At a time of year where everyone seems to be asking for our time, it is important for us to pause and consider how to invest our yes.
Early in my teaching career, a veteran teacher in my building pulled me aside during a particularly busy and stressful time and told me that teaching is a career made up of many overwhelming and long days that blur together into fast weeks, months and years.
As the first semester of my 13th year of teaching wrapped up this month, his wise words rung loud and clear. Not because I was anxious for the end of this semester, but because I have realized that time is a valuable and sometimes fleeting asset. Sometimes the busyness of teaching causes me to forget this until I look back at a semester and think, “where did that time go?”
On the precipice of 2016, I wonder if one thing we as teacher leaders need to remember is that our time is incredibly valuable. Because of this, the things we say yes to doing must be worth the time we invest in them.
I was confronted with this truth very concretely in December. An already crazy time of year due to the natural busyness of the holiday season, I found myself even busier than usual with extracurricular, professional opportunities.
In the course of three short weeks, I chaperoned the Colorado State Thespian Conference, attended a meeting at the state department of education, and participated in a Literacy Design Collaborative workshop. All of these things took me away from my classroom, which at the end of the semester, felt really stressful. However, my decision to be a part of each of these activities was thoughtfully made.
Saying yes to anything in our lives should cause us to pause and reflect on the costs and benefits that yes will yield. I knew that being gone for four days in an already short month of instruction would pose challenges for me and for my students. But the benefits outweighed those costs.
Chaperoning the thespian conference allowed me the chance to invest my time and enthusiasm into an event that my students had invested their time and enthusiasm into. I was able to celebrate their talents and show them that learning need not always take place in a classroom.
Attending the meeting at the state department of education allowed me to invest in policy discussions about standardized testing in Colorado. Even though I wasn’t with my students that day, I was able to vocalize on their behalf. My classroom expertise with standards-based instruction was a critical influence on decisions that will impact how and why my students are assessed.
The LDC workshop provided an opportunity for me to invest collaboratively with teachers from across my district on improving our instructional craft. I was able to design a set of mini-tasks with my peers and had invaluable, reflective conversation about how to support my students as they work to meet the challenges set forth by the standards.
I have no regrets about the ways I said yes this semester, but I also know that the New Year will offer new opportunities that I will have to carefully consider.
Teacher leaders often suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), and I am no different. Sometimes I say yes because I am afraid that if I don’t, I won’t be asked again. While it is okay to say yes for that reason, I have learned these kinds of opportunities aren’t always as valuable as other experiences might be.
If people stop asking you to do things, they weren’t really valuing what makes your unique yes more valuable than someone else’s yes. Instead, they were just valuing your willingness. And chances are that by saying yes to that investment of time, you might miss out on opportunities that are way more valuable by waiting for invitations that are uniquely suited to you.
While I definitely had long days in 2015, the weeks, months, and semester flew by. I anticipate that 2016 will be much the same. I look forward to enjoying the time that I have left with my current students and resolve to be ever mindful of the value of time and will endeavor to be wise about how I invest my yes.
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