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Stretching the Dollar

If anyone can stretch a dollar, it is my Mom. A stay at home Mom who put her career on hold to raise four children, my Mom had to find a way to stretch one income. She was a master coupon clipper, sales shopper, and had a magical ability to buy food and clothing that had a way of lasting a long time. My Mom had a way of stretching the dollar by being creative, planning, being organized, utilizing her strengths, and carefully prioritizing what mattered most.  

How Did She Stretch a Dollar?

Rather than make a shopping list and then look at the store advertisements to see what was on sale, my Mom would take a look at what was on sale and then make her list.  For an even greater value, she would search for coupons that could be applied to items already on sale.  By adjusting her planning to move with the sales, she left the room to make sure she would not run out of money for the items that mattered most.  Had my Mom just gone into the store on a whim, picked up a few things, there is a good chance that she would have not returned home with what she needed, lost time by having to shop more frequently, and most likely after a few weeks or months struggled to meet a budget.  My parents were committed to raising four kids in a home filled with stability, opportunities, love, encouragement, and faith. They made sure that needs were met, but also found a way to make extra things available like sports camps, varsity jackets, and fun vacations part of our life. It was because they were strategic with their resources that we were able to enjoy so many things. 

Be Intentional- Prioritize

Stretching a dollar is possible but requires strategy. Finding a way to be intentional about prioritizing what is essential is critical. Twenty years ago, when we started planning our wedding, my Mom gave us advice that I have since been able to apply to several areas of life. She recommended that we make a list of what we wanted most. My Mom started by asking us if we were cake people?  It was important for us to determine how important the cake, and then the photographer, the chair covers, decorations, music, and flowers were for us. By making a list and pairing a number of importance for each item, we would not run out of money before the things that mattered most were a part of our day. Was there a way to be creative and think from a different perspective, or use resources differently to stretch our dollars? Ultimately we had to decide what mattered most. When working with a financial budget, the essential question becomes, “Is it worth the money?” And, if it is worth the money, that means something else is not.  

A Lack of Planning = A Struggle

Whether it be planning a wedding or finding a way for a family of six to eat on a conservative budget, stretching the dollar is similar to stretching the minutes that make up the hours each week over a year of 180 days. Teachers are asked to find a way to make an assigned set of standards and curriculum fit into the school year. Much like going to the store without prioritizing ahead of time, finding a way to stretch the hour so you can fit in what you most value becomes tricky.  

Is It Worth The Time?

Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle, co-authors of 180 Days: Two Teachers and The Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents, believe that time is limited and therefore needs to be carefully budgeted. Gallagher and Kittle encourage teachers to start with what they believe and then map out what needs to be part of class time, no matter how limited it becomes. According to the authors, we must make sure that our 180 days are spent wisely. The days when we gave up significant chunks of time to build Maycomb, Alabama, are over. 

 All planning now starts with this essential question:  Is this worth the time?  

Plotting Out A Daily Routine

Consumed with ideas of exciting things I want to do as an English teacher, I am passionate about and determined to find a way to embrace the things that I believe are most important. As I read Gallagher and Kittle’s book, I have started  to think about how I could better budget my time in the classroom. Based on the author’s suggestion, page 26 features a  template that illustrates what they feel are the most important components to a class period. 

The daily routines that the authors highlight are: 

*Reading time,

*Daily notebook writing time

*Study time (Text study or mini-lesson)

*Time to create (work on an evolving draft)

*Share/ an opportunity to share and debrief.  

Reflecting On What My Daily Routine Needs

The daily routine template reminded me to think about what I most want to happen in my classroom.  I place an incredible value on time for students to read independently. Therefore, I know that I need to make sure that even if the amount of time has to change at times, students’ opportunity to read in class is part of our regular routine. 

Actions are Worth a Thousand Words

 If I say that reading for pleasure is one of the most important things you can do to prepare yourself for college, standardized tests, and overall growth, my classroom schedule needs to reflect that. If I say that no matter how many other assignments you might need to do for my class, reading is what I want you to spend time doing now, I also need to utilize the timer set to crack open my own novel.  

Build-in Opportunities for Students to Enhance Strengths

In addition to time for reading, I value giving students opportunities to experiment with different types of writing.  Deep thinking and creativity are necessary. Opportunities for my students to be mentored by various authors, speakers, and writers is non-negotiable. A chance to learn skills that will serve students well beyond my class is part of the template.  District designed pacing guides, review guides for tests, and opportunities to process learning are necessary. Space for reflection matters and needs to be included.  

Is it Worth the Time?

I keep coming back to Gallagher and Kittle’s essential question. When something is important, there is a way to stretch time with careful planning to make sure that you can say yes to what matters most.  As I consider my daily routine and prioritize what matters most, I realize that I choose one experience over another.  If I decide something is worth the time, then I am also deciding that something else does not deserve the same amount of space.  When I say yes to one thing, I am saying no to something else.  

Stretching Time in the Classroom 

Much like my mom used to build her shopping list around the sales in the store and the coupons she had, there is a way for teachers to a classroom that reflects the things they value most.  Rather than asking the question, “How do I add one more thing?”, what about starting from a different perspective and asking the question, “How can I combine teaching this lesson, with a particular project I believe is valuable?”  It’s not about seeing each task or standard in isolation, and wondering how it is possible to do everything, but rather about creatively finding a way to do more at the same time.  Stretching time means that you can afford to do anything, but not everything.  If something is worth the time, find a way to do it.  

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