The teacher life can feel like a hamster wheel – an endless churning of papers to grade, lessons to prepare, emails to return and paperwork to process. Teachers place themselves in service to their students. They are dedicated to their success and devote nearly every waking hour to helping them accomplishing it.
The word that you rarely hear these caring teachers say is: NO.
Teachers may feel that a majority of their time is dictated by the bell schedule; however, there is freedom in how each class period is run and how planning periods are spent. If you aren’t careful though, these can get overrun with other activities and teachers find themselves grading papers until the wee hours of the morning.
We’d love for teachers to find the boundary lines to protect their time so they are getting the crucial classroom activities done during the work day and leave school empty-handed.
One educator is an inspiration in this area, Cal Newport. He says:
The Most Dangerous Word to Productivity is YES
Cal Newport is an academic who knows how to get stuff done. He is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University, has a Ph.D. from MIT, author of five books, published many research papers, and a husband and father to three small children. He researches cutting-edge technology and writes about the impact of these innovations on society.
The people who tend to do things that have an impact say “no” to a lot because what they’re really interested in is, “I want to do the deep things, the things that require my skills and create new value, and I can’t do that if I’m constantly going to meetings and jumping on calls and checking email.”
– Cal Newport
Cal protects his most valuable resource – his time – to make the most impact. He does this by setting boundary lines around the most important work he does and eliminates the rest. With all he accomplishes and all the roles he plays in life, he still leaves work by 6 pm and rarely works weekends.
What Saying “No” Means for a Teacher
We get that saying no can be scary. There is fear that your colleagues will think you’re not pulling your weight or your administrators will think less of you.
However, oftentimes, you don’t have to say no to anyone else but yourself. In most cases, you spend your class periods, lunch and planning times as you see fit. Make a conscious choice to spend them wisely, on things that make a difference for your students and accomplish your classroom goals.
Even if you have to say no to someone else, explaining that you’re prioritizing your time to accomplish XYZ for your students will go a long way. You’re showing your administrators and fellow teachers that you value the same thing they value: student success.
What To Say “No” To:
Make a list of all the activities you do during a school day or week. Start to determine things that you can say no to. We can’t tell you exactly what these things are for your particular role, but we do know a few time traps teachers often fall prey to:
- Searching the Internet for resources
- Elaborate organization systems
- Compulsory committees
- Maintaining behavioral charts
- Creating pretty bulletin boards/displays
- Responding to EVERY email
And, these are only the things that occur during the workday. Sometimes the things we commit to outside of work are causing us stress that follows us to school. Be sure to evaluate your activities after work to make sure you’re not overcommitted. These things may include:
- Running after-school clubs
- Volunteering to lead your kids’ sports teams
- Joining too many civic or charity organizations
Now, don’t misunderstand us. These are all very good activities. We’re not saying quit the things you love. But, if you’re stretched too thin, you’re not performing your best or enjoying them.
What To Say “Yes” To:
Make a list of what is crucial for your students’ learning. What will help them succeed? Usually, they fall into one of three categories:
That’s a pretty short list! As we discussed in this post, 20% of what teachers do in the classroom accounts for 80% of student performance. This is all the more reason to say “no” to some of the 80% – the activities that are keeping you running on that teacher hamster wheel with no benefit in sight.
Say “YES” to GradeCam
GradeCam is an assessment machine built to help teachers accomplish their important goals of student assessment and redirection. You create your own tests or quizzes with our online software and print scan forms on plain paper.
You can then use our easy online grader to score assessments in an instant by scanning them with any web camera, iPhone or Android device. Then, you have all the data at your fingertips. You can view detailed reports of class or student progress, and transfer grades instantly to any electronic gradebook.
If you don’t already have a GradeCam account, get off that hamster wheel and sign up for free below!