How much is enough?

In this week’s post, I would like to build upon the ideas of a post from before winter break titled Choosing to Cheat.  The concept of that post was built on the idea that we don’t have an unlimited amount of time in our days to be able to fulfill all of our priorities.  Feel free to go back to that post if you would like.

For some of us it is difficult thing to think about cheating at anything.  We might think “If I skimp here, my students might not get it.”  Or we might say “If it doesn’t look pretty and perfect, I won’t feel as proud of it.”  There are a lot of people who spend a lot of time in this school building.  They are all effective or highly effective teachers.  Sometimes it’s hard to leave the building knowing that there is more that could be done.  But for all the teachers who put in long hours, there are others who do not spend that amount of time in the building.  Does that mean that the teachers who spend less time are less effective?  Or is there something more to the story?

In order to be more effective in our time management, we have to think about the concept of the minimum effective dose (MED).  Tim Ferriss, the author of The 4-Hour Workweek, defines the MED as:

2835194472_40e2ab981a_b“the smallest dose that will produce the desired outcome.  Anything beyond the MED is wasteful.  To boil water, the MED is 212 degrees Fahrenheit at standard air pressure.  Boiled is boiled.  Higher temperatures will not make it more boiled.  High temperatures will just consume more resources that could be used for something more productive.”

There are lots of examples out there of people who have cut back the amount of time spent, only to find that it actually improved their outcome.  As a runner I always taper the amount I run in the last couple of weeks leading up to a big event so that I will feel fresh on the day of the race.  Every year at the end of the NFL season you hear analysts arguing about whether a certain team should rest their star players prior to the playoffs.  I follow a couple of blogs that post daily, but rarely do I have time to read them every day.  On the days I miss a post, I feel as though I am missing something that could be important.  If the authors of those blogs cut back to 3 posts a week, I wouldn’t be upset.  I might actually be able to read everything they post!

Ultimately, we have to remember that our audience are the kids sitting in our classroom.  No matter how hard we work, they are only going to take in as much as they think is necessary to be able to complete your upcoming performance task.  So think, are you trying to over boil the water in your classroom?  Remember, water temp can’t go over 212 degrees, no matter how much energy you put in.  At the same time, no amount of overwork will cram more info into your students’ heads if they can’t absorb it.  Keep your focus on your goals and what you want to accomplish.  Try to reduce the wasteful or ineffective things we do, and ultimately we will use our time in more valuable ways!  In the Choosing to Cheat post, I shared the chart below.  Focus on placing your energy in the activities that we believe will help our students grow.

Use this to help guide your thinking and the areas where you may choose to cheat.
Use this to help guide your thinking and the areas where you may choose to cheat.

As for how much time to spend at school, I can’t say that there is a correct answer to that questions.  At different phases in my life there have been different amounts of time spent.  I feel that through appropriate time management, we can all do our job to the best of our ability, and meet the needs of our students in a reasonable amount of time.

Have you ever tried to over boil the water?  What are some of the things you cut when your realized you were doing more than you actually had to?  Share in the comments below!

One thought on “How much is enough?

  1. It would be interesting to keep a tally in your classroom of the More of This/Less of This during instruction. Compare the two columns.


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