It happens to the best of us no matter how well laid out our plans are. For example, during Finals Week on campus the weather refused to cooperate! It flooded in surrounding neighborhoods, so local schools started late or were closed--we scrambled to alter schedules. Also, professors who commuted long distances were unable to make it to campus, and their classes had to be covered. Next, both elevators on the campus went on the blitz! Therefore, those of us who were unable to climb stairs but had classes and offices on upper floors were sent to alternate first-floor locations.
"Someone will bring you your items..." said an employee.
"I wasn't prepared for something like this," I said. "I left my work scattered across my desk."
Images of piles of paperwork filed in an organizational method that made sense only to me flashed through my mind. I didn't even know where to begin with telling someone what I needed out of my office, much less where to find the items. After all, I had shut the door on the paperwork nightmare with no forewarning of an elevator emergency. I had rushed out of my office the afternoon before without preparing for the next day's classes. My poor time management skills equaled frustration.
There are many beyond control circumstances that affect time management skills. I thought back to my senior year in college at the University of Oklahoma. In May, one day before finals, an F5 tornado leveled Moore, Oklahoma. Most professors cancelled their final exams, but my instructor was new and had moved from California to the state at the start of the Spring semester. He knew nothing about tornadoes and the destruction they left behind; therefore, he chose not to cancel his exams. "That's no excuse!" he said when confronted by students who were unable to make it the final exam due to the tornado's destruction. Students who lost everything but their lives, and some lost their family members, in the tornado were forced to file grade appeals. Even the best time managers could not avoid being affected by such a horrific weather event. Valid emergencies happen, and they affect all aspects of our lives.
It's true that car wrecks occur, computers crash, internet services fail, tires go flat, traffic gets snarled, and, sometimes, dogs eat homework. The next time your students give excuses, such as: "But, my dog ate my homework/my computer crashed/my internet wasn't working..." be prepared to use common sense and logical reasoning to understand the dilemma and its impact from students' viewpoints. Even people with the best time management skills cannot always avoid legitimate emergencies.
Are you prepared for a national emergency? Here's some free activities to get you and your students ready for National Preparedness Month: