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Bullet Journals and Teaching Go Hand-in-Hand

by Jacki Andre 06 Sep 2020
Bullet Journals and Teaching Go Hand-in-Hand
Hey you educational rockstar! Yes, YOU! This one’s for you.
You guys have my utmost respect. Teaching is tough. How do you do it all? Because, really, the actual teaching is the least of it, isn’t it? Just off the top of my head (and I’m NOT a teacher), you’re also:
  • Managing students with all of their individual quirks
  • Supporting students through personal issues
  • Instilling valuable life lessons
  • Developing lesson plans
  • Creating assessments
  • Grading endless piles of paper
  • Pursuing professional development opportunities
  • Completing various admin duties
  • Attending meetings
  • Engaging in research and writing, particularly if you’re in post-secondary
  • Attending/supervising activities outside the classroom like recess, sporting events, and dances
  • Buying supplies out of pocket
  • Providing lunch at times - also out of pocket
Forget “educational rockstar.” You’re a fah-reakin’ hero.
With so much to stay on top of, it seems like notes and to-do lists and -- wait! trackers too (hello attendance records!) -- would be a must. It also seems like a Bullet Journal (aka Bujo) is probably the best thing to happen in your world since sliced bread.
If you haven’t heard of the bullet journal before, it's basically a blank notebook that does all the things. It becomes a planner, a writing journal, and a personal diary. The concept was developed by Ryder Carroll. You draw (or paste) in your own calendars and use the notebooks for tracking all kinds stuff. The components that make a Bujo a Bujo are:
  • an index;
  • logs (daily, weekly, monthly, and/or future lists);
  • the “rapid logging system” (aka bullet notes); and
  • signifiers (symbols) that identify your entries in some way (e.g., as tasks, events, or notes).
The thing about Bujos is that they give you ONE place for ALL THE THINGS. No, really. No more tracking stuff (grades, attendance, supplies needed, meetings, lightbulb moments, stuff students say) in multiple places. No more lost sticky notes. No more pulling your hair out when the system or the wifi is down. Just one personal journal, always at your fingertips for quick reference. (Unless you forget it at home. Don’t forget it at home, ‘k?)
How good does that sound? Sounds pretty sweet, if you ask me. Other teachers think so too. Carroll’s company commissioned a survey of educators who use Bujos. Of those who responded, 93% said that using a Bujo makes their lives easier. Ninety-three percent! And, despite the time it takes to set up and actually record stuff in a Bujo, 85% of respondents said that they use their Bujos every single day. That’s a pretty strong case for Bujos.
What do you say? You in? Ready to give it a whirl and see if it will change your life? Yeah? Okay, then: read on for tips and inspo.
Paper Records Are Rockstars
For educators, paper records are da bomb. A blog post over at Alexandra Plans explains why: “Although I log attendance online, I can’t stress to you enough how important it is to have everything down on paper. There have been times where attendance records have been wiped out and grades have been changed.”
Clearly, paper rocks. But why not take it one step further and keep ALL THE PAPER in one place? Namely, in a Bujo. Genius, eh? That way you get your office supply fix, your washi tape fix, AND you become wildly efficient. Plus you will never again have to empty the recycle bin on your desk again to search for a wayward sticky note.
Trackers Get It Done
Trackers are often used to help people develop (or break) habits. Water consumption, daily exercise, meditation, a limit to screen time, and no-spend days are all things that can be tracked. But of course, they are also used to track data and tasks. This is where they deserve a gold star from educators. They rock at keeping track mundane stuff -- all in the same place! -- like:
  • Attendance
  • Assignments/homework handed in
  • Your own progress on grading
  • Student grades
  • Professional development hours
  • Your own absences
To track things, BuJoers often color in shapes (even simple grid squares), rather than checking or crossing things off. However it’s indicated that a task is complete, it’s highly motivating to see on paper that progress is being made.
Notations, Notations, Notations
Bujos are a terrific repository for all the notes teachers need to make (and later lose in their mountains of paper). Think about having one source where all this information is stored and is easily retrievable:
  • Student success stories and moments to remember (especially helpful to recall during parent/teacher interviews)
  • FYI notes about students, like allergies
  • Meeting notes
  • Ideas, inspiration, light bulb moments
  • Resource lists
  • Supply shopping lists
  • Motivational thoughts and quotes
Four Easy Hacks
  1. Alexandra Plans suggests printing out your school’s or school district’s annual calendar and pasting it into your Bujo.
  2. Seasoned Bujoers typically create future, monthly, weekly, and/or daily spreads, which are basically to-do lists, each suited to that particular block of time. But teachers usually organize their time within a term or semester. If it will have value for you, don’t be afraid to step out of the Bujo box to create a “termly" or a “semesterly.”
  3. Use sticky notes for lists that get updated a lot. Instead of creating the same list over and over in your Bujo, create a page that can be refreshed by removing full/complete sticky notes and replacing them with empty ones for fresh notes. Alexandra Plans suggests doing this for things like supplies to buy, emails to send, students to see, and copies to make.
  4. Choose a journal that's comfortable to write in and brings joy for you to use. You're more apt to use your journal if you enjoy it. Why not pick a journal with a cover that speaks to you, such as SohoSpark's Compass Rose journal?
Just DON’T Do It
Jessica Chung has some sage advice about what NOT to do in a Bujo. Skip the lesson plans, she says. Keeping your lesson plans in digital format makes a lot more sense. Digital files can be edited more easily, which is especially helpful as they evolve from term to term. They’re also easier to share with others if they are in digital format.
If you’re a teacher who Bujos, I’d love to hear your own tips and tricks. Or, if this post inspired you to start keeping a Bujo, I’d love to hear about that too. Drop me a message in the comments below.
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