No two days are ever the same in teaching. Therefore, handling complexity is a huge component of teaching. At any given moment you will have deadlines (often conflicting ones), parent expectations, staff expectations, school policies to implement, class routines to uphold and supervisors giving you feedback. To add to the complexity you will have student(s) having a bad day, a differentiated curriculum to implement and students to engage in a variety of creative ways. There are always things to do and things that you will feel as though you could have done better.
Amongst all of this chaos and confusion, you have your own emotions to deal with; are you cranky, sick, or have you just got a lot on your mind? The nature of our profession makes it essential to have the skills to manage complexity or you’ll end up feeling tired and burnt out.
So what can you do to simplify your work habits and get the most out of your day? How can you manage the complexity of teaching? How can you plan and prepare, but still remain flexible?:
- Write things down. I would not survive without my daybook. My daybook doubles as my diary and I carry it everywhere. I do a daily ‘brain dump’ (link to David Allen article) and write down all of the things that I am thinking about.
Remember: If you don’t write things down they take up valuable mental space.
- Make actionable items. At the end of each day I write essential and actionable items for the following day. This helps me to feel in control and gives me a sense of accomplishment when I complete the essential items. It also helps to write using ‘verbs’ so that you attach an action to each of the points. For example, tomorrow I have to; Book excursion bus – Burn new musical – Practise drumming composition with the students.
Remember: Choose three things that are essential for that day.
- Plan your week. I always plan a whole week in advance. That means that all of my photocopying, class resources and teaching equipment are ready one week ahead. This is not always possible as others teachers may be using equipment, but I try my best. Remember: Think ahead, what equipment and resources will you need?
Teaching is a complex profession. It’s important to get some of these practices in place so that you can keep some brain space free for what matters most, your students.