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Yellow sticky notes, red pens, and dodging scheduling disasters

By Amy Nielsen

My life is currently ruled by yellow sticky notes written in red ballpoint ink fluttering on the edge of my roll top desk in the deepening summer breeze from my open window. They often flit down like leaves from some academic olive branch, telling me exactly what is due this week and on what day. These neatly line up with the color coded squares on my google calendar which is auto populated by my school online learning platform. The dates come from the syllabi entered by the professors.

Without them I would be a very lost little lamby.

Every Sunday, the start of our school week, I spend an hour or so sorting through my class syllabi, printing out a packet of materials from each module, and marking the pages in textbooks that need reading. I take this time to read through the due dates and cross check them with my Google.

Last week, in going through my biochem syllabus, I discovered a discussion series – a lengthy initial post with peer reviewed journal support and a second shorter response post – was due before the on-campus portion of the class, rather than after as I had understood. After a few moments of panic while I figured out what exactly was due, I realized that I did, in fact, have time to complete the assignment since the material was on a topic I was already familiar with.

I really didn’t need the test of the system though.

The next step in my Sunday evening ritual is to double check the Google calendar against the almighty refrigerator calendar. For the last several eons of my life, the refrigerator calendar has been the repository of all things I must do. If it’s not on the calendar:

A) I will not know about it. Therefore

B) it most likely will not happen if it was meant to and

C) if you forget to add it, it’s your own fault.

The last added once I had other bodies for whom I am responsible; husband, kids, dog.

The refrigerator calendar is the brain. We are much too busy for me to even try to pretend I remember half of what I am supposed to be doing.

Thankfully, my school runs on a pretty predictable schedule for the most part. The school week starts on Sunday at 12 a.m. Most online classes have discussion series and other projects due on Wednesdays and Saturdays. On campus classes often have some topic to discuss the week before we arrive for lectures and a week to complete a test after.

 Once I have checked all of the places dates could be lurking, I go over the kids’ workbooks and changing playdate schedule. Because we still are in homeschool mode, I need to make sure my kids complete their allotted school work each day. We usually have this covered, but it is getting to be summer and the lure of the swings in the backyard grove is ever stronger as the mowers start to lift the scent of fresh cut grass. I am often tempted to give in to swings too.

Now to the red pen and yellow sticky notes. Each syllabus gets marked when I have completed an assignment with the date and if I feel necessary the topic of the submission. When I print out my packets for the module, I write a shorthand list of everything due that week in the upper right corner of the Learning Objectives page.
I use a red pen for three reasons. First, they are fifty cents a dozen in December at Walmart. Second, they are Paper Mate 1mm roller ballpoints. A pen in a class alone if you are that type of person. Third, I have dyslexia and reading blue or black ink on a black and white page gets lost to my eyes especially in the presence of led or florescent light. Red pen stands out and doesn’t make my eyes feel like the snakes from Robin Hood.

I use yellow sticky notes because I have an unholy obsession with them ever since I “helped” my Mom at her office when I was younger. Office supplies are my hording tendency. They are the perfect size and shape for just the right amount of information. They are sticky but not too sticky. And they smell neat.

Anyway, I write out each subject, the due dates and the topics, then line them all up in order of which is going to get worked on earlier in the week and what can hold off until later. My fluttering leaves of the academia tree.

This is all in an effort to cover my academic tush and make sure my kids don’t get left without a caregiver for days on end. So far in three terms, I have caught several assignments, a misloaded quiz, and only had to scramble once to make sure my kids were not home alone overnight while I was at school and my husband worked the graveyard shift at the prison. All hail the yellow sticky notes!

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