Techniques for optimizing your scheduling efficiency or How to have more time for Netflix

By Cindy Hallo

It’s back to school time!
(Either you’re high-fiving yourself right now, or you’re hyperventilating while curled up into a ball in the corner. No judgement either way.)

I love the first few weeks of school. I’m also one of those really weird people who loves doing laundry, so you can take everything I’m saying with a grain of salt. There’s something about a blank slate I really love. And two months to forget all those annoying habits all your students have. What other job allows you to say, “Okay, maybe last year didn’t go quite as well as I wanted, but this year…THIS is gonna be my year. The kids are actually going to LEARN SOME STUFF this year.” New students, new schedules, new administrators, new music….It’s like cracking open that brand new spiral notebook – the year can be whatever you make of it.

Of course, that feeling lasts about .004 seconds until you realize you have 30 students who all HAVE to have a lesson during class and the schedules shifted this year, so every single band class starts at 11:32am and no one wants to stay after school and WHY DO YOU KEEP DOING THIS TO YOURSELF EVERY YEAR!?!?

I kid. Sort of.

A few years ago, I discovered my favorite way to figure out the puzzle that is a private teacher’s life at the start of the school year. My first few years of teaching, I would sit with some notebook paper, some scribbled notes about which times students preferred and proceed to try and write it all in on the 8 1/2 x 11 metaphor for the next 9 months of my life.


It obviously ended badly.


I would have things crossed out twenty times, I would try and match up the times across all five days so things lined up the way I wanted, teardrops and blood spatters from my hard work would mar the writing….basically it was a mess.

Now here’s where you chime in and say, “Cindy, my favorite program/app/Hogwarts spell is blankety-blank. It works great!”

Here’s what you need to know about me. I’m a bit of a techno-phobe.

That’s not true. I like technology. Sometimes it doesn’t like me, but I wouldn’t ignore it in the hallway if it said hi to me.

I remember things better if I write them down. This goes for almost everything in my life – training schedules, student’s names, doctors appointments, etc. For some reason it feels more “real” written down. I’m not opposed to later transferring it to a favorite app or program, but I work better organizationally with things handwritten out.
Enter my favorite way to organize schedules. As I was telling Sean about what I was going to write about on this post, he suggested I also make sure everyone knows how to log into AOL via their dialup connection. I think that was his nice way of calling me a Luddite. Or he really likes AOL, I’m not sure.

Moving on….

Every school gets a different color. Students who need class time lessons get randomly grouped together. Before and after school students have their names written down along with the time of the lesson. I start with everyone’s first wish for lessons and move on from there. I write them all down on paper (you didn’t think I was going to get away from the paper did you?!) cut them out like I’m making a kindergarten art project, and sit down on the floor to arrange my fate.

(No, I don’t clean my kitchen counters. I’m a teacher…WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT??)

It’s. So. Easy.

I can visually see where I have spaces to fit students, I can try and group students from the same schools together, and if I screw up somewhere along the way, I just rearrange my little slips of paper.

I take photos as I go along in case something happens to the paper (boyfriend, cat, portal to hell opening up in the middle of my floor) and delete as I update the schedule. After I have it set, it gets transferred to a Google calendar.

Visually, this works amazingly for me. I like the color-coding so I can pull up in my head what school I’m going to next, and I honestly learn the kid’s names faster.

So if you also like doing things (probably) the hard way or just really enjoy coloring (which is totally a thing now), try this method.

I mean, you have some time to kill while the dial up is connecting, right?