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Thriving Mode: How I Quit Surviving and Started Thriving

Survival Mode is for the Birds

I got so tired of survival mode, so I chose a new way to be.  I call it Thriving Mode. It's all about investing in systems to make your life run smoothly. Can you say auto pilot? There are many things we do that need to become habits so we can put them on auto pilot. Why do we train our students, but don't train ourselves? It's time to lead by example.

Auto Pilot

So, the first question is... What can go on auto pilot, and what can't? I'm so glad you asked!

School arrival time is on auto pilot.

Just do it, I told myself. I trained myself in the new habit of getting to school 1 hour early. I say HABIT intentionally. A habit is automatic, no thinking required. This became my best work time- uninterrupted, focused planning time.

The 2 Minute Tidy

I train students in the art of the 2 Minute Tidy. At the end of the school day, I leave 2 minutes to clean up. Set a timer for 2 minutes. Then, everyone works as fast as they can to clean up everything in the room before the timer rings. When the timer rings, drop everything and get backpacks ready. I have a list of tasks I want done. Each group of students is randomly assigned tasks and off they go. If they finish early, they can get ready to go.

School departure time is on Auto Pilot unless there are special circumstances.

I stay 30 minutes after school to prep for the next morning. Then, my morning is for whatever planning or grading that I have already scheduled and not for prep. (I like to think of it as doing the dishes before I go to bed, so I have less to do in the morning.)

Each day has a regular work focus (or a couple small ones) broken into micro tasks.

I might be planning a specific subject each day, doing a schedule, parent communication, field trip or speaker planning and scheduling, grading.... By the time I get to Friday, almost everything is done. I just need to gather supplies from the post-it lists I has made for each subject as I planned.

Additionally, I commit to doing all my scheduling for the next week(s) every Friday morning and pre-writing the email to families outlining the next week that I will edit and send at the end of that day. Yippee! It feels good to go home knowing I'm ready for Monday.

Make It a Date: Have regular grading time on your weekly schedule.

I schedule everything! Committing to a date and time for tasks helps me get things done. Seriously. I schedule time to grade papers and enter grades, time for lesson planning, meetings, follow-up items, field trip planning, planning for upcoming celebrations or events, etc.)

2 Ways to Leave School At School

Checking classwork as students are working has three benefits:

  1. Students get immediate feedback and can adjust and quickly learn from their mistakes.

  2. I get a sense of where each student is at, and work is partially graded before the day is done.

  3. I already have a sense for how to adjust tomorrow's teaching.

Exit Tickets are a life saver. Creating exit tickets for when we do investigations in math or other subject helps me quickly see the level of understanding and knowledge each student has at that point. I don't have to wade through notebooks, scribbled work in progress and scratch paper.

Are you still in survival mode? 


Teach joyfully,



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