Sunday, December 30, 2018

Goal for 2019: Simpler Teaching

The teaching profession is in a dark place right now. Teachers across the United States often use terms such as "stifling," "overwhelming," "panic-inducing," and even "soul-crushing" to describe the teaching life. I, too, have had my fair share of negative feelings from time to time. At the end of the 2017-2018 school year, I decided my teaching life had gotten completely out of control and it was time to do something about that. I made a career choice that I never thought I would make in the hopes that this move would bring my teaching life and my personal life into balance. Since then, I have been actively working at simplifying my teaching life so that I have time to truly enjoy all of the other aspects of my life. I'm calling this series of purposeful actions my Simple Teaching Movement.

When I reflect on the last eight years of my teaching career, it is a busy black-and-white blur with some standout memories, moments that are completely clear, in technicolor, and tightly focused. Those memories are the most meaningful in my career, and they stand apart from the rest for one reason: those moments were simplified. The times in our teaching careers that come into perfect clarity, the times when we can catch our breaths and bask in the power of being in the moment, of simply enjoying our teaching lives... that's what I'm after. I want more of those snapshots in 2019.

I think that there are two key things we must internalize before we embark on the journey of simplifying our teaching lives.

1. Simple is subjective.

Simple may be defined as "easy to understand, deal with, use; not elaborate or artificial." Using this definition, it seems to me that "simple" will be different for everyone. A cool tech tool that is easy for you to understand may not be easy for me to understand. A lesson that might seem very elaborate and overly complicated to you may not be that way in my eyes. The notion that simplicity is subjective frees us to realize our own vision for a simplified teaching life. My simple may not look simple to you, and your simple may not look simple to me.

2. Simple ≠ Easy

While the two terms are often used synonymously, simple is not always the same thing as easy. When I write about my vision for a simplified teaching life, I'm not necessarily saying I want it easy. Simplifying is difficult work. It requires making hard decisions and living a proactive life. While I do believe that, with time, simplifying my teaching life will make things easier, I think it would be naive to say that "simplifying" is easy.

What will Simple Teaching look like for me?

When I began envisioning a simpler teaching life, a life where I give up the excess in favor of the essential (thanks to The Minimalists for the phrase), these were the ideas that came to mind.
A simplified teaching life must...
  • allow me to leave work at work the majority of the time
  • allow me to leave work within an hour of the contracted school day ending
  • allow me to arrive to work within fifteen minutes of my official start time
  • eliminate the extra "stuff" that clogs up my day in the classroom (mental stuff, physical stuff, and emotional stuff)
  • focus on creating a meaningful classroom experience for my students
  • focus on creating a meaningful classroom experience for myself
  • have no "unitasker gadgets"
  • allow me to carry everything I need for work in one satchel
  • focus on a small number of quality assignments rather than a large quantity of ineffective assignments
  • take the slow-and-steady approach to progress
  • energize me rather than drain me
  • be a life I look forward to living every day

My Teaching Manifesto for 2019

In the spirit of being Totally Extra, I wrote a manifesto!

What is your teaching goal for 2019? Will you be joining me in my journey to simplify my teaching life?

Happy Teaching!