Whoa, Nellie! It’s August. Some folks are already back to school this week. Others are in planning week with students arriving soon. Others seem to have just settled into a summer routine and now it’s time to gear up once again. My summer has been unexpectedly hectic with a full calendar in the upcoming weeks as we get ready for school at the end of the month. That sort of pressure is what really pushes me to work and play more efficiently, knowing that the lolly-gagging of summer will come to a halt soon. To that end, I made a quick list of things that had to get done in the coming weeks. Things like:
- sitting in the sand with a mindless novel
- making a batch of jam
- packing up a fraction of the Legoes that go largely untouched and find someone who will put them to good use
- reviewing the calendar and schedules for the fall to make exercise and down time a part of the schedule
This last point caused me to pull out a book I read last fall, The Well-Balanced Teacher: How to Work Smarter and Stay Sane Inside the Classroom and Out. I should probably just keep it front and center on my desk to keep me on track throughout the year! If you’re gearing up for back to school and you haven’t already read it, grab a copy to help you get in the mind-set for a productive and balanced school year. It’s a quick read that can yield great results and perhaps even keep you from feeling overwhelmed at the start of school.
If that doesn’t convince you, here’s a review of the book originally posted last September.
It’s it’s essential that we take care of ourselves before doing our best to foster the healthy development of children. Certainly, that the path to doing our best for children can be complex and murky. The release of Mike Anderson’s new book, The Well-Balanced Teacher: How to Work Smarter and Stay Sane Inside the Classroom and Out brings clarity to the strengths and challenges of a teaching life.
The Well-Balanced Teacher: How to Work Smarter and Stay Sane in the Classroom and Out is a masterful piece of work that delicately and articulately combines Anderson’s observations as a teacher and consultant with hard research and his keen observations about teaching and life. This concise powerhouse of a read outlines how teachers need to – and can – care for themselves before they can give their best to students and schools. Seems like a pretty simple message, but if you know any teacher, you know that message often gets put on the back burner. Much like Daniel Pink asserts in his book, Drive, Anderson aligns the key to high performance in the classroom to the basic human needs. We need to feel a genuine sense of belonging and significance and have a balance of autonomy and connectedness to allows us to feel our work has meaning. Simple concept. Challenging to put into action.
The Well-Balanced Teacher goes beyond citing what we already know about meeting basic needs (sleep, food, water) and feeling significant in our community and competent in our craft. Many of the points Anderson makes are ones we know in our heart, but the reminders are appreciated. He goes on to provide cogent tactics and strategies to work more efficiently. Some are pretty basic, yet functional (reworking your personal schedule to reflect a reasonable allocation of your resources) while others might be a paradigm shift (re-writing your goals to reflect observable data and respond to questions that arise to generate actionable goals).
Anderson’s voice as a thoughtful, experienced and empathetic colleague rings strong throughout the book. He acknowledges most teachers are perfectionists who tend to deflect compliments, put in long hours, and desire to give each and every child their best. He affirms these qualities but gently gives teachers permission to let go, relax and enjoy the ride without feeling that they’ve short-changed anyone or anything. By clarifying your goals, affirming your strengths as a teacher and interests as a human, Anderson nudges teachers to be more proactive in asserting their needs (whether it’s to honor planning time or family time) while also being realistic about your obligations to teach the curriculum and know your students.
Teaching is a stressful career with multiple layers of demands added regularly. Nobody can do it all, certainly not if sustaining a rich teaching and personal life is paramount. Anderson asserts that if we first accept that there is, in fact a time crunch, we can forge ahead to determine what is non-negotiable, peel off what is not essential (often by saying “no” or asking or support), and then streamline schedules and demands to work more efficiently.
Knowing that you’ve got a lot on your plate, Anderson’s book is roughly 100 pages of concentrated observations and recommendations – simple, practical, responsive, actionable. Check it out on Facebook or on ASCD’s site and see what helps you be a more well-balanced teacher yourself.