Editorial: The List Maker

by Dr. Jill Klefstad - UW Stout

Every year around the Christmas holiday when I hear the words to this famous carol, "making a list, checking it twice" I smile to myself. You see, I consider myself the queen of lists because I carefully create and re-create lists daily. Are you a list maker? Did you know that there are many reasons why people create lists? For me, creating lists has become a habit and one of my favorite daily rituals. Rationalization for my need to create lists includes: bringing some order to chaos, remembering important things, preventing procrastination and managing stress by maintaining a focused mind.   

The practice of my creating lists goes back to the time of my childhood when I was encouraged to create lists for school supplies, birthday lists, and of course, my list for Santa. As I recall, both of my parents were list makers for their grocery lists, bills to pay, Christmas cards and chores to do. As my seven siblings and I grew up, we were asked often to create different kinds of lists. One that I remember most is the list used to check our name off when we arrived home from our evening engagements to be sure the last one locked the door! Is it safe to say that a list maker is a product of their environment?  

The skill of creating lists has been an effective teaching strategy that keeps me organized in delivering content. When students come into my classroom, they see the class objective on the board and a list of steps that will occur during the class time frame. On the syllabus, the list of class assignments can be found in chronological order.  Students may also sign up for office hours on a list of times available each week. Students who visit my office often see a notecard or planner next to my computer with many lists attached.   

Pre-service students today juggle many course assignments, personal work schedules and numerous meetings for their major of study. Lately, I have noted that some of the most successful students are those who are extremely busy yet maintain order by creating lists. These students utilize technology, such as iPhones to develop their lists! Specifically, I have observed the president for the M.E.N. in Education organization use a list when creating the meeting agenda to keep him on task.

In the spirit of being a reflective practitioner, evaluating teaching tools based upon the success of student learning occurs naturally for me and I consistently find pros and cons to strategies used. When students demonstrate how they utilize lists I am affirmed in the value of this ritual. However, it is difficult to negate frustration and anxiety when items on the list do not get crossed off as anticipated. Perhaps learning to focus on the positive by creating a list entitled, tasks completed, could provide evidence identifying the tasks that had been accomplished throughout the day. Additionally, this step would provide deeper meaning to the words, "making a list and checking it twice."

Ten reasons why we love lists: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101056819

[MenTeach: Dr. Jill has been working to increase and retain men in her education program. We asked her to write about her experiences as a woman facilitator. You can find the other articles here.]