Move from “Crazy Busy” to “Crazy Creative”

Views from the F.A.A.E. Conference

Views from the F.A.A.E. Conference: window, notes and rocket fuel, awesome rug.


This is what I was promised during a recent session at the Florida Alliance for Arts Education Leadership Summit. Was this tailor-made for me?  I’m constantly running around – switching materials in the two minutes between classes, creating power points, emailing parents, entering grades – before I collapse on the couch at home with the nagging feeling I’ve forgotten something. During the three-day conference, this presentation, given by Eric Smith, was the most useful break out session I attended.

So, what is the secret to being an organized person with time for your own art?

Smith suggests the following 5 habits:

#1 Use Good Tools and Put Faith In Them

  • Whether it’s an electronic calendar or good old-fashioned paper planner – don’t write it down if you’re not actually going to do it.

#2 Create Inboxes

  • Two email inboxes: work and home. Two physical inboxes: work and home. One mobile inbox – the iPhone has specific apps for this.
  • The physical inboxes create a vertical mess. This helps teachers like me who have the constant problem of tornado desk. Ask yourself the following questions when organizing the endless papers on your desk:
  1. Can I do it right now? (a task that takes 5 minutes or less)
  2. Can I do it later? (add it to calendar or list)
  3. Is there nothing I can do with this? (file it or TRASH it)

#3 Make To-Do Lists Based on Location

  • Categories like errands (all the things you can do while out and about), at home or at school

#4 Take Time to Reflect and Make Adjustments

  • Each Friday, Smith suggests asking yourself if you’ve gotten everything done, what’s still nagging you and if you can clear out anything remaining in your inboxes?
  • A Friday calendar review can help you plan. What are you going to do over the next two weeks? What are you going to do over the next two months?

#5 Take Care of Yourself to Have Even More Crazy Creative Ideas

  • Ahhhh, the elusive 8 hours of sleep. It’s important! I haven’t mastered this yet.
  • Be honest with yourself – don’t work on things that get your mind wound up right before bed
  • Exercise – even if it’s just a walk around the block
  • Give yourself mental energy – appoint a time to check emails, don’t do it every 3 seconds from your phone
  • Most importantly, reconnect with your personal art form


I’ll let you know how these habits work for me – I make no promises about the sleeping part.


First Year Wrap-Up



Ms. Shirley wants to sleep

“Ms. Shirley wants to help you learn and she wants to sleep”.

Well it’s June. I survived my first year of full-time, real life teaching! These last 9 months have been some of the most grueling and rewarding of my life. One of my goals this summer was to create a blog about my life as a new teacher. The triumphs and challenges, the ten-hour days, the endless editing in search of the most effective lesson plans – and of course to showcase all the amazing artwork coming out of room 133.

Until school starts again in August I’ll be sharing some of the things that worked this past school year (lesson plans, behavior management techniques) and what I’m planning for the upcoming year (no smiling until Christmas!) as a bad to the bone, veteran second year teacher.

A bit about me – I teach at a Title 1, public charter school in Florida. I see around 650 fabulous kids in K-5th grades a week. When I’m not at creating amazing lesson plans that adhere flawlessly to all state standards while at the same time being relevant and engaging – I’m reading a great book on the porch with a cup of strong coffee, indulging in reality T.V. or (as of yesterday) at the potter’s wheel.