How to Hear Alarm Sound Notifications with Google Calendar Reminders Without Getting Embarrassing Phone Calls in the Middle of Your Class

As a new teacher, I often have trouble keeping track of doing everything I need to in one day — from giving back the billion papers I just graded, to giving a student make-up work, to meetings, to making copies of assignments, to remembering to move on from one part of the lesson plan to another.

As a teacher, one problem about using your phone to remind you about all the tasks you need to do that day is that you can’t take calls during the day! So how are you going to hear your notifications with your phone set on silent? Of course you could set a separate alarm each day for everything you need to do. But it’s a bit cumbersome. I researched this problem for hours, hoping to find another way using Google Calendar. And there is a way — you can be the judge of whether it’s better for your needs. Hopefully this post will save you some time. Scroll below for some screenshots that will help you set up sound reminders/alerts/notifications in google calendar quickly and easily (or at least hopefully more easily than it was for me without the screen shots).

Here’s an overview (at least for Android phones, including LG, but probably others as well):

  1. Set up Google Calendar Reminders.
  2. Set your phone to Airplane mode.
  3. Now, go into Settings on your phone. Under notifications, you can set the sound that will notify you when you have a reminder. Now, you’ll hear an alert sound when it’s time to go to that meeting, or to switch focus so students have enough time for the cool part of the lesson you planned, or give students enough time to do their exit tickets so they don’t scowl at you on their way out the door. And you won’t get phone calls in the middle of class. Dignity maintained, hypocrisy averted! The downside is your calls will go directly to voicemail, but if that’s workable for you, then hey, it works.

Here is a slightly more in-depth explanation, with screen shots showing how to switch from Tasks to Reminders in Google Calendar, and set sound alerts at a specified time:

Scroll down to “My Calendars” on the left side, and click the little arrow next to Tasks. Then click “Switch to Reminders.” Not sure why, but you can only have one or the other at a time. It looks like switching from Tasks to Reminders in Calendar will still let you see your tasks in your Gmail Inbox. In the photo above, you see “Reminders” instead of “Tasks” because I already switched — and I think I’m going to stay with Reminders.

To make a reminder, click on a blank place in your Google Calendar, then click the Reminder tab instead of the Event tab.

Set a time.

Don’t forget to set the sound you want in your phone’s sound settings, and test it out before class in airplane mode. Also, make sure that your calendar is updated with all the reminders you’ll need for the day before you put your phone in airplane mode.

Now the only thing you have to do actually grade the next billion papers, and have the exit tickets ready to go when your reminder sounds. Good luck, hope this helps!

Note: There might be better ways to do this, but so far I haven’t found one. A big thanks to “melmoe” and “Hook” for their question and answer on this forum that helped solve the problem. Also, thanks to this article in Wired which also helped. This post is not affiliated with Teach Like a Champion, Doug Lemov’s book. You can learn more about that here.

Walking Across America

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting a man named Andrew Forsthoefel. There was something about the way he listened and engaged with people that I instantly liked and made me curious about him. He had this way of drawing out of me and others around him the important parts, the parts we don’t often speak of with people we’ve just met. When I heard his story, I realized that he’d had lots of training.

One big important part for Andrew was what he learned while walking across the United States, from the east coast to the west coast. He wore out several pairs of shoes — five? six pairs? And he wore a sign that said, “Walking to listen.” He recorded conversations he had with people along the way.

When I listened to the part where he sees a bunch of young men ahead of him on the tracks, and he strides forward to talk with them, despite feeling a pang of apprehension, I couldn’t help but think of a similar experience described by John Muir, more than a hundred years before.

The part where he gets giddy with the freedom of the open road before him and starts singing is wonderful.

And the stories and advice and songs and gifts of the people he meets are also wonderful. And how he shares what he’s learned without hitting you over the head with it, because he’s still in the daily process of figuring it out, forgetting, remembering those moments of grace and beauty that he witnessed, was, and is part of.

I highly recommend the radio piece, “Walking Across America: Advice for a Young Man,” about his walk across America.

The Art of Conversation

What’s it like to have a conversation with a friend where you feel like you learn something about your friend, you learn something about yourself, and you see the world in an entirely new way?

I’m grateful to have had a number of conversations like that. One was a conversation with one of my best friends, Andrew. We were in a forest, taking a well-earned moment to rest and talk, and watch our camp groups having fun on a low ropes course we had set up early that morning. The conversation was about how we can make life the best it can be while we are alive. It felt like more than just words, too, because we had just made something together. We had an idea for setting up our own low ropes course, and we made it happen, all in the span of a day. The conversation really changed the way I viewed what true friendship and sharing of dreams can do.

I just listened to a talk by a radio host named Celeste Headlee. She gives 9 tips for better conversations, but said that if you just take one and master it, it will make you a better conversationalist.

I’m doing one of those things right now. “If you want to pontificate, write a blog,” she said. She said that conversations are for listening, for a balance between talking and listening, for push-back and learning.

One other thing she mentioned is harder (for me, at least) to follow.

#6 “Don’t equate your experience with theirs.”

There is legitimate sharing. However, there’s a difference between sharing common experiences and sharing a big celebration or a big loss. In times like those, it’s best not butt in, equating your experience with theirs. Some times, it’s best just to listen, because, “It’s not the same, it is never the same.” And how are you going to understand their unique experience if you’re too busy trying to explain what you felt in a similar, but different, situation? There’s a time and place for the universal. Everyone suffers. And everyone’s situation is a little bit different.

This goes for teachers, too. I’ve heard it from a number of veteran teachers that the best thing to do with your students is to have a conversation.