One of the most common issues that comes up when I speak to teachers in See Me After Class Office Hours is something I’ve come to think of as “the treadmill problem.” The treadmill problem shows up in different ways for different teachers, but there’s a common pattern. Teachers often hit the ground running at the beginning of the year, pushing harder in response to each challenge. What you can’t do today you over-promise for tomorrow, notching your professional treadmill a bit higher each time, until—suddenly—good intentions aren’t enough to keep up. You’re out of breath. And if you don’t slow this thing down, you’re going to fall off.
Here are some signs your teaching treadmill is turned up too high, and how I may be able to help you turn down the setting.
Your best ideas are falling into the good-intentions abyss.
Upkeep is often where teachers’ best intentions go to die. Once the school year is underway, teachers often find themselves surrounded by the remnants of well-intended ideas. Office Hours can help you figure out how to streamline and what to sideline. We’ll work to get more of your classroom on autopilot so you can spend more time relying on your strengths as a teacher.
Your desk looks like you are building a fort.
Stacks of manila folders and binders cover every flat surface of your classroom, climbing toward the ceiling in ever-more-precarious piles like a game of Jenga. There may or may not be additional piles in the back seat of your car, or on your ironing board at home. Also. . . for some reason. . . you keep misplacing your stapler. An Office Hours session can help you set up an organization system that doesn’t require you to be an organization wizard.
You’re operating on the “Oh, s#*t!!!” time-management system.
Time and space are connected. After creating files to keep papers from collecting on your desk, you need to designate slots of time in which to keep papers from collecting in your files. If you don’t, you will place yourself on the “Oh, s#*t!!!” time-management system, in which tasks divide themselves into two categories: things that can wait until tomorrow, and things that (“Oh, s#*t!”) can’t. A little help now can help you organize your time in a realistic way and get a handle on your schedule for the long term.
You’re falling asleep on your couch and waking up the next morning with your shoes still on.
Sometimes, it seems like you should have the time to take your car to the mechanic and still get those papers graded. Maybe you even planned to multi-task and finish grading while you were waiting for your car to get fixed! And yet, when the moment finally arrives, you’re too tired or overwhelmed to do either one. Office Hours sessions can help you plan realistically around your energy levels at different points in the week so that you can get the most benefit from your time.
Your to-do list is actually a growing list of un-cross-off-able goals to feel guilty about.
Teachers are their own secretaries. Nothing is a bigger reminder of this than looking at a to-do list of administrative tasks, especially one on which certain items seem to be permanent residents. During Office Hours, we can discuss how to identify and avoid certain to-do list pitfalls, helping you get closer to a list of things that are actually doable—and then done.
“What’s a personal life?” you just asked, with a knowing, bitter laugh.
You may be wondering when you’ll have time to meet and date people, or whether your existing relationship or friendships will last, or whether you’ll have time to spend with your own kids. Office Hours can help you regain perspective and remember that it is possible to take care of your students, and yourself, and your life outside of teaching. Because yes, you are supposed to have a life outside of teaching.