“Do it now, not later” is the first of three resolutions by a middle school teacher seeking to find the elusive work/life balance. She also wants to focus on her physical space and making time for creativity and fun.
Resolution I. Do it now, not later.
Living: Do not go to bed with dishes in the sink ever again.
Teaching: If it can be graded and entered in a single prep period, do not leave it for later. It will pile up and start to stink. If the email can be answered now in less than 3 minutes, I will not leave it for later because I will likely forget. When I do remember, it will be more urgent and in less appealing form.
For that matter, if I can quickly draft a blog post while the idea is fresh in my head, I should do it that day! I lose so many blog ideas to the notion that I can “do it later.” Do it now.
Resolution II. Plan more out-of-the-ordinary activities.
Living: I tend to think I’m such a “spontaneous” person that I will just create fun when I need it. But lately I’m more of the busy/tired type and I end up only putting energy into the essential things. I have some fun along the way but I limit myself to what doesn’t take me out of my usual routines—and that’s a little boring after a while. Once a month, I will plan something out of the ordinary that I consider fun—a hike upstate, a dinner party at my house, ice-skating, a dance class, etc.
Teaching: I like to think I’m pretty good at creating engaging lessons that utilize a range of modalities but I have become comfortable and somewhat limited in my usual repertoire. Switching things up takes extra planning but it can make all the difference in reaching all students and in the overall impact of the class.
One thing I never do, for example, is create educational games for my class (beyond the very occasional Jeopardy). I know this is something kids really respond to, and there’s nothing stopping me from finding or making games to reinforce skills and content, except deciding to do it and carving out time to plan it. I also want to include more time for dramatic play and debate into my curriculum. I want to seek out recommendations from other teachers when my own toolkit gets stale too.
Resolution III: Work on maintaining a beautiful physical space.
Living: Maintaining an aesthetically pleasing living space is worth my time. It is a reflection of how much I care about myself and the experience of others who enter my home. It can lift spirits. Something as simple as making the bed creates a neater and more pleasing image to look at. Among other things, I resolve to make my bed daily, repaint the apartment walls, buy some new plants, and change some of the wall decorations. There is no need to always look at the exact same pictures for years.
Teaching: During the year, I spend more than half of my waking hours in my classroom. My students spend a significant amount of time there every day as well, and it is my job to make those as impactful as possible. I always start out the year putting a lot of love into the physical space but tend to let it fall by the wayside later.
Luckily, I have students to help me—not only with general organization but also with updating bulletin boards with student work. As a former principal use to tell us, “They’re not meant to be museums. Update them!” I will also bite the bullet and get a few classroom plants (which students love to help maintain) and get a carpet for my meeting area. Local carpet stores are usually happy to donate a remnant. I just need to devote a little time to go and ask.
After writing these resolutions, I realize that the common thread is definitely shifting where I focus my attention and how I spend my time.
Every teacher wishes she or he had more time. Since we don’t, the next best thing is to experiment with how we use the time we do have. If I follow through on these resolutions, what else will change?
[Image credits: (1) 123rf.com; (2) en.wikipedia.org; (3) montessoriaruba.com]