April 30th, 2021 – by Ashley Causey
How many times have we, as educators, perused our to-do list and have been so overwhelmed we had to pause and escape? Maybe we had to have a vent session with a colleague or a quick burst of exercise to clear our mind. These are examples of finding peace in doing small things for ourselves. I work better when I know I am going to give myself a small treat when I accomplish a task on my to-do list.
This school year has been challenging – more so than any before. We may have thought we had challenging years before, but many of us would revisit that challenging year just to get away from this year! In our pandemic-ridden society, where masks are mandatory and social distancing is a must, we have had to find ways to be extra creative with the massive amount of change that surrounds us.
Conquering my personal to-do list is a daily challenge, however, once I come to terms with the items on this daily list, I get grinding. Sometimes I even find myself writing down on my list the random things I accomplish in a small amount of time just to make me feel better about what I am getting done in that small amount of precious time. I know I am not the only one who does this. When I was talking to a colleague a few months ago after a parent conference, we were commiserating about our endless to-do list, and when she said she added her small things to give her the opportunity to see success, I thought I had found a golden nugget. Someone else is actually doing the same thing?! It was then that I realized how driven I am from preparing ahead of time what I need to accomplish each day beyond teaching. This preparation essentially allows us to be more productive in our mission of reaching and teaching our students.
As we continue to stay overwhelmed with our teaching circumstances this year, we have to also keep ourselves focused. When we are focused, we are able to help keep our students focused. Our students’ well-being is occupying our thoughts and our hearts as we go about our day and when we sleep at night. But the well-being of our students is of utmost importance in this very different year of teaching and learning.
I have learned a difficult lesson this year and that lesson is “less is more.” As we plan our day, our lessons, and reaching our students on a daily basis, we have to understand that students are also overwhelmed. Therefore, by keeping the “less is more” idea in my head, I know how to plan the most effective and engaging lessons that will be memorable for my students. Try that hands-on activity you have been aiming to do, do a project-based lesson that you might not have done before now. Embrace the idea that doing more extensive, far-reaching activities will help enrich our students’ learning now more than ever before. Sway away from the norm. If there is anything positive that can come from this unprecedented time in the classroom, it is the fact that we can reach our students like we have never been able to before. Once we have the feeling of accomplishment in building a relationship with our students, we will be emboldened to build more. And when we build relationships with our students, we encounter less discipline issues and grades improve.
The main goal of this post is to help educators understand that when we focus on ourselves and our own motivations, we can help others encounter that same moxie of accomplishment. When I share my to-do list, I show students that I struggle, too. And when they see that I struggle, they understand that I’m a real person who has the same kind of issues they have, just in a different way.
Pick two students after reading this post to make an effort to reach. Have a small conversation with them. Smaller conversations lead to bigger conversations. You won’t be sad that you made this connection, I promise!
The Elevating Teachers blog is a platform designed to elevate educator voices. It’s a space to share stories and tips for maintaining a sense of purpose and wellbeing in and out of the classroom.
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