Embrace Minimalism: Managing Your Teaching Workload
November 9, 2020
Last week I finally did something I’d been putting off for years, I organized all the junk in my apartment. Until now, I had left the garbage from my teen years stuffed away in my parents’ basement. After months of pestering though, I was finally forced to take possession of a giant box of relics and recognize that I couldn’t keep it in my home because of the OTHER giant boxes of relics. With no other option, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.
Most of you have probably been through this at some point. You make a pile of things to sell. A pile of things to donate. A few unlucky trinkets go straight into the garbage. Still, once it’s over, you feel a great sense of catharsis.
It’s amazing the amount of junk we’ll hold on to for no apparent reason, especially when shedding it makes our lives so much easier. When we finally allow ourselves to manage things into more appropriate portions, we end up creating new space for growth.
Right now, teachers everywhere are working twice as hard to ensure their students are safe, supported, and learning. We can be proud of everything we’ve accomplished, but in the process, we’ve also acquired a bit of junk. Maybe they were tech tools that became more trouble than they were worth. Maybe some of your teaching strategies didn’t prove as successful as you’d hoped. Regardless of what form they take, now is a good time to start managing your teaching workload.
Writing for Edutopia, Beth Pandolpho believes educators who feel overwhelmed or dissatisfied should start taking a more sustainable approach to teaching.
“Although there’s much about the current situation that we can’t solve, teachers can work to mitigate some of this stress by prioritizing what’s most important—predictability, care, community, and learning.”
But how do we know what to keep for our classrooms and what to throw away?
Here are a few things to consider while managing your teaching workload.
- Routine: If something serves as part of a daily or weekly routine, you should probably keep it. Routines offer structure, and in a time of constant flux, it’s good for students to have something they can depend upon. This can be a simple as a daily check in where everyone shares a fun fact, or it could an overarching lesson you proceed through one section at a time. Either way, a stable routine should not be discarded.
- Technology: There is a lot of new technology flying around that’s promising to make teaching easier. Test and see how useful it is for your classroom. If it proves a valuable and edifying addition to your lessons than keep it. If not, don’t bother holding on to it. It’s good to have at least a basic knowledge of what is being used in distance and blended learning, but don’t let yourself get bogged down by unnecessary technology.
- Students: At the end of the day, what really matters is our students. Teachers aren’t the only ones feeling stressed out and overwhelmed this year. Any tool or technique we keep should be focused on keeping our students safe while promoting their curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking. Make social-emotional learning a priority and give them exercises (such as letter writing) which will reduce their stress while building lasting relationships.
Space to Grow
Stripping away unnecessary junk can be hard. It takes time, it forces you to confront some ideas which (in hindsight) probably weren’t the best. Still, once you have cleared space and let go of needless burdens, you and your students will feel more refreshed and energized than you have in a while. So, take some time to minimize. This season is only beginning, and you deserve to as moment for managing your teaching workload.