How to Level Up Your Teaching Using the Ultimate Digital Teacher PlannerOct 21, 2021
I don't know about you, but this school year has been hard. Like, a dumpster fire hot mess. Every. Single. Day.
For the first several weeks of school, I was driving the struggle bus and I can honestly say that all of the fellow teachers I knew were right on board.
Is “teacher tired” a thing even at the end of September? Because I was there.
One of the things I found myself struggling most with was feeling productive. I felt like I was constantly batting new things being thrown at me all day, every day. I’d swat one task down, only to have a new one pop up in its place.
It was a total whack-a-mole approach and rather than focusing on being intentional about what tasks I completed and when, I found myself being reactive in my approach to getting things done.
As a result, I felt like I was treading water, just trying to stay afloat.
I didn’t feel like I had a hold on being productive. I didn’t feel like I was addressing my students’ needs in the most targeted way. And I didn’t feel like I was in a cycle of growth…
I’d call it more of a mode of survival.
As teachers, we all know what happens when you hang out in survival mode for too long. It’s called burnout and it’s not pretty.
So I knew I needed to take action and change my approach.
I decided to come up with a tool to help me feel more intentional about my productivity and to ensure that I was continuing to grow from day to day, month to month, and just throughout the entire year, to be honest.
Because I just couldn't stand one more second of feeling overwhelmed and stagnant with where I was at.
In one of my favorite productivity books, the 12 Week Year, Brian Moran teaches "Intentionality is your secret weapon against the war on mediocrity.”
I’m not interested in mediocrity, are you? Didn’t think so.
So I knew this tool had to help me get intentional about the areas I felt were most important to me as a teacher.
Areas like being productive. Because the more productive you are, the bigger impact you can have.
And organization. Because even though I’m a full-time virtual teacher, organization is every bit as important in both the virtual and non-virtual teaching environments.
And growth. Because if we aren’t continuing to grow as a teacher, we are doing ourselves (and our future students) an enormous disservice.
And of course, impact. Because having an impact is the most important thing when it comes to teaching. Impact is all about putting the student first. It’s the student, after all, that gives us purpose for teaching.
So, from this list of Teachure tool necessities, the Teachure Planner was born.
Why the only teacher planner you need is the Teachure Planner...
Let me just tell you, the Teachure Planner has literally revived my teacher-heart, after nearly burning out the first several weeks of this school year!
I kid you not when I say this is the first thing I open in the morning and the last thing I close at night. It’s helped my productivity, focus, and outlook improve tenfold.
But when it comes to using teacher planners, it wasn’t always that way for me.
I’ve had my fair share of planners in my time. And when I started teaching, you can bet I bought my fair share of teacher planners too.
Most of the teacher planners that I found were more or less designed for lesson planning. But they fell short with integrating my life outside of the classroom.
Regular planners were useful in that I could write down important things to remember and keep a running list of tasks I needed to do. But they weren’t helping me improve my productivity. [Because, to be honest, most planners aren’t rooted in a system.]
And then who wants to carry around two different planners, both of which only tackle a quarter of what I truly craved in a planning system?
The Teachure Planner is more than just a place to record your lesson plans.
It’s more than just a [digital] book where you can write down appointments and things you need to do.
When I say it’s a Teachure tool, I mean that.
I designed the Teachure Planner with so much intention, around frameworks that represent systems THAT WORK. Which means this tool adds major [and way more targeted] value than your average ho-hum planner.
I was able to design the Teachure Planner in a way that mirrored systems for all of those necessities I mentioned earlier as being most important to me.
Productivity. Organization. Growth. Impact.
But like I said, I know how important it is to have a tool that goes beyond just being a teacher and also serves on the personal level, as well.
I think as teachers, being a teacher is sort of wrapped up in our identity.
I mean, think about it. When you first meet someone new, isn’t the fact that you are a teacher one of the first things you share about yourself?
I know for me that’s true. But I’m not JUST a teacher, right?!
I mean, we all have lives that exist outside of the classroom and it’s more than important to honor and exercise those lives away from school….it’s essential to our well-being.
So, I wanted to create a tool that morphed both identities for me. One where I could be a teacher and use it to maximize all things #teacherlife. But also, one that felt like a personal tool that would help me function and thrive on a personal level.
And that is exactly what sets the Teachure Planner apart from all the rest.
It’s designed BY a teacher, FOR teachers, to inspire you to evolve on both a personal and professional level.
Why Choose a Digital Teacher Planner
The Teachure Planner is a digital tool. So your first question may be, well how does that work?
Or at least that was my first question when I stumbled across digital planners.
I’ve always been a paper planner kinda girl. Paper planners are the norm, right? I didn’t even know digital planners were a thing. And before I tried it out for myself, I probably would’ve assumed that digital planners would be a huge hassle, difficult to use, and easy to forget about.
Well, [channeling my inner Yoda] wrong, I was.
A lot of digital planners, like the Teachure Planner, work using a PDF annotation app. This is basically just an app you get on the app store. You can store notes and PDFs on the app. One of the many features is that it allows you to mark on PDFs that you import into the app, like by typing, writing, or drawing, for example.
If you have a tablet, you can use the app with a stylus and the planner basically mirrors a paper planner, in that you can write on it using the app, just like you would a paper planner.
But then I found out that you don’t necessarily NEED a tablet to use a digital planner. You can use any device where the app is available, so in a lot of cases that includes laptops, desktops, and even phones.
My favorite PDF annotation app to use is Goodnotes 5, which works with Apple products. As long as I have this app on all of my devices, my planner syncs and I can literally open it up to use it on whichever device I want.
But there are lots of other PDF annotation apps out there. I also really Xodo, which is available on pretty much any device, including browser-based (like Chrome).
We live in a tech-driven world and I’m using technology to some extent for the better part of the day most days. So to be able to have my Teachure Planner on whichever device I have most handy at the time is enormously useful.
Plus, I don’t have to worry about forgetting my planner somewhere, at school or at home or wherever I may find myself. [And I also don’t have to worry about spilling coffee/juice/water on it, but that’s another story.]
The other thing I love about the planner is how easy it is to navigate. The entire thing is hyperlinked with literally thousands of hyperlinks. So you can easily click on a tab or a designated button to get you practically anywhere in the planner in a jiffy.
It’s also super easy to personalize. I’ve always been a bit of a nerd with my planners. I love to personalize them because I feel like the more connected I am to it, the more I use it.
So I’ve always posted pictures, stickers, and the like inside of my planners and now, with a digital planner, it’s extremely easy to copy and paste practically any image I want, whenever I want.
With a lot of apps, you can also pretty easily create your own stickers to save and insert over and over again. Same goes for sticky notes. Literally, everything you are used to using in a paper planner can be replicated digitally.
With the added perk of not having extra “things” to keep up with.
How to Level Up Your Teaching Using a Teacher Planner
Like I said, I knew the Teachure tool I created had to be one that helped me get intentional about all of those important things I listed out before.
Productivity. Organization. Growth. Impact.
So the frameworks and systems mirrored through this teacher planner are based on these concepts.
Here’s a rundown of the strategies that set the Teachure Planner apart from anything else remotely out there.
Strategy 01 | Maximize Your Productivity at a Monthly, Weekly + Daily Level
The Teachure Planner was designed based on a productivity system that I like to call the Teachure Planning System Framework.
This framework is made up of what I consider to be three fundamental elements of planning.
The fundamental elements of this system are Monthly Goal-Setting, Weekly Habit Development, and Daily Task Calibration. Each level of the framework targets a different key productivity element.
So at the monthly level, the productivity target is goal-setting.
I like to approach goal-setting in a “fragmented” kinda way, because in my mind, achieving a goal is kind of like putting pieces of a puzzle together.
In the Teachure Planner, there’s space for you to set at least one monthly focus goal each month, as well as identify an action plan that will help you achieve your goal.
In The Teachure School, I walk you through the entire goal-setting process I use, which starts with establishing a vision and filters all the way down to the daily tasks you set for yourself each day.
Like I said, the goal-setting process to me is like one big puzzle. When you put the puzzle together, you’ve got a roadmap for achieving the things that matter most to you in life.
The next level of the framework is the Weekly level and the productivity target here is habit development.
Let me ask you this… what would happen if every single week of the year you intentionally practiced a new habit?
Well, let me tell you what would happen… hypothetically, you’d be 52xs “better” at the end of that year than when you started!
Which is why habit development is incorporated into the weekly planning page of the Teachure Planner.
And last but not least, the final level of the framework is the Daily level and the productivity target is Task Calibration.
The goal at this level is to make sure the tasks you devote your focus and attention to on a daily basis are the ones that are going to ultimately bring you closer to your goals and vision.
That’s why I’ve built in strategies to help you prioritize your daily tasks list, so that you are focusing on the most important tasks in a proactive way. Rather than approaching tasks reactively and playing whack-a-mole with whatever task pops up first.
At this level, I also help you get intentional about staying grounded with the four Core Teachure Elements.
These four elements are what I believe to be the four most grounding elements you should focus on, on a day-to-day basis.
Remember when I said your planning system needs to help you evolve not just on a professional level, but a personal level, as well?
Attending to these four Core Teachure Elements is going to nurture your well-being and ultimately contribute to you thriving as a productive human.
Strategy 02 | Map Out Your Lesson Sequence Using a Lesson Planning Funnel
When we talk about organization as a teacher, arguably one of the most important things you want to make sure you’ve got organized is what you plan to do every day.
If you don’t have an organized system of lesson planning, then your days are destined to be helmed by the hot mess express.
The Lesson Planning Funnel is a framework designed to help you think about lesson planning in a sequential and orderly way.
The idea of the funnel is two-fold.
First of all, it’s the idea of planning lessons in sequence, rather than as isolated events, in order to be most effective.
And second, it’s the idea of establishing overviews at each level, rather than rigid plans.
So within the Teachure Planner, you’ll find lesson planning overview templates at the yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily levels.
At the yearly level, your overview should be focused on mapping out your themes throughout the year. This may include unit themes you plan to cover. Or if you follow another thematic process, say based on the seasons of the year for example, then this works as well.
For me, my virtual classrooms “around the world” are a core pillar of my classroom experience. So for each month in my Year-at-a-Glance overview, I plan which classrooms I’ll use based on certain themes, like “modern-day countries popular in the ancient world” and we’ll travel to Greece and Egypt. Or “recent Olympic host countries” and we’ll travel to Japan and Brazil. And so on.
A little out-of-the-box, yes, but hey, that’s the earmark of authentic teaching, right?!
At the quarterly level, your overview should be focused on mapping out the topics you plan to cover. In other words, this is where you map out your units.
At the monthly level, your overview continues to narrow in detail by mapping out your targets. This is where you identify what you want students to know and be able to do at the end of each lesson.
At the weekly level, your overview should map out the tasks for each day’s lesson.
And finally, at the daily level, your overview should map out the details of the lesson. This includes things like what resources you’ll need, the general outline of your lesson, and your plan for assessment/feedback.
The cool thing about using the Teachure Planning for lesson planning is that these overviews are already built in [and linked with coordinating pages] for every single quarter, month, week, and even day of the year.
Strategy 03 | Get Intentional About Your Growth
Growth is one of the four Core Teachure Elements, so it's something I like to make sure I focus on consistently, as well as intentionally.
The entire premise of goal-setting with the Teachure Planner is focused on growth. When you’re setting your monthly goals, you can choose to focus on growth at a personal or professional level.
You also target growth at a daily level, when you get intentional about how you plan to target each of the four Core Teachure Elements each day.
Beyond this though, I’ve incorporated a measure for you to focus specifically on your professional growth and at a quarterly level.
In order to do this, I like to use a framework called the Teachure Classroom Design Framework.
Within this framework, I’ve identified what I consider to be six pillars of the classroom experience. Within each of these pillars are elements of the classroom experience that we can intentionally influence, or in other words, design.
Within each of these elements, there are so many ways that we can use our Teachure Trademark to shape our classroom experience.
This is what I want to direct your attention towards as we talk about growth, specifically growing as a teacher in your current teaching situation.
Each quarter, I encourage you to choose one of these pillars to target for improvement. More specifically, choose at least one element within the pillar to target and brainstorm action steps that will help you get started improving in that area.
So for example, let’s say you want to strengthen your presence in the Digital Space of your classroom experience, which falls under the Classroom Space pillar.
You might brainstorm action steps like: create a class website, post announcements each week, create a resource link page for students to seek support, post a digital newsletter each month, and so on.
I also challenge you to see how you can influence the element with your Big Five core principles.
If you haven’t already checked out the Discover Your Teachure Trademark mini-course, which you totally should because it’s completely free and will help you identify your core principles as a teacher. Do that first in order to come up with your Big Five. Then think about how any of your Big Five core principles can show up in the element you are targeting.
So again, if I am targeting the Digital Space of my classroom experience, and one of my Big Five core principles is tolerance (which it is!), I might create virtual classrooms to share on our class website to give students an opportunity to explore other cultures each week. This is something I actually do right now in my own classroom, in fact, and I came up with this idea by following this process.
The biggest takeaway here is learning to be intentional about your growth and specific about where and how you want to improve as a teacher. This framework and process can help you do that.
Strategy 04 | Take Steps to Personalize the Learning Experience
As I mentioned earlier, having an impact is the most important thing when it comes to teaching.
And impact is all about putting the student first. It’s the student, after all, that gives us purpose for teaching.
So when I think about making an impact, I think about personalizing the learning experience for students.
In order to do this, I like to follow the 4Ps for Impact.
The first P is Profile.
Ideally, each student you work with should have an individualized Learner Profile, which captures details about the student as a learner. This includes things like the student’s learning preferences, interests, strengths and challenges.
In the Teachure Planner, there’s up to 36 Learner Profiles built right into the planner.
The next P in the 4Ps of Impact is Plan.
So once you’ve created a Learner Profile for each student, you want to take it a step further by creating a Learning Plan for each student so that you can personalize the learning experience even more.
This can start out as a goal action plan, which is included on the Learner Profile pages of the Teachure Planner. So you’ll consider what goals you will set for the student and what you will do, specifically, to help them reach their goals.
The next P in the 4Ps is Partnership.
One key component of personalizing instruction is to involve students’ parents or guardians in the learning process as much as possible.
One way of doing this is to make sure you are maintaining frequent communication throughout the school year.
I recommend planning for at least three conferencing events throughout the school year. This doesn’t have to be in person, it could be by phone. But it’s meant to be an intentional point of contact where you discuss the student’s strengths, concerns, and suggestions to address their current needs.
In the Teachure Planner, there’s up to 36 Conferencing Notes pages built right in to help you keep track of your communication.
The last P in the 4Ps is Progress.
This is where you think about consistently tracking and monitoring how students are progressing towards their individual goals.
You can use checklists for this, which I’ve included a template for in the Teachure Planner.
These checklists are great for monitoring any kind of numerical data and they are just one of the many additional templates included in the Teachure Planner to help you stay organized.
How to Get Started Using the Teachure Planner
If you’d like to take a peek inside of the Teachure Planner, you can do that here.
In the video on the Teachure Planner info page, I’ll take you through a full tour of how the planner works and what all is included.
Oh, and I almost forgot one of literally the best things about the Teachure Planner.
It’s undated, which means you can reuse it again and again, year after year!
Save on paper AND save on repeated cost of a planner each year… #win.
There are currently three styles of the planner available and you can choose the one you like best on the Teachure Tools page.
Once you decide to get intentional about evolving [at both a personal + professional level] all you need to do is choose your favorite Teachure Planner style, save the PDF to your computer, and then import the PDF into your favorite PDF annotation app.
It’s. That. Simple.
So whenever you’re ready to say goodbye to mediocrity and hello to intentionality, I invite you to meet your new best friend!
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