I often would shut the door and sit in the darkened room with one light on (sometimes just the flood light). I had a small kidney table in the back corner adjacent to the door. That was where I would quietly sit and do my planning. From outside the classroom, it appeared as though no one was in the classroom. I could quietly work and not worry about being disturbed.
It wasn’t that I was trying to be anti-social, but rather I had this mentality (and still do) that my work time was work time and my home time is family time. I wanted to use every minute at work to get work done. I didn’t want to spend my planning time just talking. I love my colleagues. I love catching up – but I loved spending time with my family in the evenings – watching my girls play, learning about my son’s day, and so on. I had to choose: work at work and spend time with my family, or spend time with my colleagues and work at home instead. It seemed like a pretty simple choice.
Besides hiding in your room in the dark, what other options do you have if you want to get some work done during your planning time? Well, first consider placing a sign on your door that says “Do not disturb: Planning in progress.”
Of course, that isn’t always going to work, just like during testing when you have a sign that says, “Shhh…” and people in the hallway are still noisy! So, let’s have some backup plans.
Consider using quick getaway phrases such as, “I have to call Johnny’s mom about his behavior today” or, “I need to make some copies. I’ll be right back.” Of course, there are those that will come along with you and chat your ear off as you work, so be prepared to complete errands as they talk (I guess killing two birds with one stone…).
Another option would be to mention casually that you’ll stop by later or when you get a chance. Just schedule time for them so they know they are important to you and that you’re not just brushing them off.
Ultimately, you could always ask someone to do something for you; that typically sends my children (or husband) running the other way. “Hey Jane, would you mind making me a copy of this?” (Obviously, they have free time if they are just standing there talking to you; get them to help you out!)
In all seriousness, I think the best thing to do when a colleague wants to talk and you want to work (other than hiding, pretending to be on the phone, or putting headphones in) is to be upfront and honest. Politely explain, “I hope I don’t offend you, but I really have a lot to do and want to spend some time with my family tonight. Can I catch you another time?”
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