New Year's Resolution: Do Less, Better

Over my (way too short) break, I thought a lot about what I learned in my first 4 months at BLS. This isn’t my first year teaching, but in many ways it has felt like more of a first year than my actual first year did. I find myself working harder than I ever have before wearing more hats than I had in previous teaching jobs. I knew this coming in, but I didn’t really understand just how many different ways I’d be pulled.

I came to a relatively new school (we’re in our third year) because I wanted to chance to be a part of building something permanent that will serve our community. I was eager for the chance to be a part of creating something new and getting opportunities for leadership that I never would have had at a larger school. And I bit off more than I could chew.

All teachers at my school are both classroom teachers and advisers. So I had my 12 new advisees and my four sections of Global History II. I decided to create a Global curriculum from scratch (reinventing the wheel). My first trimester teaching load left me with some extra time obligations to the school, so I also became one of the technology people at the school. Eager to demonstrate the great potential uses of Web 2.0, I tried to start some sort of pilot of blogging in advisory. While the initial idea of doing this with two other teachers fizzled out, I still began it with 3 of my advisees (1 of which has yet to post 2 months later). I also began exploring implementation of moodle and elgg into our school. As the first Trimester moved on, it was clear 3 days of Global was not going to get our students ready for the NY Regents exam in June. So we added an extra period a week, moving my teaching load above a typical full load. And though I was off the tech team officially, I still had/have people coming to me for help. Around the same time, the 3 Social Studies teachers at my school decided we weren’t benefiting from the Humanities Department meetings, so the 3 of use started running our own weekly Social Studies Meetings (in the 1 free period we all have off). And I also jumped at the chance to join the committee planning our schools Twelfth Grade Experience for next year (and soon set up a blog for that). Meanwhile, back in my history class, I am preparing my students to participate in the National History Day contest, part of which will mean holding a first ever History Day Fair at BLS in February. In order to support the research, I’m giving all my students e-mail accounts through the newly registered bronxlabstudents.org, which means piloting a major new initiative and worrying about worst case scenarios on that front. And oh yeah, I have a lesson to teach Monday morning…

I do too much. And by doing too much, I’m not doing anything that well. Which is why my resolution for 2007 is to do less, but do it better. I need to do less in my global class, but do it better (I have over-planned every unit so far this year). I need to do less outside the classroom, but do it better (12th Grade Experience, or bust). I need to do less with technology, but do it better (I think blogging in advisory has to go, though good quick uses in class has a place – check out my students’ blogs from our recently completed unit).

I loved Dan’s post about his Important Ratio #1 (Worth of Instructional Decision = Instructional Value / Minutes Expended). It’s a great post, and an even better discussion of it in the comments. The philosophy major in me thinks of this less as a ratio, than as a philosophical set of questions:

  1. By making this time commitment to Activity A (instructionally, professionally, personally), what activity B ( and C, etc.) am I not spending time on?
  2. Is the time not being spent of activities B of lesser value than the value added by committing time to Activity A?
  3. Do I have the time and energy to sustain activities A & B?
  4. Will doing activity B better be less valuable than doing activities A & B with less than a full effort?

Conclusion: Unless the answer to questions 2-4 are all “Yes”, activity A is not worth doing.

So here’s to a year of doing much, much less, but hopefully doing something exceptionally well. Happy 2007 to all!

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