Focus on the Essentials to Find Energy
Earlier this month, I heard a story on NPR about a very successful calculus teacher in Los Angeles. Throughout the interview, Anthony Yom, reiterated that he was just an average guy who was trying to do right by kids—like all teachers. He was energized by his students and really worked to make calculus relevant to them. At the end of the interview, he said something that has really stuck with me: “If we could start recognizing good teachers and give them a little more energy, I think we could change the game of education.”
Energy. Isn’t that the truth? We’re up to three pots of coffee each morning in the media center now. At the start of the year, we barely finished one. Teachers are coming from all buildings in our sprawling campus to get that extra shot of caffeine each morning. And tonight is parent conference night! Better plan on four tomorrow!
Unfortunately, outside of coffee, I don’t have much to offer in terms of a solution for finding energy. We’ve all heard that cliché, “the students should be working harder than you are,” but I’m afraid it takes a whole lot of work to get to that point; if it even exists. I kind of think it’s like that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow—you think you can see it on the horizon, but it’s always just out of reach.
One thing I’ve been thinking about, though, is lightening our load. Not in the traditional sense—an extra planning period or one less prep—but taking control and doing it on our own. Eliminating the nonessential aspects of our work; cutting the fat.*
It seems to me that we always think we need to add something to our routines to make them better: bellwork, additional complex texts, Socratic seminars, whatever we saw on Pinterest last weekend. What if we did away with the daily oral grammar exercise we do every Tuesday and just used the sentences in our texts as models of good writing? Digging in rather than piling on? Can’t we teach our students to ask deep and thoughtful questions without rearranging the desks in a circle (and then rushing to rearrange them before next period comes in because that’s a different class)?
Think about it. Is there something you could edit out of your daily/weekly routines that might give you a little more energy? Please share in the comments!
*The impetus for this idea was my fourth book—one that will make me smarter—Essentialism by Greg McKeown