Sharing an office means being creative with downtime

In the mornings, I share an office with the school counselor. Or, more accurately, she let’s me use her office/computer to do my work, which frees up her mornings to do class visits and other stuff. Sometimes, though, she has stuff to do that means I can’t use the office (she’s gotta check her email, work on digital documents, have a meeting) and I have to find a way to keep busy in a job that pretty much depends on being at the computer to do whatever it is I’m doing.

Generally speaking, I usually have something around that doesn’t involve a digital tether (although generally, not so much), but when I run out of or don’t have those, usually I just read. However, so as not to waste my valuable and tax-payer-provided, grant-funded time, I try to read stuff she’s got around that would help me in what I’m doing.

Although reading is not the ideal use of my time, it is the best use of my time in this particular circumstance (other available options include picking my nose, playing with stickers and staring out at the generally empty lunchroom). Today, she had a lot of computer work to catch up on and a long meeting with a social worker, so I managed to get most of the way through a book called, Classroom Management, (since I need all the help I can get in the afternoons on that matter) and it’s the sort of book that proves my point. Within half an hour, I had run several pages through the copier containing ideas I’m interested in trying at the homework club. So, even though I’m not able to do what I would otherwise be doing, I’m still doing my best to make the best use of that time.

And that’s the sort of thing that happens in an Americorps service – you run into odd and often unpredictable periods of downtime for which you have no immediate filler, and it’s a great time to exercise some creativity in what you do with that time. Of course, it’s easy to get sucked into the interweebs if I have the computer (and I admit, with 15 minutes left on a washed-dried-and-folded day, I often hit the highlights just to make sure the world hasn’t come to a screeching halt while I’ve been submerged in my day-to-day activities). But usually, if I think about it, I can come up with something better to do – creating a better, tighter volunteer solicitation memo, updating and tweaking a spreadsheet to make it function better, looking up activities and games for the after school program. Which, I find, keeps me from being bored silly on those light days when everything seems to wrap up early and the next round of stuff is still a day away from landing in your inbox.

And none of this is a problem in the afternoon, that much is for sure. I even started work early (I’ve been doing that to make up hours lost because now that it’s dark, we’re leaving 30 minutes early) by reorganizing the storage closet and cleaning the place up. Because once the kids come in, it’s pretty much wall-to-wall chaos (controlled or otherwise) until closing time. My next few days (ahem, weeks) are going to be taken up using this quiet time to work through that pile of community service and volunteer sheets from last year trying to drum up volunteers. Wish me luck. I’ll need to start way early to get a handle on that Augean task. Well, at least I don’t have to do it in a day, which is good because there are no handy rivers nearby to divert through the filing cabinet (follow the link if you don’t get the reference).

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