For most people, managing time is one of their biggest challenges. There are all sorts of different time management systems and ideas that are available to help you to make the best use of time in a busy world. This week on #saskedchat the topic of discussion was Time Management – Ideas of implementing new initiatives and finding balance as a teacher. That’s a long title but that is what we discussed. After writing this, I’ll be sitting down to go through the chat as I prepare to for the podcast for the chat. That’s not what this is about though. This is about time.
The Demand Monster
Education is going through a time of tremendous change. As I read through the posts about what teachers are doing, check the twitter feed and look at the posts on one of the several different tools that I use to try to curate information from the web, I’ve noticed that there is a common theme to what I’m reading. There is an underlying message of “no time for rest” with all the change taking place. Again and again I have read how people are proud of their sacrifice, the time they put into work, the time they spend on making changes and seeking new ways of doing things, spending weekends at conferences and edcamps, online presentations and collaborations, pouring themselves into their work as they make changes for the betterment of students, rallying others around them to join the cause. To do otherwise is, somehow, being short or, something worse, being un-teacherlike.
As I read the demands that people have and expound, I wonder ” Is this where we want to go? Is this really best for students? Is this the message that should be delivered? Is it necessary?” Is that how you “make it” as a 21st century teacher?
Don’t get me wrong, I was once convinced that continuous workflow was necessary and that anyone who wasn’t driving themselves wasn’t really helping out. However, as I examine teacher professional development and look at ways that teachers are making changes, the other side that comes out is that deep meaningful change comes from not constant change and constant “doing” but time spent reflecting on practice in conjunction with planned changes that move toward a goal. Those who can sift through the constant noise of change and focus on specific areas of change are more successful at making changes that last. They have a system that works for them to help them focus, people who they turn to for feedback and coaching and a way to monitor the progress they are making.
Is that the problem?
In my experience in education, lasting change is somewhat of a fleeting mirage that is constantly shifting as new ideas, models, thought-leaders and change-agents take the stage. In a world driven by 24/7 access/communication/messages educators are being constantly exposed to “what they should be doing” coming from a growing number of people gaining exposure through constant social media exposure. Watching my twitter feed, it’ appears more and more about constant sharing and less and less about deep reflection. It’s about new and new and new, project and project and project where teachers do more and more and more.
This was a question that I was asked during a twitter chat in response to having teachers be more involved in developing a school culture and connecting with parents and community. But it’s also been something that has been at the centre of getting teachers to integrate technology, begin to use social media, get connected on line, incorporate a myriad of initiatives from digital citizenship to character education, bullying to global awareness. One answer is to do more, to take more on as an educator; to be the reflection of the always doing, always busy, always moving educator.
I don’t think that is going to be the answer. In fact, I see many people working very hard as they work their way out of the classroom and schools to become educational informants. For those that want to stay in schools, with students, in the classroom, the way to sustained growth and longevity isn’t constantly working, it’s by
I Don’t Want to Keep Up, I Want to Make a Difference
Talk to any teacher about why they teach and somewhere in that conversation you will hear “make a difference”. Yet, for a vast number of teachers, they are overwhelmed. Somewhere I remember reading that “Those teachers who appear to not care are mostly overwhelmed by what is happening and, because they care so much, they don’t know what to do.” As an administrator, I always kept this in mind when talking with teachers about technology or new initiatives or new models or… Overwhelm them and they will check out! Yet, that’s is the model that is being advocated by many who are constantly pushing teachers to get on SM, get connected, use this model, adopt this initiative, implement these programs….
“Just do it for 30 days. And really give it your all. Make the effort. If, at the end, …..” The challenge is given. I’ve read this in relation to blogging and being online but it’s characteristic to any program since the first 30 days of any change seems to be crucial to the change taking place, becoming internalized and having a chance to be long lasting, replacing the former habit or incorporating the new change. Don’t get me wrong, being connected and learning in a collaborative, supportive environment is wonderful and I’ve enjoyed the learning and growth – at times.
As for blogging, did it change my life? Nope. Did it make me a better teacher? In some ways. Did it make me a better administrator? In some ways. In fact, what did change my life, made me a better teacher and administrator was to realize that I couldn’t do it all and having the strength to finally make choices. At times, I didn’t have time to blog or tweet or Pin or…. I was so involved in building and growing and working with teachers and students that at the end of the day I was exhausted. It didn’t mean I wasn’t also reading and trying new things, using new technologies, helping teachers grow and learn and helping students but it did mean that I had to make some serious choices as a person about time. And, as a parent, I didn’t want to sacrifice my children at the alter of “busy”. One thing I have learned is that an involved, caring, engaged parent is paramount to helping children grow, learn, develop as they move from childhood to adulthood. Having read Todd Henry’s “Die Empty” I even more firmly believe that in order to do things well, making choices with our time and then pouring our energy into specific things is a much better use of our time than the “busy, busy, busy”. But it has to be “our” focus and drive, not what someone else believes is the most important. And, contrary to public opinion, if they cannot accept “No” gracefully and respectfully, I’m not sure who has the problem.
So as I read that great teachers “need to ” and incredible administrators “need to “, I wonder how much reflection is going into the growth planning, how much of this is really for each individual teacher and how much is a reflection of our “busy” expectations, when any time not speeding along is seen as “unproductive”? There’s the challenge, can you measure up? Keep up? Those that can are “great”, like stars in sports or film or the arts or writers or…. those that can’t are …..?
But you Can’t Make Time
You can’t find time, it’s finite. But you can make decisions about time that change the way you use what you have. Is being “busy” what we want from educators? Or do we want them to make changes, deep lasting changes? Constantly telling them to do more won’t achieve that goal and constantly berating them if they aren’t running full speed to keep up isn’t helping. If we want to see change, deep lasting system-changing, life-changing change, “busy, busy, busy” isn’t going to do it. “Keeping up with…” isn’t really a productive or successful planning method for change yet it’s that’s the message, Busy, busy, busy, that is constantly replayed. It’s a myth. A myth that continues to be perpetuated by the mantra of constant change. Change is not the problem – busy change is.
Making Choices is Hard
Making a choice is hard. It’s much easier to try to “add it on” or “go with the flow”. Saying, “No, I don’t think that’s the best use of my time” especially to someone who “knows and is celebrated for knowing” isn’t easy. Unfortunately, it isn’t a plan for success. However you prioritize, making choices is key to change that is deep and has an impact. Building in time for reflection is critical. On that note, I leave you with this great Calvin and Hobbes cartoon.