I am on my way to Monrovia, Liberia, and during this and many of my travels (this is my 30th country!) I am continually struck with poignant realizations surrounding organization. Namely, I notice the time that disorganized travelers take to pass through security or settle into a seat on the plane.
What struck me on this trip is that because of my organization I have freedom to create, to think, to observe, or just to read. When I travel with a student group, I have joyous time to watch the students play or to get to know our parent chaperones. Because I am organized, I have time to be calm.
“Be organized, and be patient; the former often begets the latter.” I devised this quote some years ago for an interview about my teaching, and if I had to leave a new teacher with best-practice advice, this is it. It is admittedly simple. If we equate our minds to a computer hard drive, there is only so much random access memory, or RAM, that we have available, and most of us have experienced a sluggish computer with limited RAM. The human mind is no different (except more elegant).
When disorganized, we cannot access our best ideas, and sometimes we are slow to retrieve even the most basic information. If our house is a mess, then we aren’t able to find our keys, our shoes or our backpacks when it’s time to go out the door. If our office or classroom is disorganized, we aren’t able to do what we do best: create and share new ideas! The result is invariably frustration and a shortage of patience.
Summer is the time for teachers to maximize some of our best potential. Yes, please use the school break to recharge, and don’t forget that part of the charge is to prepare for the next group of students who deserve a renewed creative energy from you. I encourage my colleagues to teach another new year, not the same year thirty times in a row. Use this time to become organized. Clean out what did not work this year, and re-organize and make better what did work well! The teachers who do this, who spend school breaks becoming organized, fully realize the freedom, flexibility and patience to do what is best for each student when we are finally together again.
Oklahoma Teacher of the Year