The Reflection Pool

Are You Caught in the Whirlwind?

From gfycat.com

Look or sound familiar? Sometimes I’m definitely Mickey and that whirlwind doesn’t want to let me go.

The whirlwind is a term coined by the authors of Four Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals. They describe it as the massive amount of energy that’s necessary just to keep your job going on a day-to-day basis. We all know the feeling – the emails, the phone calls, the meetings, the to-do lists. It’s absolutely necessary but it’s also is the enemy of getting something new or innovative done. (p. 6)

The first step to getting out the whirlwind is to notice it. It reminds me of how lots of people like to talk about how busy they are and how exhausting their life is (see Dean Shareski‘s excellent posts on this topic). I get it, we all seem to have lots to do. But once we notice, maybe it’s possible to find some time to focus on what’s important. Maybe you can step away from the whirlwind for 30 minutes and create the time.

Perhaps as you read this you are laughing hollowly. “No way,” you’re thinking. “She is nuts – I don’t have a minute extra”. If that’s you, it might be time to read Essentialism.

I find it as hard as the next person to focus on what’s truly important and not just urgent. And yet, if I did it first thing when I get up, or blocked my calendar for 60 minutes every week, or went away for an overnight by myself to focus, or turned the TV off before the next show in the bingeworthy series came on…it could be different.

Photo by Jenna Hamra from Pexels

Yes, it could be different.

What’s So Hard About the Digital Classroom?

Our lives are digital. The interwebs have changed everything, which sounds like the tagline for a really cheesy film. But in all seriousness, it’s amazing how we are using the applications and tools out there. The podcast “Spark” from CBC recently talked to people who are vision impaired about how the Amazon Echo is making a huge difference to accessibility and speed for them. I was up at a friend’s cottage and watched him set up dimmer switches for lights for his fire pit that can be controlled by an app on his smartphone (that was cool).

So what’s happening in our schools and classrooms? I’m considering how educators are using digital tools across our district. We are entering the fifth year of a 1:1 pilot in seven elementary schools and also in all of our secondary schools. In addition, the vast majority of teachers and all administrators have one to one access to a device. While change is exciting, and we have seen teachers, principals and vice principals embrace digital tech in many ways, there are still many barriers. Educators struggle to figure out how to use tools for more than handing assignments in through Dropbox and Google Drive, simple substitution with worksheets or games or posting the weekly memo on School Sites.

I’ve seen staff meetings where everyone brings a device, and I’ve seen others where almost no one does. I’ve talked to grade 9 and 10 students whose teacher expects the device at every class and uses it, and others where they don’t bother bringing it because the teacher never asks.

I’m left scratching my head. When people post all kinds of updates on social media, send e-transfer funds zipping around and book their vacations through online sites, what’s so hard about using the tools for workflow and to learn? I know we have amazing resources in our district to teach and help, but these seem to go largely untapped.

Please comment or engage in this conversation on Twitter. I’d love to know more about perspectives out there.

 

How Much Can You Care?

Education is a caring profession. Educators I know chose it because they care about others, and especially about kids. If we only go into teaching because we are fascinated by the subject, then burn out happens. It’s great to be inspired by the content of what you’re teaching; we also have to be inspired by our students.

Image from https://www.qcs.co.uk/big-c-compassion/

I’ve seen educators go above and beyond hundreds of times. I know educators who cry for their students after the day is over and who wonder what else they can do to reach that child whose life is difficult and whose behaviour is so challenging. I’ve had conversations where educators fight against their own biases to understand the perspectives of students who may not be like them. I truly believe that this is the work of education. We have to care or our jobs become meaningless.

And yet, how to care without depleting our compassion banks? How to care without running out of the energy to care for ourselves and our families? In the past few years, we have come to understand that compassion fatigue is real and can affect educators in extreme cases.

The lesson for me is that we need to care for ourselves in order to keep caring for others. As I’ve written before in this space, I am an introvert. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about people; it means that not enough time alone can lead to lack of energy or feeling overwhelmed. When I feel depleted, it’s time to retreat a little from the world and spend some time doing things I love. It might mean that I clear my personal or work calendar for a couple of days. It might be spending time with someone in a quiet space with few expectations so I can recharge. I find that if I don’t, things can get worse and I lose empathy and patience.

Sometimes caring for ourselves means seeking out help with a professional who can act as a sounding board and counsellor. This is nothing to be ashamed of. I know how helpful this can be from personal experience, and I applaud those with the courage to take that first step.

What about you? When you feel that you don’t have more to give, what do you do?

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