Over the Christmas break, I spent a great deal of time reading, listening and watching a wide range of media. I have consumed more than I should have in relation to US politics, plus research and discussion on climate change and current environmental concerns. I live by the philosophy of know better, do better so this culminated in a range of actions and lifestyle changes including choosing to eliminate meat and dairy from my diet, establishing a worm farm to reduce wastage and a range ethical shopping changes. Several realisations ensued, in particular, how hard it is to determine the ingredients or origin of many products that I would normally purchase with the assumption they are locally sourced. My growing understanding was also supported by healthy debate and the need to justify my actions to a range of friends and family. Some were quick to raise stereotypical vegan memes whilst others acknowledged they could probably make some better choices themselves. My learning was self-driven, in my own time, at my own pace and to be honest, when I was most open to acknowledging these issues and I had space and time to respond.
Until widespread access to the internet, there was a ceiling on learning, limited to the expertise of the teacher, whether that be formal settings such as the classroom or the parent-child relationship. Now that ceiling is broken and we are inundated with information. Our greatest challenge will be to create environments where our students can design their own interesting questions to answer, not teach them answers to questions that already exist. Creating learning that is active as opposed to passive about issues they actually care about or create their own responses to issues that don’t have straightforward solutions. We should endeavour to construct space and time for them to delve into issues that are meaningful to them and then provide the time to enact responses and changes themselves, whether personal or within their community.
Opportunities are endless, but our time is limited, so what we value most will take precedent. My goal this year, is to question these priorities on an ongoing basis. To keep in check, that what time is being used, and the choices I make about other people’s time, whether they be staff or students, is used to address the most important priorities.
Now that technology keeps us connected 24/7 we hear constant messages about maintaining work/life balance.
In the ten years from 1986 to 1996 work-life balance was mentioned in the media 32 times.
In 2007 alone it was mentioned 1674 times.
Twitter chats are full of people sharing how to manage time away from work, ironically these same educators are spending time on education chats!
If someone counted the amount of hours I spend working, I am sure there would be more than a few that suggest my work/life balance is skewed. Perhaps this is where my view on what is healthy differs.
I am an advocate for spending your time in meaningful ways. Spending time “in the moment” is more important to me than how long I am there for. Finding value in what you do and how you do it and developing your own sense of integrity.
I would rather find a short moment in my day to find quiet moment, listen to a music I love, be still, enjoy a coffee, see the beauty in nature or the embrace or laughter of a child and for a brief moment feel genuine gratitude and peace, than count the hours that I am at or away from work. My mother demonstrated to me that it was not the extent of time she spent with my children (she lived 5 hours via plane away) but the quality of the time she spent with them that developed their deep bond that is still felt today 6 years on from her passing.
“Who among us are the most happy? Newly published research suggests it is those fortunate folks who have little or no excess time, and yet seldom feel rushed.” – John P Robinson
So busy is not bad, but a sense of calm is important.
Ever since my mother passed, my children and I have made a tradition of getting out into nature on Mother’s Day. This year was no different as we headed for a bush walk in the Adelaide Hills. I took the picture above and in a moment when the three of us stood in awe of the magnificence of the tree, we felt genuine appreciation and joy.
I like being busy, I love challenge and I crave new opportunities. Perhaps it is by taking a little time to be “in the moment” that enables me to keep centred.
This year to date has been time challenging for several reasons. Not only am I continuing in my coordination role to facilitate improved classroom practice across the school, I have taken on the leadership of the Unit for students with disabilities, accepted a teaching opportunity at Flinders University in semester 1 and teach in the classroom 14 lessons a week. This has placed pressure on my time, sleep practices and mental health! No regrets though, quite the opposite. I have in a short period of time learnt a great deal about my skills to manage my time, set priorities and further understood how hard it is for me to step back, release control and let others shine.
I truly believe that the things we value most, we need to prioritise, whether that be at work or at home. I have previously written about how “Action Expresses Priorities”. When I make a commitment, I’m good at sticking to it. At times this can mean I stick to things that really I should let go. I read books to the end because I feel a sense of guilt if I don’t complete it (unfortunately a “friend” gifted me a copy of Eat Pray Love and I dragged myself through until the end – agony) I’ve never walked out on a movie, or left at breaks in seminars when others are leaving by the droves.
I make commitments, I say them out loud to myself and I stick to it, even the little things. I made a commitment to write a comment on 7 student blogs per week via #comment4kids because I know that 1 or 2 sentences from me can have an impact, encouraging students to write more. Confession – sometimes I find myself on a Sunday night finding 7 blogs in a hurry, but it really only takes me 15-20 mins and I think that it a valuable use of that time.
I prioritise my exercise because I know it makes a difference. I work full-time and have two amazing kids. Going to the gym or a run at night is difficult because it is dinner and homework and getting ready for the next day, but I know I have to include it, so I get up at 530am every weekday and head off to the gym for an hour.
At work, I am able to prioritise actions by asking “why” and “how” …. a lot! I ask this of myself and I ask this from my colleagues. We can easily get swept up in a new idea, a new technology, a new activity, or revert to old habits and comfortable strategies, but I always ask:
“why” should we do this?
“how” will it improve experiences and understanding for our students?
If we can justify that it is worthwhile, then we need to make it happen.
“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
So for me, setting priorities has never really been a difficulty. It is when it comes to letting something else go so it is not just an “add on” that I find the greatest difficulty.
My problem is, I want to be involved in EVERYTHING, I want to know what is going on, where it is going on and how I can be involved. I know this means at times I spread myself so thin that I cannot possibly do all these things to the standard I expect of myself thus it leaves me working an unreasonable time outside of school. What I am learning gradually is to let go and allow others to develop and lead around me. It stills leaves me feeling anxious when I hand something over, but I know that the greatest outcome of my leadership should be that I am no longer relied upon.
“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”
― Ann Landers