Plan The Work, Then Work The Plan

From Mrs. Dull: “I have no idea how someone as traditional as you can NOT like pumpkin pie.” Truth. But that one exception notwithstanding, I’m Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving Guy all the way. Image via

All those things my twitter bio says I am? I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m not very good at any of them. Mediocre at best. But I suspect if I could eavesdrop on my own wake, I might hear that I put on a pretty decent Thanksgiving dinner. I picked up a lot by watching my dad (and my grandma, and my aunt and uncle) host. Little things, like the proper appetizers (shrimp cocktail, chips & salsa, black olives). Big things, like the correct mix of drinks (good beer, well-matched variety of wines, diet Pepsi). Like most people, my first few times cooking for the family were pretty rugged. The undercooked turkey one year, the paste-like gravy another. Did I tell you about the time I forgot to turn on the oven? But after a while, things all came together. With a large assist from Alton Brown. (Spoiler Alert: Don’t stuff the turkey. You can thank me later.)

I’ve made the Big Meal often enough now that I occasionally feel like I could go on autopilot. But in all areas of life I live in constant fear of forgetting something extremely important. You should see my packing list for Marathon Morning. I actually take out a piece of paper on Thanksgiving morning and write out a timeline for the day, from Turkey In The Oven to “Dinner is Served”. Folks who have peeled back the curtain and seen the list are properly impressed, being in the presence of a professional and all. That, or they back away slowly.

More of a defense against disaster than anything else, but still. Then this week I ran across this, courtesy Lifehacker:


I bow before thee, Oh Queen Of Thanksgiving Day Logistics.
I bow before thee, Oh Queen Of Thanksgiving Day Logistics.

Yup, a Gantt Chart. For Thanksgiving day. Not sure if I should be proud or horrified. I know for sure I’m downloading the spreadsheet for next year. Hell, I might use it Thursday.

That got me thinking about one of the best long-term gifts that came from my two years teaching in Las Vegas. We had a quarterly standing date with our regional Algebra coach, the entire department (or at least the portion of it teaching at least a section of Algebra) meeting at one of our feeder middle schools. At the very first meeting, we carved out part of the day to plan the entire quarter in advance, day-by-day. Our department chair was wise enough to guide us in the process, helping us to see topics that would need built-in reinforcement days. As a first-year teacher, it had never occurred to me to plan that far in advance. All of us in the CCSD were doing BAM (Backward Assessment Model), planning a unit at a time. But the benefits of planning 9 weeks at a time were huge. And I’ve been doing it faithfully ever since.

Except when I started doing this, none of days included "Desmos Activity"
Except when I started doing this, none of days included “Desmos Activity”

Document here: Term Planning Grid

Could I wing it, on Marathon Day? On Turkey Day? On Slope-Intercept Form Day? Sure. But I don’t want to if I don’t have to. I’m gonna plan my work, then work the plan. And enjoy a five-day weekend with family & friends & a stack of PLTW Puzzle Cube projects to grade.