There are just so many distractions in the life of a teacher. Planning, marking, assessments, eating, family-life, and so on. Yet, being aware of the tendencies that creep into life that distract away from the priorities takes courage in being able to step back and look at what possible makes you, or your students, underperform within your role.
You need to banish these three tendencies if you really want to teach at your highest level.
This trait is a weakness and a strength for teachers, but when the ultimate goal is results orientated, you can fall into the trap of making sure everything is perfect within your classroom. Life isn’t like that, and although you want your students to get straight A’s, for some, this is just not going to happen. Yet, all your students deserve you giving them the best opportunities to learn from their mistakes, develop their skills, and find relevance to their learning. Remember, teaching your students should show the passion of your subject, showing relevance to the outside world, and relating to students lives where possible. Yes, you have exams coming up, and your perfectionism in getting them ready for that can lead to losing sight of your original passion for the subject you are teaching. Trust me, your students will appreciate your passion, and that itself could lead to an increase in results, without you trying. Make learning relevant, show your passion, and don’t worry about being the ‘perfect’ teacher – it’s just not achievable.
- Involving yourself in internal politics
Schools, by their very nature, have a hierarchy of power, and your place within the structure can shift on a daily basis, even little changes. You can be in the staffroom, and someone says something about a student or colleague, and you find yourself in the middle of a conversation that suddenly requires your involvement, but you get wound up with the situation, and then you need to go back to class to teach your next group of students. Your mind is simply not in the moment, and you are worried about the conversation or incident talked about in the staffroom. Believe you me, students pick up on this, and the lesson will inevitably not go to plan as you had initially desired – this is why staff meetings are better done at the end of the school day, rather than at the beginning. Ultimately, control the things you can control. Don’t get involved in matters that don’t directly involve you, and leave situations in the hands of colleagues (unless they specifically ask you for your help, as you are an expert on the matter-in-hand), and avoid power plays by colleagues whose motivation is different than yours. Yes, be aware of what you have to do – play the game, if necessary, but focus on what you’re paid to do. Teach!
- Trying to achieve a work-life balance
Accept this – previous research has shown that striving for a positive work/life balance is an unobtainable myth. Despite various ‘reducing workload’ promises from governments, leaders and manager, the thrust of data, accountability and spreadsheets appear unyielding. Sadly, these aspects of being a teacher appear unavoidable, but you can manage by prioritising yourself – categorising daily tasks into such a list as:
- Critical – two or three work activities which matter most
- Preferable – activities which can be skipped if they interfere with critical ones
- Necessary – such as commuting
- Sacred – two or three non-negotiables involved in your health and well-being
- Unnecessary – everything else
With a better perspective on remembering the reasons why you started on your teaching career in the first place, don’t think about the distractions and getting involved in other projects, unless you consider that they will add value to your life, your students, and your career pursuits.