Happy New Year and welcome to the first "Tuesday Teacher Talk" of 2013. Tuesdays are now my blogging day. I'm determined to "grow" my blog this year, so I'm setting aside a special time each week to devote to writing.
We've only been back in school for five days, and the kids are just beginning to emerge from their post-holiday stupor, so I don't have anything very earth-shattering to write about. This week, I've decided to share a very simple strategy that I use in class.
It's a technique I use to help my students learn a "sense of urgency". Sense of urgency is one of those soft skills, or behavioral competencies, that don't appear in any curriculum guide or on any scope and sequence chart, in spite of the fact that it is a requisite for success in our personal and professional lives.
"What is meant by a "sense of urgency" is not running around at 400 miles an hour with your hair on fire, but instead displaying a driving desire to accomplish important tasks... now!" A sense of urgency means being able to automatically detect those projects in our daily lives that are goal achieving and which call for immediate attention and then acting on them until they are successfully completed. Successful people do a tremendous amount of work in a minimum period of time. They have a long list of projects which are completed daily and which move them closer to the achievement of their goals. They focus on goal achieving projects and work that counts. In addition, they have a tremendous sense of urgency with respect to matters that need to get done.
Some people are born with a strong sense of urgency. Others are NOT! I am a "get it done" kind of gal myself, and, as such, I value sense of urgency. I actually talk about it with my students and try to make them aware of the importance of making plans, working with purpose, setting timelines, being organized, and adhering to deadlines.
One very simple strategy I use pretty regularly in class is counting backward. When I notice that my students are too relaxed or laid back when they should be focused or on task, I remind them of what they are supposed to be doing (finishing a sentence, packing their belongings, gathering on the carpet, etc...), give them a minute to comply, and then I start to count backward from 10 or 20, depending on the task-at-hand. My students know the expectation is that they'll be done whatever it is I've asked of them by the time I am finished counting. The change in their sense of urgency when I count backward is remarkable.
I know it's just a simple technique, but it concretely illustrates an important point I want to reinforce with my students. It shows them that you can get a lot done when you set your mind to it and act with purpose, AND it beats repeating myself a thousand times as I nag them to "get in line" or "clear their desks." If you've never tried counting backward with your students, give it a whirl.