an auditory and visual learner.) [What type of learner are you?] Do not send me a ton of different emails and expect me to follow along. Too many different threads to emails and you’ve lost me, or it will take me a day or two to get caught up. If this is the case for me, chances are it is the same for students.

Note to self as an educator: create a short video or audio to walk students through a new tool. Many of us teachers who can adapt easily are excited about new tools (Bitmoji classrooms being the newest I’ve learned.) However, if learning this new tool is going to take me hours to a few days to figure out and consumes a lot of my time, the same can be said for students AND caregivers trying to assist students. Add another layer? Let’s not forget about Multi Language Learners (MLLs).

Adjusting during these times and re-discovering myself as a learner and human being while thinking about my students I am recommitting to self-care and finding ways to cope when I’m feeling overwhelmed. Here are a few ways:

1. I quarantine my children to one area of the house (thankfully I have the space to do so, and I realize my privilege in that aspect) so the mess they create can hopefully stay in one place.

Note to self as an educator (and I have done this): Tell students it is okay to sit on the closed toilet in the bathroom if they need a change of space to work. Heck, sit in the tub if you need to. Sometimes a change of scenery, as limited as it is, may be just what’s needed!

2. I get hands on! For me that has meant: gardening (a new hobby I picked up during quarantine), repainting a room, breaking down a wall and fixing it how I see fit, rearranging rooms, etc.

Note to self as an educator: send starter planting kits to students, encourage them to take a walk, change their rooms around, redecorate the kitchen or bathroom, etc.

3. I get creative. I write to release stress. It is a way for me to process my feelings. “I take pen to paper, my fingers to type; I let my words in print express my inner most thoughts" Wattsnatural

Note to self as an educator: Send students journals, have them create their own journals. Allow them to write how they are feeling (as much as they would like, or as little as one word.) Ask them to paint, create a picture or selfie collage, make a music video, write a song, play an instrument.

4. Walk away from it ALL for a while. Take a moment to hang with friends, laugh a little –or a lot. Dance, go out, watch the sunrise or set. Bask in the beauty of creation.

Note to self as an educator: encourage my students to do the same. Zoom a friend, meet at a park safely, and share in laughter, joy, pain, sadness, hope.

Essentially, at this time, we all need an outlet. Multitasking/ serial tasking is not a good thing. If you find yourself forgetting what you are saying in the middle of saying it… wow nelly

you’re in trouble! STOP! Do one thing, complete that one thing, then move on to the next. Chances are you’ll feel more fulfilled and accomplished.

Until next time…

Be safe, take it easy, less is often times more.

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