Educators are busy. Our work is demanding physically and mentally. In a 10 month school year, it’s easy to get caught up in a routine and ‘take days off’ cognitively. Let’s not get in the habit of doing this because our kids deserve the best ‘us’ we can give everyday.
‘Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children (C. Swindoll)’
Despite the length of an entire school year, we need to bring our ‘A’ games each day. Reflection can help us with this task. Here are 3 reflective questions to ask yourself daily:
- What worked today?
- How do I know it worked?
- What are my next steps?
Being reflective puts you in a continuous cycle of learning and improvement. Reflection assesses your knowledge, attitude, behavior, and skills as it relates to content and kids.
We ask students to monitor their learning and self-assess, so we should do the same.
Educators are extremely busy in today’s society. They are being asked to care for the social, emotional, and physical needs of multiple busy bodies day in and day out. On top of the student needs, there are also curricula demands, parent inquiries, and other tasks educators handle daily. It truly takes a superhero type of person to balance such a heavy workload.
Every superhero has an archenemy.
If educators are not careful, the growing demands of their work can easily spill over onto their personal lives outside of school. I am sure we can all think of an educator we know that cannot seem to turn off their work for the day. Even outside of the school, some of these educators who have fallen victim to work overload are consumed well into the evening with work related tasks. This simply is not healthy and it can lead to potential burnout. It is also unfair to significant others who may feel they have received the short-end of the stick.
I am afraid our work will not become less busy. Knowing this, we need to make sure we are efficient and disciplined. We have to know when it is time to cut work off for the day. About seven years ago I received life-changing advice from my mentor, and Principal of Muskegon High School, Dr. Arthur Garner Jr. What Dr. Garner told me still replays in my mind today. As his rookie assistant principal, I was unable to effectively stop my workload from trickling over into my personal time. Dr. Garner simply said, “Rinny, you have to know when it is time to quit for the day. Don’t burn yourself out. Go home and be a great father and husband. The work will be here in the morning.” The reality is we do need to balance our work otherwise it can suffocate us, creating an unhealthy imbalance. In addition to work overload being unhealthy, it can also pull you physically and mentally away from family, friends, and other important life events.
Your significant others do not deserve anything less than a 100% YOU.
Some days are certainly better than others when it comes to balancing work and life. Here are a few things I suggest to keep a healthy balance:
- Set a start/end time goal and stick to it. Whether you are finished or not come the end time, leave your work behind for the next day.
- Add personal activities to your work calendar(s). Marrying work and home-life tasks on one platform will allow you to see your entire day at glance. Also, set alerts so you are not late for practice or your dinner date.
- Stock up on sticky notes. When it is time to go, it is time to go! Write out your to-do list for the following morning, slap it on your desk, and leave!
- Join an exercise class at a gym. After going to a few sessions, you will quickly become a regular in the group and people will recognize your presence. You also will not want to miss due to the social accountability.
- Stay in touch with your spiritual self. Meditation and other mindfulness activities will bring peace to you and take your imagination off of work.
- Disconnect from emails. Having email synced to your smartphone is both a blessing and a curse. Refrain from using evening personal time to check emails.
- Put your phone down!
When you navigate the halls in your school, what sounds do you hear? Is it quiet? Do you hear students or teachers? What about in the classrooms? Are classes generally quiet, loud, or a mix? I encourage you to listen closely to the sounds in your school.
When I started off as an administrator, my thoughts of a productive classroom were narrow. I assumed quiet classrooms were always effective environments. I also thought classrooms that were noisy, loose, and less structured were a bit chaotic. I admit my vision was distorted and inaccurate. Over the years, my understanding of a highly engaged classroom has developed.
Surely at times it’s important to have quiet, voice level zero, classrooms. Such classroom settings would be optimal when kids are taking an assessment, for example. But when kids aren’t deeply concentrating on a test, classrooms should be somewhat noisy and ladled with student talk. The student chatter may very well contribute learning.
Student talk that is relevant, positive, and academic in nature increases learning. This talk, supported by teacher modeling of explicit collaboration protocols, is a recipe for effective discourse. For example, when students use Accountable Talk stems like the picture above, the classroom dialogue is structured and designed to engage students in a safe, productive way. With Accountable Talk, kids share ideas, reference texts, and agree and/or respectfully disagree with their peers. Teachers sustain this positive classroom environment by facilitating student discussions and encouraging kids to keep talking. Teaching these communication skills and allowing kids to practice in a safe environment will surely strengthen the learning in the classroom. It also shifts the focus of ownership from the teacher to the students.
How are kids communicating in your classroom? Have you set some parameters for student talk? I encourage you to create, model, and incorporate a set of classroom discussion bubbles. These prompts will help all students organize their thoughts and communicate effectively and respectfully. Students will learn that these talking prompts are also applicable to situations outside of the classroom.