Kevin Blissett: Out of the Cave

Leadership, Classroom 2.0, Curriculum, China

Leaving the Burrow

“OK, today I’m going to get out into classrooms, and nothing’s gonna 3016899799_ac4801b6fa get in my way!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve uttered those words, but no matter how good my  intentions are, the “office” part of the job seems to always call for immediate attention. In this article from Principal magazine, former principal and superintendent Kathleen J. Parkhurst offers advice on how to make the most of one’s time and find space for visiting classrooms during the school day. Among her suggestions:

  • Organize a routine.
  • Keep an orderly office.
  • Delegate.
  • Answer email in chunks 2-3 times per day.
  • Have a proper filing system.
  • Get ready for tomorrow today.

I might add: escape while you can. One thing Parkhurst does not address is how to get into the classrooms when one is a teaching principal. Classroom visits clearly become more of problem when the principal is teaching 1/3 to 1/2 of the day. In this case, I just have to clear the entire slate some afternoons or mornings to make sure I’m seeing teachers and students, and they are seeing me.

Photo by ecastro


April 17, 2009 Posted by | multitasking, organization, principal, time management | Leave a comment

So You Think You’re Multitasking…



Generation M students–those saturated in technological media–may appear to be multitasking geniuses as they IM, SMS, listen to their iPods, and say hi to mom all at the same time, but research is indicating that focusing on several tasks simultaneously is probably reducing the results in each of the tasks and creating “antsy” minds in need of downtime.  And the issues associated with this multitasking lifestyle don’t apply solely to Gen-M’s; they are also applicable to professionals who juggle multiple tasks every day in the workplace.

A Time magazine article by Claudia Wallis speaks to this topic and reveals that true “multitasking” may be a fiction, that it instead appears to be quickly toggling on and off activities upon which we are actually focusing individually. While having many different activities going on at the same time may have some benefits, studies are showing that meaningful interactions within the family and the classroom are being deleteriously affected. Wallis cites anthropologist Elinor Ochs, director of UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families, who explains:

“We saw that when the working parent comes through the door, the other spouse and the kids are so absorbed by what they’re doing that they don’t give the arriving parent the time of day,” says Ochs. The returning parent, generally the father, was greeted only about a third of the time, usually with a perfunctory “Hi.” “About half the time the kids ignored him or didn’t stop what they were doing, multitasking and monitoring their various electronic gadgets,” she says. “We also saw how difficult it was for parents to penetrate the child’s universe. We have so many videotapes of parents actually backing away, retreating from kids who are absorbed by whatever they’re doing.”

Gen M’s multitasking habits have social and psychological implications as well. If you’re IMing four friends while watching That ’70s Show, it’s not the same as sitting on the couch with your buddies or your sisters and watching the show together. Or sharing a family meal across a table. Thousands of years of evolution created human physical communication–facial expressions, body language–that puts broadband to shame in its ability to convey meaning and create bonds. What happens, wonders UCLA’s Ochs, as we replace side-by-side and eye-to-eye human connections with quick, disembodied e-exchanges? Those are critical issues not just for social scientists but for parents and teachers trying to understand–and do right by–Generation M.

As a result of all of these activities constantly “requiring” attention, multitaskers seem to have difficulty focusing on one task deeply and following it to its conclusion; consequently, tasks which are completed are often done so superficially. This would seem to indicate that students, leaders, and project managers should focus intently on the task at hand, complete it, and then proceed to the next task versus taking  bites out of multiple assignments over time. 

Take a look at the rest of this insightful article.

Photo by Farai

April 11, 2009 Posted by | multitasking, technology, time management, university | Leave a comment

Better Meetings

Some good suggestions from Seth Godin about making meetings different and more effective. I will be implementing some if not all of them Tuesday. A few of the ideas:

3. Require preparation. Give people things to read or do before the meeting, and if they don’t, kick them out.

4. Remove all the chairs from the conference room. I’m serious.

6. Bring an egg timer to the meeting. When it goes off, you’re done. Not your fault, it’s the timer’s.

7. The organizer of the meeting is required to send a short email summary, with action items, to every attendee within ten minutes of the end of the meeting. (Grrr! OK.–KB)

April 3, 2009 Posted by | meetings, organization, time management | Leave a comment

Managing Your Day

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Lots of good ideas here from The Simple Dollar. We’ve probably all waded through mounds of time management programs, perhaps even gone to workshops focusing on the topic. This blog post provides concrete advice for not letting yourself become overwhelmed throughout the day. Some examples:

  • Keep your to-do list to four items per day. (This one would seem to be difficult for me, unless they are major tasks.)
  • Check email only twice a day.
  • File things once a day so that papers don’t pile up. (I try to avoid paper like the plague. If it can be done electronically, it will be. This helps me to keep things organized and neat…and saves trees.)
  • Start the day with your MAJOR creative task.
  • Take lots of micro-breaks. Move around.

March 27, 2009 Posted by | organization, time management | 1 Comment