I want to use this episode to dive more deeply into a topic that I’ve touched on quite a few times, which is problem of overwhelm. Overwhelm is a huge issue for just about everyone, but particularly for teachers.
I want to help you understand an important contributing factor that a lot of people underestimate or just don’t give much thought to. Once you understand what’s creating or worsening your feeling of being overwhelmed, the solution because clear, simple, and pretty straight forward.
Listen in as I share how you can avoid overscheduling yourself, and create more margin in your life through building in buffer time.
The episode you’re about to hear is a free coaching call I conducted with a graduate of the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. It’s a combination of instructional coaching and life coaching all sort of rolled into one, where I’m answering teacher’s specific questions about productivity and balance and managing it all.
This particular call is with a 5th grade teacher named April. April’s challenge right now is with trying to find balance and intentionality during times of year that are super demanding, such as parent conference week.
As we get into the conversation, we dig deeper into her social media habits, and exploring how her desire to learn from and connect with our educators is sometimes swallowing up more time than she intends, and interfering with her ability to get a good nights sleep and stay in balance.
For many teachers, PBL is a very different way of facilitating learning, where kids are identifying a real-world problem and developing its solution. It’s an incredibly powerful, effective, and cross-curricular way for kids to learn. But it’s not always simple to plan, and manage, and assess, so we’re going to talk about some practical teaching strategies.
We’re also going to look at how to address some of the pitfalls that students face. PBL is incredibly rigorous, or should be, and we all know that kids aren’t always excited about rigor and working hard--they can’t just pass a test at the end of the unit and be done. With PBL, kids show what they learn as they journey through the unit, interact with its lessons, collaborate with each other, and assess themselves and each other. It’s pretty complex stuff. It’s a tough juxtaposition with the “fill in the bubble” standardized testing mentality that most are expected to juggle simultaneously.
I have two guests on the show today to help us explore these issues--they are the co-authors of the new book Hacking Project Based Learning: 10 Easy Steps to PBL and Inquiry in the Classroom. You’ll hear from Erin Murphy, who is an assistant principal and certified literacy specialist in the East Penn School District in Pennsylvania, and Ross Cooper, who is the Supervisor of Instructional Practice K-12 in the Salisbury Township School District in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Erin and Ross are passionate about inquiry-based learning and have supported countless teachers in implementing it, through not only their school-based work but also through the PD and workshops they conduct. I’m really excited to have them here to help us move past the jargon and buzzwords, and talk about the realities on doing PBL with kids.
This is the time of year when many teachers are facing huge decisions about their careers. You may not be sure if you’re even going to have a job next year because your teaching position has been cut. Your decision might be whether to look for another teaching job, or find a different career altogether.
Others of you are wondering: should you stay home with your kids, or save up for another year first? Should you try to get a job in another school? Should you ask your principal if you can take that open spot in another grade level? Should you apply for that position as an instructional coach or an administrator?
In many ways, these are deeply personal questions that no one can advise you on. There are so many factors to consider and only you know them all, and understand the relative importance of them all.
So rather than give you advice about what to do, I’m going to teach you my system for making these kinds of big decisions. I’ve changed schools 5 times and grade levels 3 times, and relocated to other parts of the country for work twice.
And I always felt confident about the choices I made because I created a system that helped me think through every aspect of the decision and weigh the options not just on an intellectual, rational, logical level, but also on an emotional and heart level. Listen in as I share my process.
Today I’m going to let you listen in on a coaching call I did with a 9th and 10th grade ELA teacher named Taylor. Like all the teachers I’m conducting these free coaching calls with, Taylor completed a year in the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club and has made really strong progress in work/life balance. Before joining the club, she worked around 80 hours a week, and she’s not working around 55-60, for a net savings of 20-25 hours a week. So she’s obviously doing a lot of things right when it comes focusing on what’s most important and letting go of the rest.
However, Taylor is now committed to being a class advisor, and that’s causing her to work a lot of additional hours. As we talk, it becomes clear that she’s going to have to eliminate some things from her schedule.
But she’s getting stuck on figuring out what she can realistically say no to when it comes to grading, which is what takes up the majority of her time. And, she’s having a hard time saying no to students when they ask her to do extra things for them.
Listen in as I talk with Taylor about how to figure out what can realistically be eliminated from a teacher's workload in order to free up more time.