Often times, as teachers, we put a certain amount of pressure on ourselves to keep going, to give more, to do more, to push harder, and ultimately expect more of both ourselves and our students. The truth is...our minds and bodies can only handle this type of rigor for so long before we start showing signs of "teacher shut down." Although we like to put out to the rest of our teaching community that we are nothing short of the Energizer Bunny, we know the truth. None of us are! Sure, we have days that our productivity is at its max, but to say that we maintain that tenacity every single day throughout the school year, well...that's probably just not true.
We get tired.
As I started reading Chapter 13 in Angela Watson's newest book entitled Unshakeable: 20 Ways to Enjoy Teaching Every Day...No Matter What, I couldn't help but relate to the simplicity and truth of her words. It was as though she personified all of the "behind the scenes" conversations that I have ever had with other educators about being tired, needing a break, and finding a way to provide your students with some sort of task that allows you to sit for just one minute.
Here's the thing...if done right, YOU CAN! AND...it's not something that you have to be ashamed of, talk about in secret, or feel bad about. It's necessary. Now, put your superhero capes away, and let's dig in a bit, shall we?
Let me begin by saying that there truly is SO MUCH to take away from this chapter. I don't want to give it all away, but I thought it would be fun to highlight some of my favorite sections for you.
I actively started working within the teaching field in 2003. I had a couple of long term subbing positions, along with a cooperative teaching position before I got hired in 2007. During that time, I didn't have children, I lived at home with parents, I wasn't married, and I had nothing to do with my time but create elaborate bulletin boards, lesson plans, and extremely creative activities for my students. I am not lying when I tell you that I would stay at the school, at times, until 8-9:00 at night. I would go home, do some more work, and then be the first person in the building, other than the janitor that I waited for to open the building at 6:45AM.
It was a wonderful routine that worked for me at the time...for a couple of reasons.
#1: I was young and without other obligations.
#2: My energy...all of it...was dedicated to my job and figuring out who I was as an educator.
Fast forward 12 years. Let me give you a couple of reasons why I could NEVER maintain that schedule now.
#1: I am a mommy of 2. (I could stop right here.)
#2: I am married, and my husband and I switch shifts. He watches our youngest during the day, and I get both of my girls at night while he goes to work. My family needs me. (I could stop right here.)
#3: I simply don't have the same energy that I did 12 years ago, although I like to give it my best shot from time to time!
My life has changed in many ways. I'm not the same person, and I certainly don't have the ability to stay in my classroom until 9 o'clock at night anymore.
Here's something else that Angela stated in this section...
"...don’t compare yourself to anyone else, especially a teacher who’s fresh out of college and full of boundless energy or a firecracker veteran... You’re only going to feel frustrated and disappointed if you constantly worry that you’re not doing as much as you should. Think about what is sustainable for you, keeping in mind that teaching is a marathon, not a sprint."
~Angela Watson - Unshakeable
I think that we are all competitive with one another in a sense. I'm not saying that that's a bad thing, because it gives us a sense of drive. However, it has to be something that doesn't bring you down. We are all individuals and have individual situations and needs. Let yourself off the hook every once in awhile.
There's nothing worse than your boss walking in and you are sitting at your seat. I'm guilty of this, but what I wanted to say to him as he walked in was, "Yes, I'm sitting. Yes, it looks like I'm being unproductive. However, my kids are now effectively working at their seats because I JUST GOT DONE TEACHING A RIGOROUS, FULLY-ENGAGED, 45 MINUTE MATH LESSON, and I have to sit, so that I can mentally move onto the next thing."
Can I get an AMEN?!
No, we shouldn't find that we are warming our seat that often throughout the day. Movement around our classroom helps our students to remain engaged, on task, as well as fosters our involvement in their conversations.
Angela provides several ways to sit and be productive in the following sections within this chapter:
- 3 ways to sit while teaching and still keep the kids engaged
- 2 ways to sit while supporting students during independent work periods
These sections are a wealth of information and offer suggestions such as what types of chairs to buy, as well as their locations throughout the classroom, and using a centralized table to sit and listen to your lower-level learners. This will allow easy intervention, as well as time for you to rest your toes! Not to mention that should an administrator walk in, you have a legitimate reason for sitting. :) I have done this within my own classroom, and have found it to be effective for both the tired teacher and struggling learner.
I am a firm believer that everything starts with a good plan. In this section, Angela talks about utilizing your planning time in such a way that you allow yourself legitimate moments of "rest."
We all have times in our personal lives that prove to be mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting. The fact is that we have to deal with it. It doesn't give us permission to completely "drop the ball" on our jobs as teachers. However, if done correctly, there is no need to jeopardize our ability to teach an effective lesson. It's all in our approach.
I also love how she talks about reaching our for help. Here's what she suggests...
"Ask a colleague to pick your students up from lunch for you or see if a team member can run off extra photocopies or gather lesson materials. You can return the favor when you’re feeling better, so don’t feel guilty about asking for help."
It's almost like we are hard-wired to say "No, thanks!" anytime someone asks if they can help us out. Angela suggests making a list of ways that others can help you. Each time someone asks, instead of reverting to old faithful, we say, "Yes! Thank you so much for asking! I could really use your help..."
In this section, Angela talks about the overwhelming dynamics of being a student. As teachers, we envision the world from an educators standpoint. That doesn't mean that we don't empathize with our students, and see their need for a break. I'm sure that we all do. What it means, is that we plan our days around rigor. When looking through the eyes of your shyest student, you're walking in the halls that are jam packed full of students who may or may not be friends, you're walking into a crowed and noisy cafeteria full of noises and distractions, you're going to a classroom where you are switching, perhaps, from center to center and task to task. Where's the mental and emotional break?
We all need it.
Even our students. Or should I say, especially our students?
I, personally, love GoNoodle.com for this. During high-stress times, I have my students complete a meditative exercise on this site. They love it, as do I. This is my time to take a minute, and create a classroom atmosphere conducive to BOTH learning and relaxation. This approach can also be applied to our lesson plans. It's finding that balance between the chaos and down time.
This post is only based on ONE outstanding chapter. Angela is a wealth of knowledge and has much to offer in the way of teaching. To learn more about Angela and her book, click on her picture below!
Want a copy for yourself?
Offered in both a print and digital format, you can purchase a copy of Unshakeable by clicking on the picture below.
Here are other books written by Angela. Click on the photos to learn more about each of them!
These books can also be purchased on Angela's website.