Using Google Calendars to organise my school

One of the things that I found a real bind when I became a deputy headteacher was organising the school’s rotas and timetables. No school can operate in chaos – several spaces have to be shared (despite my negativity towards shared spaces) – and so timetables have to exist to make sure that we don’t get two classes turning up to the same hall all togged up in their PE kits, and then one class having to turn back.

For a couple of years now I’ve been using Google Calendars to help me organise the school. It look like this.

The main calendars for our school – PPA, Main Hall, Small Hall, PPA, Visits and Vistors

Now that might look like a big mess, but what is important is that none of the colours overlap. That means no two classes are in the same place at the same time. There: chaos averted.

It starts by me sharing a Google Doc with all the staff to ask them when they want to use their various spaces. I then place their classes on the various calendars to give them their best wishes as much as possible. Where classes occur, I normally talk to the teacher to find a second best option. Once all that’s done, the calendars are ready to be checked – no overlaps means perfection – no clashes.

I’m aware that computer screens are not everyone’s first choice for reading information, so I then print out the calendars (how dreadfully old-fashioned!). Despite the advances in recent iterations of Google Docs, I still prefer Microsoft Word for the print medium…

The “Main Hall” Calendar

…so I use Jing to cut and paste each calendar into a Microsoft Word document. I can then display the calendars on a noticeboard in the staffroom.

But it is not over there. Oh No. As you’ll notice from the “Main Hall” calendar, there are many times during the week when the Main Hall is used. And it just might be that some teacher wants to use the Main Hall for an additional session. Can they do this without asking me directly? Yes! Because I have setup each of these calendars as a ‘resource calendar’. This means that when you add an event to your own calendar, you see a list of ‘rooms’ that you can do that event in. If the room is already booked then it won’t appear on the list – so teachers when planning their week know instantly if they can use the room they want to or if they have to make other arrangements.

First reflections on the impact of calendar training

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Today I gave some training on using Google Calendars.

 

The training had two useful outcomes:
  1. It showed how useful online Calendars are and everybody grasped the basics of how to add events.
  2. It got everyone together in the same room to sort out some important rotas for the year.
I began planning the training back on August 25th when I wrote this blog post about my ideas for this training. Soon after I hit a snag with my decision making, when I’d been trying to kill too many ICT birds with one stone – I had ended up taking one step forward for every two steps back. I then decided to use videos as my main vehicle for the instruction. I even included a second video to really go over how to create repeated events, in case staff didn’t quite get it. I used Google Sites as the repository for the training:
What was really interesting was the the whole ‘I’m not going to talk approach’. I’m so used to presenting with
  • a little preamble,
  • a spot of humour,
  • some theory,
  • practical application,

that it was really weird just letting my video do the talking – we didn’t even watch the video as a group (which would have been a bit embarrassing).

 

Rather each teacher had headphones and watched it individually – there was an eerie silence around the place. Then, as people started to get it there was a slow murmur as people sitting near to each other explained or clarified their thinking about the task in hand or the instructions. Then the volume grew as the first events started appearing on the calendar and some people started to realise that they may miss all the best slots. This point was perhaps the most tense – a slight tone of anxiety creeping into the odd voice here and there. But finally everyone realised that we’re all colleagues still and began talking constructively about what slots to fill in. Within half an hour the training was finished, the calendars were done and staff were on there way to do stuff elsewhere.

 

What’s good for the staff now is that they all have a common framework and understanding of how Google Calendars work, with an expectation of being able to use them productively in the future. What’s good for me is that I’ve got the bulk of the rotas sorted without having to traipse around the school.