Thursday, December 31, 2015

Unshakeable Reflections: Chapters 1-3

I am participating in a book club that is reading Unshakeable: 20 Ways To Enjoy Teaching Every Day...No Matter What by blogger, podcaster, and consultant Angela Watson.

Chapters 1-3 Reflections

This was an easier read than I anticipated. I was worried that it would not be something I wanted to continue to pick up for some of the very reasons stated in these chapters. I did not want my school life invading another part of my personal life. After reading the first three chapters, I felt like it was less of an invasion and more of a reflection/extension exercise.

I have read other things by Angela Watson, and, as a teacher of 25 years, I tend to be skeptical of persons who are no longer "in" the classroom after spending "only" a few years on the front lines. I feared she would be the Teaching Pollyanna, and I would, yet again, feel inadequate because I was not "choosing" optimism for my profession. I was pleasantly surprised that this book went a different, real direction.

Chapter 1 Share your authentic self to bring passion and energy to your teaching

The first part of this chapter was a validation chapter for me. I enjoy sharing parts of me with my students that make me "real" to them. They typically leave a year with me knowing that I have two sons, knowing that I talked too much in fourth grade, knowing that I love dance aerobics, knowing much about me.

Around page 14, Watson discusses energy.  "The point here is awareness," she states.  "We must be aware of and plan to manage not only our time, but also our energy." I had not thought of planning energy before, and I will say I needed to do so years before now.

She discusses the need to re-energize--that time naturally replenishes itself, but energy does not.  We must replenish our energy.

Watson winds up the chapter discussing the teachers that appear to do it all, and she asks the question, "Why do people like that get so much more done?" She indicates that replenishing energy levels and having a passionate vision are keys to becoming an efficient teacher.

Chapter 2 Allocate your time and energy wisely through productive routines

I have learned a lot by trial and error in this area over 25 years.  I agreed with many of her points in this chapter.

She recommends going to work in order to, well, work. During the day, she recommends not doing things that can detract from the bigger picture. She made points about e-mail (check it when everything else is done) that made me grateful, as I never have time in my day for e-mail.  She considers it something that can get productivity off-course.  She recommends coming in early, and, in theory, I agree that you can get quite a bit done. However, teachers with their own children have a much harder time getting in early.  I am a stay later kind of gal, although this year I am getting there earlier because of my son's earlier start time. It's like I have an extra prep in my day.

I laughed at, and appreciated, the two things she said one should not schedule for the morning: what puts you in a bad mood and what is essential for your day.  TRUTH!

On page 22, I found a takeaway that I want to put into action: creating a morning ritual for an easy transition into my day.  I really think this is something that will benefit me.

Watson gives some interesting insight to plan time. I wholeheartedly agree with her that you cannot depend on your plan time. Inevitably, something comes up that throws you.  Then, on page 25, her statement, "Sometimes you need your prep period to consist solely of sitting in a quiet, dark classroom while taking deep breaths and eating half a box of chocolates." I realized at this point that I was considering that I always needed to be a worker bee during my prep period.  Sometimes, it just needs to be used to chill.  She spends time discussing lunch and where you have it, but does not push one opinion as a primary one.

Chapter 3 Establish healthy habits for bringing work home and decompressing

HELLLLOOOOOO.  Anyone who knows me knows that this is the chapter I dearly needed.

Watson recommends decompressing with ONE co-worker that you trust. This makes sense, and is something I will try better to incorporate.  Otherwise, you just re-open the wounds, and, for me, get angry all over again. Plus, you run the risk of being labeled a complainer.

She hits upon something we do well at my school: socialize.  I think we have this one covered.  We are celebrators, for sure.

The big takeaway for me in this chapter is the idea of scheduling my time outside of school. On page 39, Watson says, "The goal is to spend your evenings and weekends doing the things you enjoy most, so try to bring home the work you get personal satisfaction from completing." She also addresses making your work time at home pleasant and comfortable. She then stresses reframing your thinking to give the work a more positive spin.  It reminded me of the simple change of saying what you "get" to do rather than what you "have" to do.  Two final points that she makes ring loudly true for me.  On page 46, she asks, "When and how did exhaustion become the standard for a productive day?"  For me, that happened early on in my career and became a horrible habit.  I will say I am critical of newer teachers who zip out of school at the end of the day.  It is an expectation of my generation of teaching: If you are new, you better be busting your butt. That typically equates to having a long day. I need to readjust that attitude so that workaholism is not held as the ideal.  There has tto be a balance between bare minimum and overboard, though.

Lastly, and most importantly, Watson states, "The key is to make sure that the way you spend your time is aligned with what you say you value the most.  Create time for the people and activities you care about most before you make time for work." While this seems like common sense, it is so easy as a teacher to imbalance your life.  Or at least it happened for me for many years.  I continue to struggle in this area.