Who isn't busy at the beginning of the school year? Or the middle? Or the end? Seriously, as a teacher, I feel as though there's always something challenging me for my time. If you're like me, the word, "No" is not an oft used word in your vocabulary. But this year, I decided to try to prioritize school. Could I adequately teach all the standards? What was imperative for me to teach students? What could be taught if time allowed and what had no chance of being taught? Sound harsh? Maybe, but my goal this year is to teach some depth rather than breadth in my classes.
I'm still working toward these goals and have made changes on the fly to force students to dig a bit deeper and really think about things. However, it's not just my classroom planning I had to prioritize. I had to realign my professional life as well. How many committees can one be on before reaching committee comatose? How many pots can my hands touch without really delving into them? How much extra work did I want to take on?
Most teachers are lifelong learners and willing to take on anything that is beneficial to their students. That's why in August, when a fellow teacher turned to me at an edcamp-like event and wondered aloud why we couldn't' do something edcampesque-like for students, I replied we could. And we are (more about the conference in later posts).
That simple little conversation has launched me into prioritizing my life in spades. And for me, that's a good thing. Because of this endeavor, I have limited time for other things. What's important to me professionally? We can't do everything, despite our best efforts. So maybe it's time to prioritize.
What does that look like for you? Can you bow out of some organizations or committees or meetings? What energizes and motivates you? Those are the things to keep. Going to "have-to" meetings benefit no one--not the other members of the committee and not you.
I've said the magic word this year, more than once. "Can you do this?" "No." "Are you interested in that?" "No." It's not because the committee or activity lacks merit, it's just that it doesn't fit my priorities.
The result? I'm not less busy. If you ask my husband, he'd probably say I'm busier than ever. But I'm not drained by what I'm doing. It's not laborious to go to my ELA book study meeting. I enjoy the activities I'm involved in and the challenge they hold for me professionally. I'm not run down or tapped out because of the passion I have for everything I'm doing.
So take a step forward, be bold, and graciously decline involvement in something that doesn't fit with your professional priorities. The first "no" may be tough to say, but it gets easier after the first few times. Go ahead, practice saying it. Then use that word in real life. You'll be glad you did. In spades.