Few people understand the word busy better than teachers. There is always so much to do and so little time to do it. (I wrote about this in a previous post: Do you feel too busy to pray?) And when we do get to our planning times, inevitably something else comes up. A student needs help, an administrator needs to meet, or a parent needs to be called.
At times this can simply be overwhelming. And we all react to it differently. My natural reaction is to put my head down, make a list, get focused, and get it done. But that’s really not the best reaction. Yes, I may get things crossed off my list, but this response causes me to walk right by a hurting student without even noticing. It leads me to grade papers while a student is trying to talk to me. It leaves my tasks finished but my true mission unfulfilled.
I probably understand better than anyone the temptation to barricade yourself in your room with your red pen and your coffee. But if we really want to be effective, we need to keep the big picture in mind.
These principles, most of which can be found in Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, were shared with me by my principal Bill Blankschaen. I wish I could say I always remember them, but that’s just not the case. It’s a work in progress, but it’s definitely worth the effort.
When You’re Really Busy, Remember….
- Do what is important not necessarily urgent. When I first heard this phrase I loved it so much that I laminated it and put it up on the wall right by my desk. What a great reminder that the stack of grading that is screaming at me really can wait! But the student who acted out in class today needs a genuine, unrushed conversation, not just a one-liner and a detention slip.
- Slow is fast and fast is slow. This principle is one that I definitely have not even begun to master, but the more I contemplate it, the more I see its truth. When it comes to our relationships (which at school include students, parents, administrators, and fellow teachers), rushing through a conversation often backfires. We think that task has been crossed off our list, but since we didn’t take the time to really get to the root of the issue, it springs right back up like a weed that’s torn but not dug out by the roots. We think we’re saving time but we’re really just wasting it – fast is slow.
But when we take the time to have the in-depth conversation that’s really needed, we are much more effective. So if we can learn to turn off the panic alarms in our heads and truly counsel the concerned parent, we may actually find real solutions that will make a difference. Slow is fast.
- Focus is more valuable than multitasking. My name is Linda and I am a chronic multitasker. Yes, I am pretty much addicted to it. But I’m trying to learn the value of focus. While multitasking is sometimes helpful, often it just makes us less effective at all the tasks we’re trying to do. So if we’re trying to accomplish a high-level task such as planning or discipling students, we need to tune out the rest of our to-do list and focus on the task at hand. The list won’t go anywhere while we’re gone.
How do you react to the busyness of teaching? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.
Photo courtesy of Michal Marcol