Inability to multitask

I could be much better at teaching high school if I could multitask better. I used to think I was good at multitasking, but I’m really horrible at it.

In my classes today, I meant to assign homework, pass back graded papers, give work to students who were absent, make copies of a handout needed for class, carry supplies from one classroom to another classroom. I didn’t do any of those things. Oh, and there were a couple more things I know I forgot, but I don’t know what they are because I forgot. (My bad memory is also a big problem.) The issue is that I’m not willing to set aside class time for these kinds of things because I’m always freaking out about having the most learning possible out of every class period. For example, in my imagination, while students are working productively on a task I’ll be able to walk around a pass back papers. However, that never happens in reality. Students invariably need help, or someone knocks at the door, or the phone rings, or someone needs to go to the office, and then I forget to do what I thought I would do.

Another issue is that I need to get from the fourth floor to the fifth floor between third and fourth periods, and I have a really hard time making this transition smoothly during the five-minute passing period. Arriving disheveled causes me to forget things as well.

There is no way I will become massively better at multitasking, so the solution is that I need to do is to make students responsible for as many tasks as possible. I can hear Harry Wong yelling “Procedures, procedures, procedures!!”

I’ve been insisting on passing papers back myself up to now because I’ve been trying to learn students’ names. But now I think I can let students pass back papers or put them in some central place. That’s at least one thing I can try to do. Other tips from seasoned teachers?

2 thoughts on “Inability to multitask

  1. I have this same problem (in the form of a drawer full of graded work). I use spiral notebooks for all classwork and homework largely because I know I will misplace papers or just forget about returning them. I also try to use passing periods to talk to students about grades or missing work. That doesn’t seem to be an option if you’re changing rooms every period. I try to assign homework at the begining of class as were going over the week’s schedule, upcoming quizzes or labs. I tend to get really flustered as the period is ending and I am desperately trying to cram as much instruction in. BTW, I loved the Harry Wong shout-out! 🙂

  2. No ideas on the making copies and moving supplies. I think you have a good idea for passing back papers… putting them somewhere central sounds good. If you are assigning a worksheet for homework, put that in the same place and have students pick them both up (ideally put them by the door so students get in the habit of grabbing them as they come in unless this will cause a traffic jam). Alternatively, at the beginning of class (as soon as you get to the classroom) write on the board (or type/write on your computer if you are using that) reminders (both for yourself and your students). You could type up a brief agenda for the day, new homework assignments, reminders about tests/quizzes/to talk to you if they have been absent, etc. Then maybe you (and they) will feel like they know what needs to be accomplished and it will be easier to do so (though I may be being slightly idealistic).

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