How to Fit Studying for Your Teacher Certification into Your Schedule

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There are specific strategies for how to fit studying for your teacher certification into an already busy schedule. Here we break down some useful steps to help you get organized and find time to study.

Finding Time to Study for Your Teacher Certification

Finding time to study for your teacher certification may seem like an impossible feat. Between commitments at work, school, and family, how can anyone find the time to fit in one more thing? By following a few simple steps, you can create structure in your daily and weekly schedule that will help you stay on track with studying.

Create a schedule

Pocket Watch

Start by creating a schedule of commitments that you can't give up, such as your school and work schedule. Once your regular weekly schedule is blocked out, write down any other regular commitments you have that you are not willing to give up, such as going to church on Sunday morning, attending a CrossFit class, or taking your child to soccer practice every Thursday.

Once you have your commitments lined out, you can begin to block out specific times for studying. If you have a lot of free time, schedule times for when you are at your peak to study. If you're a night owl, schedule a time after dinner to sit down and hit the books. Some pockets of time may be obvious: if you have an hour break in between classes in the afternoon, block it out for studying; if you have inactive waiting time before an appointment or while your child is at soccer practice, study in the waiting room or the sideline.

Some areas may be less easy to identify, and a simple exercise can help you identify them. For the next three days, write down everything you do. From scrolling Facebook on your lunch break to preparing dinner, write it all down. Once it's down on paper, you'll be able to reflect on how you're spending your time and you may find that you could fit in a little extra studying here and there. If you can split your lunch break to eat for half and study for the other half, or skip running an errand every day and run it every other day, you may free up 30 minutes a day to fit in a little extra studying. That time will add up and turn into an extra 3.5 hours a week!

Don't cram: space out your study time

Now that you have your schedule, try to make sure your study time is spaced out. Daniel T. Willingham, an associate professor of cognitive psychology and neuroscience at the University of Virginia, talks about the importance of what he calls the spacing effect. His findings indicate that ''distributing study time over several sessions generally leads to better memory of the information than conducting a single study session.''

Identify your best place to study

Desk

It's also important to identify where you will study best. I find that I concentrate best when sitting at an organized desk and listening to atmospheric music on my noise-canceling headphones. Some people study best in complete silence and prefer a library setting. Others find it best to be in a crowded place, like a coffee shop, where there is a constant hum of activity. Experiment with your location and level of noise, and you will quickly identify what setting helps you concentrate best. If you are fitting study time in between other activities, bring your best place with you: a good set of headphones can bring you background noise, music, or even silence by canceling out the background noise.

Create goals, and then share them

You know what your ultimate goal is: passing your exams and becoming certified to teach. If you look too far at the ultimate goal, however, you may become overwhelmed at all the things you need to do in order to get there. Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like a Pirate, says it best: ''our grandest goals and most daring dreams can seem so distant and daunting that, too often, we fall victim to overwhelming thoughts and fail to even make an attempt to accomplish them.'' In his essay Eating an Elephant, he suggests we start at the beginning with small steps to build towards accomplishing our ultimate goals.

It is helpful to look backwards from the date of your exams to today, and create short term and long term goals. In order to feel completely prepared by exam day, you should create weekly goals, and further break that down into daily goals, to help keep you on track. These goals can be as small as completing a set of flashcards to being prepared for the reading portion of the Praxis test.

In addition to creating goals, you should share them with your friends and family. This not only helps to hold yourself accountable to obtaining the goal, but it also creates a support system. Encouragement from your friends and family may be the difference between skipping a study day or not.

Follow through

Having a support system to encourage you and help keep you accountable is helpful, but ultimately it is up to you to follow through with your goals and schedule. Sometimes you need a break, but it's important to keep to your schedule. Don't push off study time to go out to eat with friends if you don't have any replacement time to study. Don't procrastinate and watch a TV show if you know your exam is coming up soon. An electronic version of your schedule and goals on your phone's calendar can be helpful to set alerts and alarms to remind you of study time and keep you on track.

Give yourself a break

Yoga

There is something to be said for having down time to rest, relax, and allow your brain to absorb what you are studying. If you don't allow yourself to relax, stress may prevent you from succeeding, so it's important to allow yourself to have some fun from time to time. In his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey, one of the world's foremost leadership authorities, talks about how important this step is. He likens taking a break, or setting time aside to renew yourself each day, to sharpening a saw. Without taking the time to stop and sharpen the saw, the edge will be dull and you won't cut as effectively as before.

By Lindsay Mattison
November 2016
teachers teacher certification study tips

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