There have been periods in my career in education where I felt as though I was living at school. Back in my coaching days I would often arrive at school around 6, work on grading, planning, or whatever else needed to be done, teach a full day, coach my team, come back to my room to do more work, head home for a quick dinner, grade something else, go to bed, and do it again tomorrow. In those days I was cheating my other priorities – my family, my friends, and my health. How many times have you looked at your to-do list and felt that there was no way you could get it all done? I know that there are days that I walk in to my office with 3 things on my to-do list that are left over from yesterday. Over the course of a day I may add several new items to it, but am not able to cross anything off my list. In those moments, I choose to cheat. I can’t do it all. There are 24 hours in a day, and 168 hours in a week. Sometimes there are things we can’t make it through.
We all have important things in our life that take up some of those 168 hours in a week, and while we are all professional educators, there are other priorities in everyone’s life. Here’s the thing about choosing to cheat though: we have to be strategic in the ways that we choose to cheat. I keep to-do lists (some are on my phone in the reminders app, some are jotted on scraps of paper in my office) and when I create them, I also prioritize them. Certain things can only be done when there are students here, others can be done first thing in the morning, or after my afternoon bus duty. Phone calls to parents – that can happen anytime (thank goodness for *67 and the speakerphone feature so that I can call while I’m in the car). When you look at the things that you are doing in your classroom, prioritize them. Think about the needs of your learners – are you doing things to help the students in your classroom grow? If you can’t emphatically say yes, then that may be something you need to choose to cheat on. Keep in mind, cheating isn’t about slacking off, but rather it’s about making sure you are intentional in how you use the time you have.
Throughout the process of HSE21, one of the messages that Danielle and I have always tried to share with you is that we don’t expect you to do it all right now. When our teaching and learning team (Jan Combs, Phil Lederach, and Stephanie Loane) came to present a few weeks back, one of their slides talked about “More of this” and “Less of this.” Take a look at that slide to the right. If you’re spending a lot of time in the less of column, that may be something that you need to reexamine. It’s also important to look at the HSE21 Best Practice Model (below) to guide our intentional thinking about what is best for the learners who walk into our classroom every day.
Think about the things that you value most. Do you devote your time accordingly? If not, you are probably stressed out, unhappy, and might feel unsuccessful. To be a good teacher, you have to be in the right mental place. Think about the choices you make and how they are benefitting you and your students. If you are making choices that don’t benefit you and your students, try to find a way to make a change. Be willing to set aside things that do not hold as much value, and instead focus on the things that are most valuable to you and the students in your class.
What are some of the ways you choose to cheat? Are there things you have given up, or maybe don’t do as often? Maybe there are things you focus on for a while, then let fall out of focus, only to come back to later. Share in the comments below how choosing to cheat has helped you to be a better teacher and a more rounded person.