Wednesday, November 24, 2004

How can I get any work done when there's so much work to be done?

So I've come to a realization over the past few months: I can't work at home. I've never been good at it, and last year I'd often bring papers home to grade, then never got to them, or at least not until Sunday night. But with papers, I could usually just stay late and get caught up at school, so that wasn't so bad. It's really become a problem, however, with these two classes I've had to take to renew my certification. I made the mistake of taking them as correspondence courses. Yup, two five-credit classes, I had a year to take them in my spare time, and I can't do them at home. Go fig.

I signed up for these courses last winter, once my situation stabilized, because I thought they'd give me the flexibility I needed with no spring vacation and a lot of Saturdays taken up. Good in theory, but when I got home each night, I didn't feel much like working on my classes when there was so much other stuff to be done around the house. Yup, I'm one of those rare guys who does his share of cooking, cleaning, laundry, and the like, and if something sits around too long, I'll get to it before too long. It also didn't help my classes that I have lots of books to read, movies to watch, and a TV to watch. In other words, it just became too easy to find something else to do, and it was usually more urgent or more fun (or both). I did eventually chip away quite a bit at my first class, but it was all one big reason why I got myself into this mess in the first place. Once I realized I wasn't going to make it, I decided to cut my losses and get out of Marysville, since I wouldn't be able to teach there past June 30 anyway (guess when my last certificate expired?).

Fortunately, Laura came up with something that helps the situation immensely. She had been wanting a laptop computer for a very long time, but when the time came to get one, my dad gave her his old one! So, Laura said I should get one instead. I was hesitant at first, but she talked me into it, and last spring I got myself a very nice Macintosh PowerBook G4. It certainly runs rings around my old iMac, and is portable as well. Laura set up a wi-fi network at our house as well, so we can get on the internet anywhere at home. For my classroom management class, I used it to play the CD-ROM while doing the work on my iMac, which made things go faster as I didn't have to swap between the CD-ROM and the word processor every few minutes, and I could check something on the CD-ROM without losing my train of thought. So once I was done with that class and it came time to start my second class (integrating language arts into teaching math, for those who are curious), I decided to do all of the work on the PowerBook, as that class didn't have a CD-ROM. Very wise choice on my part. Sure, I did some of it at home, but I ran into my usual problem of too many distractions at home. So I tried something radical -- not doing my work at home. I started carting my computer down to my folks' place in north Seattle and doing the work there instead, and it's proven to be a blessing, as I'm actually getting it done. In fact, I'm down at their place right now, typing this up as a reward to myself after completing the latest component of my class. One day, I even did some of my work at my mechanic's place while he was putting new brake pads on my car. Having laptops has also been a boon when we travel, as Laura and I were able to stay in touch during our trip to California last summer. At the Wizard of Oz convention I was at, I was even able to update my website the moment my friend and co-author, Karyl Carlson, won an award, and help out with a presentation on Oz items on eBay, all because I had my computer there and the chairman had wired up the room for wi-fi.

Coming to my parents' place to work on my class is not 100% foolproof, as I still have some distractions here at my folks' place. They have a wi-fi connection here, too, and so I take the more-occasional-than-I-should break to check e-mail or websites, or play one of the few games I have on this machine, but overall it's worked very well, and I anticipate being able to finish this class next week some time (touch wood). And I think, in the future, I'm going to avoid taking correspondence courses unless it's one at a time with no looming deadline.

It's odd that I can't do my work at home, because I usually didn't have that problem in high school or college, although I certainly had my moments of doing an entire weekend's worth of work Sunday evening. I suspect it has something to do with being a homeowner and having more responsibilities now. I've found I'm doing the same thing with reading. If I sit down to read something for fun, I find my mind wandering to tasks that need to get done around the house, and at a handy break I'll empty the dishwasher or update my website or something, and I don't get as much read. But I don't have this problem when I'm reading somewhere else.

Gee, I meant this entry to be about not being able to work at home, and instead it's become something of a love letter to my computer. Oh, well, I think I got all I wanted to out anyway (and a little more as well). It is a nice little computer, and it really has helped me a lot with both courses.

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