When I moved to Hong Kong and to my new school, one of the biggest changes for me was the size of the school. Before this, I had only ever worked in small public schools in the UK with one class per year group. Now, there are more classes in my year band than there was in the whole of my previous school, and more teachers in my year band than my former two schools combined. That’s just my year band! The primary section alone has almost one hundred teachers. This has been fantastic for collaboration and learning from others, but I realised very quickly that my decisions had knock-on effects and that my disorganisation impacted others.
Despite my forgetfulness and the occasional slip-up, I survived my first year thanks to endless post-it notes and written reminders on the board.
In my second year, I thankfully discovered these Google tools. They have made my life so much easier! I actually feel like an organised teacher now! Google tools take care of everything for me. I don’t know how I managed without them!
How on Earth did I survive without Google Calendar? Well, I used a diary. My diary worked fine as long as I remembered to check it, and as long as it was at hand when I needed to add to it, but it wasn’t always. My Google Calendars can be accessed from any device, meaning that I can add new entries to it on the go. I can also set notifications that will remind me from any device. Different Google Calendars can be collated on one screen. In the above image, the red entries are the school entries (accessible to all staff) and the blue ones are my own entries (not seen by others). The black entry is from Google Classroom. This appears automatically to tell me and my students that an assignment deadline is approaching. When an event is created, I can share it with relevant people and it can be added to their calendars too. Furthermore, documents can be attached to events. These are just some of the Google Calendar features. They really have thought of everything!
Starred, important and filtered emails
Unfortunately, this happened to me a couple of times last year. It has probably happened to you too. I opened important emails at inconvenient times, I knew I needed to reply later, and then totally forgot! That’s the nature of our busy jobs! I used to mark these emails as unread, but this upset my inbox OCD. I don’t like to have unread emails! (Is that just me?) Instead, I can now star my emails, keeping them at the top of my inbox as a reminder to follow up.
The yellow tags next to the emails indicate that they are important ones. Take the time to label your the important emails. After a while, Gmail does this for you by recognising your habits. It places important emails in a separate section at the top (see top of image – ‘Important and unread’).
From your emails, go to settings and then select the ‘labels’ tab. From there, you can toggle these features on and off. These two features are enough for me, but you can also filter and label your emails. Watch this fantastic video tutorial to find out how:
This is an environmentally-friendly alternative to making lists on sticky notes (let’s face it, they don’t even stick very well). From your Gmail inbox, click ‘Mail’ in the upper-left corner. This opens a drop-down menu. Select ‘Tasks’.
This opens a small window in Gmail for you to make a list. For me, this is perfect for my daily to-do list. There is something very satisfying about ticking things off. My general rule is that I should not have to scroll through my daily list. If the list is long enough to scroll, I need to start ticking things off! Tasks can also be added to Google Calendar in just a couple of clicks.
Similar to Google Tasks, Google Keep is a tool for creating lists and reminders. However, Google Tasks is just one tick list. Google Keep is more like a collage of reminders. Various lists can be added here. This is ideal for keeping work/life lists separate. Images and text reminders can also be stored here, all on one page. As I said, I use Google Tasks as a day-to-day checklist. I use Google Keep for longer-term reminders such as ‘things to remember for next year’. I also store images here that I want to be reminded of later (such as books that I want to order, inspiring teacher quotes, etc.). The Google Keep extension means that I can add images to Keep just by right-clicking them. It also allows me to open Google Keep with just one click from my Chrome browser.
These tools have been invaluable for me as a forgetful teacher. I am aware of what’s coming up and what needs to be done. Even if I forget, I am reminded by my devices. Just make sure that your reminders are set to a time that will actually help. I was late for something on Wednesday because I had accidentally set the reminder for ‘three days before’. ‘Ten minutes before’ would have been more useful! Play around with these tools and their features, and let Google take care of you! You’re in safe hands!