According to a recent study at the University of California, Irvine, it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to an original task after an interruption. This transition time could eat up your entire prep period if you aren’t careful.
Here are the most common distractions keeping you from feeling productive and focused as an art educator and how to get back on track.
1. Unfinished Tasks
Unfinished projects and tasks can breed chaos and lead to distraction. Finishing one task and putting it away allows you to forget about it and focus on other things. When I’m tempted to move away from something before I finish it, I repeat the words “finish what you start.” So, next time, finish that grading before tackling the dirty sink!
If you walk into your classroom and lay your coat down on the table, then move it to your chair once the kids enter, and finally hang it on the hook behind your desk at lunch, you’ve touched it three times. This equals three distractions. The goal is to touch every object just ONCE when putting things away around the art room. With all the supplies we touch on a daily basis, this idea is so important!
3. “I’ll Do it Tomorrow” Syndrome
It’s human nature to overestimate the time it takes to complete a task. We push it off to “another day” when we’ll have more time. Have you actually timed yourself doing tasks? You might be surprised. It may only take 20 minutes to enter digital grades, but you perceive it to take an hour. Do it now. Don’t wait until tomorrow unless you must. Your future self will thank you.
4. Keeping up with the (Art Teacher) Joneses
Yes, social circles and cliques exist in the art ed world. If you are striving to be someone else, you are moving farther and farther away from your true self. Focus on what you do best and rock it. Don’t be distracted by what others are doing. There is enough room for everyone to shine and share their own passions.
Pinterest can be both a blessing and a distraction. You may have decided on the perfect unit for next month…until you see yet another bright, shiny idea online. If you doubt yourself and change your plans it will cause unease. Remember, you can always try something new in the future. Stick to your plans, check them off your list, and move on!
You sit down at your desk after a long day of teaching and dig into the black hole of emails that have come in. An hour later, you look up from your email coma. Email should not take this long! Try reducing your email time by writing the briefest response you can. I love the concept of Inbox Zero to stay organized. Learn more about this method right here.
Conversation, Colleagues, Camaraderie: all of these are positive things. However, don’t allow half of your planning period go by while you shoot the breeze. Make a goal to get as much done as possible during your actual contracted work hours. Make it a fun game. Go home on time for once!
You don’t want to ignore your students, of course. After all, you are the teacher. However, there are times when needy students can pull you in a million different directions. Try implementing the Ask Three, Ask Me strategy to help students help themselves. Or, you can try flipping some of your lessons to foster independence among students. Who knows, you may actually get some quality formative assessment completed during class time when students aren’t vying for your attention.
Don’t let these distractions (and others!) creep in and prevent you from art teaching greatness. Stay focused, stay calm, and stay in control of your classroom. I hope you’ll try just one of the eight tips above in the new year!
If you are looking to become even more focused and inspired in 2016, I will be discussing the topics of focus, goal setting, and career greatness during my presentation “Taking Back your Identity as an Art Educator” at the AOE 2016 Winter Conference. This is a topic that isn’t covered enough in our profession but that everyone seems to struggle with. Let’s have an honest conversation and help lift each other up to become the best art teachers we can be! I hope you will join me!
What are some of your biggest distractions in the art room? How do you cope?
Which tip do you want to try in the new year?
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.