The Together Teacher

Are you starting to panic about the approach of the fall semester?

Maia Heyck-Merlin’s book The Together Teacher: Plan Ahead, Get Organized, and Save Time (2012) is chock-full of helpful ideas. It’s aimed at K-12 teachers, yet much of the advice is fully applicable to college-level teachers, too.

I particularly like her template for taking notes during meetings, which separates thoughts from next actions.

Heyck-Merlin advocates for the comprehensive calendar (a calendar in which EVERY deadline gets entered), and for a to-do list that captures both the deadline (if any) and optimal STARTING TIME for projects. I like that refinement, and would suggest capturing estimated time needed as well.

What makes this book gripping reading are the vignettes that illustrate different teachers applying these techniques to move from chaos to calm.

Heyck-Merlin reproduces the ideal weekly outline (similar in concept to Cal Newport’s fixed schedule productivity) for several different teachers, and then shows the reader how each teacher modified that outline to fit a real week. She advises a regular planning session to map both calendar items and upcoming projects against weekly commitments and time available.

In the interests of being comprehensive, she has a good overview of email management techniques, and of strategies for moving papers between work and home.

If the demands of teaching feel overwhelming, this book is an excellent one-stop time and stuff management handbook. Maia Heyck-Merlin clearly subscribes to my own philosophy of just enough organization to keep things in reasonable order, without trying to achieve perfection.

Even better, the core ideas from the book are presented as a free MOOC at