Staying the Course

 

http://magicalmarketingmakeover.com/
http://magicalmarketingmakeover.com/

Everywhere we turn in the media are interviews and information about job stress.  I have seen multiple articles, posts and studies lately about the teaching profession and how many young teachers we are losing due to job stress and other reasons.  The statistics show that our young teachers are only staying in the profession for 4 or 5 years and then moving on to something else. This morning I came across an article about stress in the teaching profession and I was shocked by the negative and misguided comments written in response.

 

 

 

Teacher well-being is a timely topic for many of us. I have always considered myself to be a high energy and tackle anything coming my way, sort of person, but at the end of last year I was definitely suffering from some serious stress related health problems.

Over the summer I realized 2 things:

1.  I can’t make everyone happy no matter how hard I try to no matter how many extra hours I put in.

2.  I can’t solve everyone’s problems no matter how hard I try to and no matter how many extra hours I put in.

I think there might be a few different reasons that young teachers are moving on from our profession at what some might consider an alarming rate.  I have noticed a change in the respect given to teachers over the course of my teaching career.

I didn’t always want to be a teacher, but once I decided that was the direction I was going, I was always proud to be able to say I am a teacher.  It didn’t matter what school I was in or what position I had.  Over the course of my career, I have taught every grade kindergarten through grade 12 in some capacity or another and have enjoyed them all.

Some of the lack of respect I notice seems to come from government, who do not always treat us like professionals in the manner we might like, some comes from the public perception that seems to be driven through media,  and yes, I think we need to take responsibility for some of it as well.

http://timetothrivecoaching.com
http://timetothrivecoaching.com

I sometimes look back and wonder if I was starting all over again, if I would still choose to be a teacher.  I look around me and see many other professionals which appear to have equal job satisfaction, making much more money than me with much less educational investment.

As you might have guessed by what I have said so far, I am pretty close to retirement, so I am not changing my focus from teaching at the moment.  As a matter of fact, I am not even negative about my job and I enjoy what I do very much.  If you ask any of my three children if they want to be a teacher, they will answer with a resounding “NO”.  I am not sure if that is a reflection of what they have observed in me or if it is just their destiny to go in another direction.

I have learned over the years that I do not function well without a challenge.  I can become bored with what I am doing and need to add some element of challenge, before I suffer discontent.  It has happened a few times over the years, but I have been able to find enough opportunities within the teaching profession to branch out and try different things.

One piece of advice I would give to others is to keep learning and keep challenging yourself to be better at what you do. I think we do enjoy some autonomy within our profession that we do not always take advantage of.  Yes, our curricular outcomes are mandated to us and many expectations are directed to us, but how we meet those outcomes and live up to the expectations is up to us, so why not have a little fun with it.  I hope that I set this example  for the teachers I work with and they know that thinking outside the box is always welcome and trying new things is what it should be all about.

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I have also learned, maybe recently, as a result of my health problems, that I can step back and let others be leaders.  I do not have to control everything that goes on around me.  I know now that I cannot make everyone happy, so I need to step back and let others take control at times and not feel like I am personally responsible for everything that happens in our school.  I am not very good at this, but getting better and I think that it is a benefit to our students every time I am able to do it.

Most of the teachers I know do not like to brag about the things they do in their classrooms, despite the fact that, in my perception,  many of them are doing wonderful things.   To them it is ordinary and not worth talking about.  I think this may be part of the reason not every teacher wants to jump into using Twitter.  They might judge the educators that share as bragging or feel like they do not have anything worth sharing.

I think the “bragging” is more like sharing, collaborating and branding.  The one thing we all want more of is time and it seems to make sense to me to share the things we are doing so we are not all starting over from the beginning.  The ideas, thoughtful information and support that I receive from my twitter involvement is incredible.

http://www.jenksps.org/
http://www.jenksps.org/

Another reason I think the sharing is so important is because we need to tell our positive story.  If we allow others to tell our story it often comes from media sources that might not portray the positive things that are happening in our classrooms and schools.  If we make an effort to tell our own stories more often maybe we can change the negative attitude that I was reading about this morning, by offering up a different perspective.

Maybe we can engage our parents and communities in what we are doing.

Maybe we can set a positive example for our students as they are portraying their own “brands” in the social media world, if they see us sharing positive and exciting things about our schools.

I agree that things can be discouraging and there are many stressful things that teachers deal with on a daily basis that I did not even touch on in this little rant, such as class size, data tracking, high level behavioral issues.  The list can go on and on really, but I choose to concentrate on the things we can control and try to support the people around me in doing the same.

Thanks #saskedchat for helping me stay the course.

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Winning the Race Against Time

time management

I do not know a single teacher or administrator that feels like they have enough minutes in the day or time in the week.  Teaching is a 24/7 kind of job and can easily consume every waking moment if we let it.

Right now I am participating in a blogging challenge  with my PLN  at #saskedchat.  The first topic we decided to tackle was organization.   What do we do to organize our time?  What tools do we use to make our every day tasks easier.   In my usual style, I am a bit late with my first post.  That seems a little ironic to be late when our first topic was organization, but, none the less, it might not have as much to do with my lack of organization as it has to do with life.

Interestingly enough, time management and organization was one of  the topics of a recent administrators meeting as well.  Many of the administrators have voiced difficulty meeting the demands of the job within the time given.  This is a feeling that I know all too well. The conversation and suggestions given at the meeting were not earth shattering by any means, but did lead me to reflect on small changes I might make.

The unpredictability of the job is  one thing  I think makes it so hard to manage time and tasks. Whether we are in administration or we are a classroom teacher, we all know the feeling of having our best laid plans pushed aside by an unexpected student or parent issue, an emergency phone call, last minute changes to supervision and countless other things that come up during the school day.

I do not have any earth shattering time management advice myself, sorry #saskedchat PLN, but here are 3 things that I find do work well for me.

1.Intentional Planning- I believe that we make time for the things we put as a priority.  Exercise and diet fall into this category for me.  When I prioritize my exercise time, insist with myself that I leave the school and actually make it a part of my daily calendar and schedule, it will happen.  On the other hand, if I take the attitude that we will see how the day goes, most often it does not.

One of the things I do that I believe helps is intentionally planning  the tasks and priorities in my calendar, not just when I have classes and meetings, but for the blocks of time that are left up to me to decide how to fill.   Before, I would leave these blanks open and just work away at the tasks on hand.

This intentional planning has allowed me to prioritize my tasks and accomplish more over the week, even with unexpected interruptions. Last week I noticed a Pinterest pin by Vicki Davis, @coolcatteacher. about intentional planning.  It is worth taking a look at as well.

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/124060164711377963/

She talks about intentional planning of other times of your day as well to allow time for those things that you enjoy and time with family.

2.  One tool that has  been a lifesaver for me has been symbaloo.com.  Symbaloo is a link organizational tool set up in the format of tiles.  It allows you to take links you access often and organize them on different pages, colors, titles etc.  I have all the links that I access on a daily or weekly basis and have them on the desktop of my symbaloo.  I have other pages with course links, genius hour links, personal links, staff meetings,  etc.

https://www.symbaloo.com/embed/principalsmartsdesktop?

One of the reasons symbaloo works so well for me is I do not have a classroom of my own and I am always moving from room to room teaching in other teachers classrooms.  Symbaloo allows me to move from room to room, open up a web browser and log into my symbaloo and have all my links at my finger tips. The classroom teacher does not need to log out of the classroom computer for me to access my materials.

symbaloo

3.  Another tool that has really helped with my organization has been Evernote.  I have used Evernote here and there for a long time, but one night while sitting in with #schadminchat and there was a lot of talk about using Evernote for walk-throughs and that  is what prompted me to really take advantage of the app.

https://evernote.com/evernote/guide/ios/
https://evernote.com/evernote/guide/ios/

As an administrator, one of my frustrations has always been my lack of real conversations with teachers about the things that I see as I am walking around the building and spending time in classrooms.  I see amazing things every day, but either lack knowledge needed to fully understand the intent, or have thoughts that may add to conversations about students.

Now as I visit classrooms I will bring my I-pad.  I snap pictures, I record conversations with students, I video classroom activities and I record my observations and my questions.  I have a file for each teacher and I am able to immediately email my visit to the teacher.  We then find time to have a quick meeting or the teacher will email me back the answers.

Since I have started doing this, I have had some really great conversations with teachers that have allowed us to learn together.  I feel much more knowledgeable about the things going on in classrooms and I think it has improved my communication and understanding.

I also use the pictures, videos, etc. when I am sharing with our parents and extending community about what is going on at our school through blogging, twitter, newsletters, etc.

I think Evernote can also be a very useful student portfolio tool or can be used in the same manner by a classroom teacher to track student conversations and assessments.

I can access Evernote on all my devices and I have never had any issues with syncing the information or using it wherever I am; home, school, school division office, etc.

These are the 3 ideas I would like to throw out in the conversation about organization.  Of course, I could not live without my I-phone, my I-pad and my outlook calendar, but I am sure that goes without saying for all of us.  I can’t wait to see what ideas my #saskedchat PLN will have to share with me.

What do you do to better organize your time?