Friday, January 7, 2011

Week 14: The Art Of Plate Spinning

One of my mentor teachers described being a teacher as doing one of those Plate Spinning acts.

What does teaching have to do with running around like a maniac trying to keep plates spinning? For example, I was helping with the middle school and high school choral concert last month while at the same time planning the elementary school Holiday concert.  I kept having to check in on both events and do work for both of them to make sure that the “plates kept spinning.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about this subject to get sympathy.  Many other jobs require you to keep multiple projects in development at the same time. What I’m considering is how you maintain your sanity while keeping plates spinning, because you do not want to look like the guy running around like a maniac in your office while you try to keep things going. Because at my first teaching job I was that maniac and I wasn’t very successful in that case keeping the plates up in the air.

One answer is to multi-task. Well, the most recent psychological research shows that multi-tasking is an illusion and is really just switching between tasks quickly doing a mediocre job at each task. Let’s give that one up.  What I keep going back to is something my mom told me growing up, “do one thing at a time.” She’s right because that’s all you can do.

Maybe spinning plates isn’t the best analogy because here’s the thing: the worst thing that can go wrong in my day isn't that bad.  No one will get hurt if a student doesn’t learn as much as he or she should because I’m not effectively teaching them. It’s not a doctor who on a bad day loses a patient. Even when things do badly for me plates don’t really crash on the ground.

Yes, I have to keep a lot of things going as a teacher and sometimes it seems overwhelming but with a healthy does of perspective, camaraderie from fellow teachers and the energy we get from students sanity can prevail even in the craziest of times.

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