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A Day in the Life of a Teacher - Interruptions From Others - How to Divert As Many As Possible

Meggin McIntosh

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The average American worker has fifty interruptions a day, of which seventy percent have nothing to do with work. ~W. Edward Deming

You probably have your own estimate - and it may surprise you what the total number is. Here are some suggestions to curtail and divert as many interruptions (from others) as possible:

  1. Get the candy off your desk. OHMIGOSH! This is a light bulb idea. The tantalizing and well-supplied candy jar you have on your desk just invites people to stop by, get some candy, and then of course, sit down and chat. Productivity note: You would be doing your school secretary a huge favor if you shared this idea with her, too. When I have done workshops for school secretaries and mention “invited interruptions" and talk about the candy jar. . . . the laughing goes on for several minutes!

  2. Move your furniture so you are not visible from the door (and then shut the door when you are focusing on your work). This also means you can't see who is walking by your door (and a lot of people walk by every minute in a school) and if you are someone who is easily distracted by movement, it is almost impossible for you to resist looking up each time there is some movement or sound outside your classroom door.

  3. Work someplace other than your classroom or office. During your prep period, if you have a stack of papers to grade or some other task that doesn't have to be done in your classroom, consider finding a place where others wouldn't expect to look for you. Is there a place in the library, in a classroom that isn't being used, in a secluded hallway? You know your school; start seeking out these places (and don't tell anyone or you will have defeated the purpose!).

  4. Create special signs for school that indicate you are working and do not want to be disturbed. I have some you can download and use at 2 of my websites; just see the resource box below. You can also generate your own, of course. You can put one of these up on your door anytime you need uninterrupted working time. Always remember to take these down when the time is up, however, or they aren't noticed and lose their value.

  5. Create signs for your home work time, also. One of my good teacher friends, Sue, has a home “office" but it is really just a part of a larger room. She created a sign that says, “On the clock" on one side and “Off the clock" on the other side. She has told her teenagers and her husband that if they talk to her when she is “on the clock, " it will cost them $5 so they better think about whether the interruption is worth $5. It works! They either stop before they interrupt her, or they walk toward her with $5 in their hands.

  6. Have phrases ready for interrupters. When people come in to your space and interrupt you, and their interruption is not more important than what you are working on, you need to have a ready supply of statements or phrases you can use to move them along. Here are a few to consider and modify for your own use:
  • "I am working on something that needs my undivided attention right now. I need to get right back to it. "
  • "This is not a good time for me to talk. How about _?"
  • "I want to give you my undivided attention, and right now, I can not because I must finish what I am working on. "
  • Put up your hand and say, “Stop right there! Don't distract me for one second or I will lose my self control and start talking to you because it would be a perfect way for me to procrastinate this project!"

Frequent chatters’ club: if you join, you will have to pay the dues. ~Don Aslett & Carol Cartaino

Educators have the most influential positions in our society-and need every bit of support that can be mustered. Two resources that will help increase educators’ sense of peaceful, predictable productivity are Meggin's weekly emails:

**Top Ten Productivity Tips ( )

**Keys to Keeping Chaos at Bay ( )

(c) 2008 by Meggin McIntosh, Ph. D. , “The Ph. D. of Productivity"(tm)

Through her company, Emphasis on Excellence, Inc. , Meggin McIntosh changes what people know, feel, dream, and do via seminars, workshops, writing, coaching, and consulting.


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