In this episode, Kasey chats with Dan Jackson, author of Work Less, Teach More. Dan shares strategies that will help you save time, prioritize what’s important personally and professionally, and become a more effective teacher!
Dan grew up in a family of teachers and became one himself in 2006. Teaching gave him the flexibility to continue with University courses and a nice income. However, several years into his career Dan found himself burnt out. In the time that he took off from the classroom, Dan started an online company. Through this business adventure, Dan discovered that he and most likely other teachers were making it much harder than it needed to be.
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How to Work LESS and Become a More Effective Teacher
Work Less, Teach More
Many teachers in today’s classrooms are being asked to do more than in previous years. With a nationwide teacher shortage, as well as a substitute teacher shortage, many educators are forced to give up their individual planning time to cover for these shortages. Many educators are feeling burned out in the current system. The environment of a worldwide pandemic has played a role, but teachers were feeling overworked well before a pandemic hit.
Dan shares in his book that the system may be part of the problem, but we can’t keep contributing to the problem. Educators must do what’s best for students and themselves. Dan also begins his book by clearly stating that the content is not about productivity or efficiency, it’s about being effective.
There is a universal perception that only the teachers who go above and beyond are the ones that love and care for their students. The stereotypical “perfect” teacher, who makes that major impact on a child’s life because they spent extra time for them, is not a reality. The reality is that over the course of a child’s education they generally have upwards of 13 teachers and each of those teachers will have some kind of an impact.
Teaching is a paid profession. Albeit not usually a high-paying profession, but at the end of the day it’s the job you have been paid to do. Completing tasks outside that timeframe is a choice. You can choose to spend an extra four hours working by waking up early or staying up late, however, lack of sleep is not going to make you an effective teacher. Setting boundaries on your time allows you to look after yourself, which allows you to be there for your students.
When we give ourselves start and stop times the work will expand to fill that time. For example, when we set a deadline of three weeks from today it will take that much time. So if we give ourselves only one week to complete the project then it will be completed in that amount of time. Time limits also require us to prioritize the most important tasks and not allow distractions to derail completing tasks.
Through Dan’s research, he discovered how being out in nature allows your brain to switch off in a way it’s not always able to. Consider all the ways your brain must continuously process information when the environment is much more crowded and busy. In nature, there is a stillness and peace that allows your brain to refresh.
Green time, anywhere from 5-15 minutes outside, will give your brain enough of a chance to refresh before going back to work. Dan shares that in his experience time spent outside was often more energizing than drinking a cup of coffee.
The Pomodoro technique is a time management system that encourages people to work with the time they have rather than against it. As Dan explained through setting time boundaries, this technique also utilizes short breaks between work periods. Combining this technique with green time breaks could increase productivity.
What Really Matters
Start by thinking beyond the day in front of you. Always prioritizing the current day stops you from thinking about important goals and values. Visualize the big picture first. Dan shares a unique exercise that asks you to visualize your funeral. Consider who are the people coming up to talk and what is it that they are saying. This makes it easy to identify the key people you’d like to impact with your life. Thinking about what you hope they say will give you a clear focus on how you’d like to be remembered.
Now it’s possible to establish goals and values for your life. Teachers may visualize former students coming to speak about the impact they made in their life. However, some may also expect that their own children would also speak to the impact they had as a parent. This struggle to find a balance between work and home will never be one with equal proportions.
However, if we only allow for those people who matter most to us to receive very little of our time and attention it sends the message that they are not important. Schools are a business, and if teachers are willing to give extra time without compensation no one will stop them.
Eisenhower’s matrix is a structure to help see which tasks need to be prioritized. Essentially, there are four quadrants labeled Do, Delay, Delegate, and Delete. Thinking about your daily teaching tasks that are important and urgent versus the tasks that are not important and not urgent will help you make a list in each category. “Do” will include all of the items that can only be done by you and are considered urgent. “Delay” includes tasks that need to be completed by you, but they are not urgent. “Delegate” is for items that do not need to be completed by you. This might be an area for growth, as many teachers find it necessary to complete many tasks that could just as easily be done by someone else. Students can be considered for many tasks teachers do daily. Finally, “delete” is meant for items that are not important and not urgent.
Practical Ways to Begin
There will always be seasons of busyness and seasons that are slower by nature. Accepting that but also planning ahead through the use of Eisenhower’s Matrix can help create more flow. Managing the time you have and being intentional about blocking time for each task can help alleviate any current workload. Scheduling tasks allows us to prioritize what’s truly urgent. Especially if we need more time to complete a task. Shifting tasks may be necessary, but keeping the important tasks priorities is also important.
Dan reminds listeners that watching television may be something we like to do, but when important tasks need to be done sacrificing that hour to complete a task has greater value. The same is true for the environment in which we choose to complete certain tasks. If there are too many distractions then it will take more time and we will be less effective.
To learn more about the tips and ideas that Dan has shared in this episode grab a copy of his book, Work Less, Teach More, released on Amazon starting today, November 30. Find more of Dan Jackson’s resources on his website Teachers PD.
About Dan Jackson
I have been teaching Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) since 2006 and have been involved with two professional bodies for my subject area. I was a regional representative for the PDHPE Teacher’s Association as well as a Board Member for the Australian Council of Health and Physical Education and Recreation NSW Branch.
I am currently a Google for Education Certified Trainer and Innovator as well as a Flipped Learning Certified Trainer. I am also the host of the Effective Teaching podcast and I love learning about education in order to help other teachers.
I currently work for myself with the goal to help teachers as much as I can in order to create authentic, rich and engaging learning in their classrooms which foster students who are self-sufficient, lifelong learners.
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