by David Cicoletti, ALVS English Department, for the Iowa Online AP Academy
It’s hard to beat the freedom and flexibility of the virtual learning environment. No one can mark you tardy or absent; no raising your hand for permission to use the facilities; and no clock ticking you through to 3rd period…4th period…. The key advantages of virtual learning can also present the greatest challenges. You, the students, are pretty much in charge of when class is in session and when it’s dismissed. Time management is of the utmost importance, especially since you are not exactly a bunch of couch potatoes. Far from it! Your weeks are packed with sports practices, drama and music performances, dance recitals, family trips, animal care, horse shows, church functions, college applications…the list goes on. No doubt most of you have already honed some solid time management strategies, but I’d still like to offer some words on the subject for two main reasons: Reason #1. Who knows? You might learn something new and helpful. Reason #2. Offering tips and advice to the “younger generation” is one of the things that people careening into their mid-40s get to do, OK? Here we go.
1. Get a BIG PICTURE…
At the start of your semester, look at the due dates for the beginning and end of each unit.
Grab a calendar and put those beginning and ending unit dates on it. After this, check in with your other big commitments for the semester—trips, shows, tournaments, etc.—and write those down on the calendar. This is a good way to physically see and anticipate which weeks will be most challenging and which ones will be lighter and provide more opportunities for classwork.
You’ll be able to see the weekends or other blocks of time you’ll need to possibly work ahead, so that when you go out of town and have limited online access or are just too busy showing cattle at the fair to even think about your virtual class, you are ahead of the game and not stressed about the assignments that are quickly becoming overdue.
2. The Two Week Consciousness…
Before you begin tearing and sorting through your laundry pile of class assignments, take a moment to breathe… relax… make yourself a cup of calming herbal tea and look at all the assignments which will be due within the next two weeks; list them on a notebook page. As you finish the assignments, cross them off and pencil in the date you sent it in. Keep the notebook in a convenient place. You’ll have a clear, physical page which shows everything you’ve already done and everything you need to do for the next two weeks. If you’ve never crossed a responsibility off of a list before, you really should try it. A great way to mark accomplishments.
3. Blocks of time…
After you know what you need to complete within the upcoming two-week period, you can then look at the one, single week ahead of you and plan out blocks of time to devote to your virtual class. Many of you already have a time period at school which you can devote strictly to virtual classes, and that’s good. But, you may want to block out other hours of time by writing them physically on a calendar: two hours for AP English class after swim practice on Wednesday, for example.
4. Slivers of time...
Be on the lookout for those quick opportunities, those small “slivers” of time that come up randomly while you live your life, those 20 extra minutes while waiting for the dentist or for your toy poodle to get sheared. Your friend calls and says she’s running late and will have to pick up you at 7:45 instead of 7:00. Well, there’s a “sliver”—an opportunity to get a discussion or two done, perhaps act out Act II of the assigned Shakespeare play. If you use your slivers efficiently, they really add up. You’ll be surprised by the amount of work you can complete.
5. Sleep, Late Nights, Early Mornings…
I’m guessing that many of you are accustomed to burning the midnight oil and staying up late to study. That makes sense because all activities of the day are done, and it might be the only free time you have. But have you ever thought of going to sleep at a reasonable hour and getting up to work on classes before the day begins? I discovered some time ago that I am a morning person, so this works best for me. My mind is more alert and active in the morning. Who knows? You just might be one of those people. Give it a try. Even if you only get up 30 minutes earlier than usual, then you’ve created a time sliver for yourself. If the alarm goes off at 5:30, and you’re just too tired, smack the snooze button. At least you gave it a try. Whatever your study pattern, it’s important to get enough sleep because if you don’t, then a full, active life of responsibilities and dreams can quickly morph into stress—a word that sounds just like a snake hissing—and the topic of my next blog.
Hopefully these time management tips don’t come across as too much of a lecture, but I want you to be prepared for your online experience! Remember: get the Big Picture, have Two Week Consciousness, schedule Blocks of time, look for Slivers of time, and gain Sleep and Awake awareness.
May all of your time management dreams come true this semester.