As teachers (and humans, really), we are provided with steps and formulas to follow in implementing great strategies, fixing our classroom management, and all other things teacher-life, at what seems like every turn. And I knowingly contribute to this, although I hope that my advice is valuable and helpful, but in this episode I hope to provide you with something NOT to, multiple steps NOT to take when it comes to improving upon and implementing strategies in your classroom.
And it really comes down to one piece of advice.
After listening to this episode you will know this ONE thing you shouldn’t do in your classroom because in not doing iit you’ll serve your own sustainability and your effectiveness with your students. You’ll feel empowered and ready to take next steps in strengthening your sustainable teacher-life.
So let’s get to it.
Picture this teacher-scenario really quickly. You want to make a change in your classroom, and regardless of what it is, you either don’t ask for professional development in that area or get the strong notion that that’s just not a thing - for a teacher to request specific pd in a specific area for only her own benefit.
Now, I’m calling out my own negativity here because that whole spiel I just gave was a bit negative, and it simply is not the case in all schools that teachers aren’t supported in every classroom or professional desire they may have.
But it doesn’t make it any less true that most teachers, for many legitimate, but still unfortunate reasons we won’t get into here, are left to their own devices when it comes to trying out something new in their classrooms and implementing it with the help of someone who has done it before.
Likewise, when we are given a new course or grade level to teach, whether that is as a new teacher or just new to the course, if there wasn’t a teacher you’re taking over for who is readily giving you everything and is available as a mentor, or if there’s not a team you are working on and can collaboratively prepare and teach with, then you are on an island to make it all happen for your classroom and students.
This is what I call the teacher DIY status quo of education.
And here’s where it really burns me, and prepare yourself to be triggered because I’m being brutally honest… teachers aren’t expert enough to make important decisions at the school, district, or state level at the capacity that they should but we are expert enough to just figure everything out for ourselves?
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the autonomy a teacher holds over her classroom. It actually was probably my favorite aspect of teaching. But not having to DIY absolutely everything would be rather nice as well.
And that my friend is the ONE thing you should NOT do in your classroom, especially as you take the summer to work on your classroom and not in your classroom to improve it and prepare for the new normal of education.
Don’t DIY everything in your classroom. It’s no longer necessary. Even if you feel like you are entirely on an island (figuratively speaking, of course) teaching a course by yourself with little support from anyone who’s done it before, there are so so many options now a days that you can turn to to close that gap and make sure you are supported and surrounded by other teachers doing the same exact thing you are - whether that’s with a new strategy or in a new course or subject area.
And I have three key points I want to make about this, rather three key ways you can avoid the DIY status quo of education. And I’ll get to those in just a minute.
But first let’s talk about why DIY is burning out most teachers. Now, not all teachers burn out because of the DIY. In fact, I know multiple colleagues and I myself even loved the a spect of teaching that is to build things from scratch and make something really awesome and effective. But I also know the total time suck that can be, and no matter how wonderful the resource or lesson may have been, the time it took to create it sure did overshadow its amazingness a bit.
But here’s the thing. Instead of spending hours DIYing everything about your classroom, you want to connect with students, not necessarily build everything from scratch. You want to analyze your formative data so that it truly informs your instruction then use resources to your students’ advantage rather than spending hours building those resources.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t tweak any resource you use to make sure it fits in your context and for your students, but making it from scratch, 75-90% of the time is just not necessary anymore.
And the same goes for when you want to implement a new strategy.
Let’s just say that you want to do something like flip your classroom next year and you want to take the summer to actually be intentional about that change and implement it well so that you KNOW without a doubt that your hard work will pay off.
I’m just going to call this exactly the way it is. If you want to make a change in your classroom, one that is well thought out and planned, if Pinterest or Google is where you go for the majority of your assistance and guidance, you are going to spend ten times the amount of time on implementing that new strategy than if you sought the guidance of someone who has done it before.
Now I say this as someone who is possibly obsessed with Pinterest, and I use Google so often that it practically just knows what I’m going to ask it now. So please hear me when I say that using Pinterest and Google is not bad. But using it as your only resource to implement a sound and intentional strategy in your classroom is not a professional move we should be making as talented, expert-teachers that we are.
Imagine if you are touring preschools for your little one. You go see a few local options, asking all the questions, and go to make your decision. When one of those preschools tells you that they get most of their materials and curriculum from just Pinteresting it, you don’t send your little tyke there. Yes, that happened to me.
So what do we do instead? We are so used to the DIY thing in teaching that the thought of anything else seems foreign, so I want to help. I have three suggestions for you in this episode and want to say before I get to them that Pinterest and Google will very well be where you find any of these options, possibly. But if we change what we’re looking for to these three things, then we’ll definitely avoid DIYing everything.
Find a mentor
Not one that you are necessarily assigned, although those can be great too, and it doesn’t have to be one-on-one. There are tons of teachers offering up their expertise and experience to learn from for other teachers. Find one in a specific area where you are wanting to make a change.
This could be someone you follow on Instagram or a Facebook group you belong to full of teachers of the same course that you teach. An example I offer is in flipping classrooms. It’s why I give the one-hour online workshop that’s open right now for r registration, as well as a Facebook group where I go live with weekly training, and even do some training live on my Facebook business page.
My ultimate mentorship offer is through my online course. It is the ultimate access to my experience in flipping classrooms and getting step-by-step guidance on how to intentionally build and implement a thriving flipped classroom without all the DIY and hassle of trial-and-error.
To learn more about this course, join us in the limited time (FREE) workshop on the flipped classroom where I'll give you valuable training and steps to take, but will also introduce my course, Flipped Classroom Formula™.
Find a content coach
So many teachers are told at the last minute that they’ll be teaching a brand new course they’ve never taught before or a different grade level entirely. Having multiple preps (having 4 or more preps is an absolute reality for so many teachers) and/or having new preps each year is NOT sustainable.
It’s a quick way to lose teachers. But it’s also a reality that many schools can’t necessarily avoid. We have to teach where the students want to learn, and that means switching and having many preps, especially in smaller schools.
So, is it unfortunate and unsustainable? Yes.
But is there something we can do about it if our sustainability and the sustainability of our teachers matters? Absolutely.
And that is through a content coach. A teacher who has taught the course before and has materials and advice to offer up.
You can find these teachers in similar places that I described for the last pointer, but the amount of teachers offering comprehensive support programs in specific grade-level or course areas is astounding.
An example of this that I offer is one for AP® Psychology teachers. It’s a monthly membership called The Sustainable Psych Teacher where I provide all unit materials, content coaching, live Q&A, and lots of other fun events in our private Facebook group. It really is an amazing group of teachers - shout out to all my Sustainable Psych Teachers, you guys rock. And we’re actually expanding into other content areas in the very near future, so stay tuned for that.
Effective, Not Perfect
Lastly, to avoid DIYing everything, and to help you in that venture, remember this mantra - well-planned not perfectly formatted is the goal… effective, not perfect. This means that your expectations are crystal clear to students, everything kids are doing has a purpose and is aligned to standards (it’s not just fluff or busy work), and transitions happen smoothly (emphasizing the why to your students here is crucial). Having perfect color schemes and formatting of your resources is NOT what it’s about. Having working links… yea, that is what it’s about.
Don’t succumb to the pressure to have Instagram or Pinterest-perfect classrooms. Don’t feel pressured to do classroom transformations at the drop of a hat or at all if that’s not your thing. How much we can invest in our classroom from year to year flows with our seasons of life, so don’t feel guilty if those sorts of things aren’t happening for you this year or next or in five years or at all. Remember, Perfect is not the goal. Effective, with a side of human connection with our kids… yea, that’s the goal.
And there you have it teacher-friend… the ONE thing you should NOT be doing in your classroom, especially as we approach the new normal in education, is DIYing everything. Even if you pick one area where you are a total rockstar and you DIY there, yes! That is so awesome! But find other areas where you can implement one of the three pieces of advice I gave on this episode, and those are:
Now that you’ve listened to this episode, you know to fight the DIY status quo of education, because in not doing everything yourself from scratch you’ll serve your own sustainability and your effectiveness with students. I hope you feel empowered and ready to take next steps in strengthening your sustainable teacher-life.
In that light, I want to invite you to the limited time online teacher workshop, 3 Insights to Flipping Your Classroom: Being More Sustainable in the New Normal, a one-hour online PD session where I’ll be live from my home office and speaking from my 10 years of flipped classroom experience. There are limited seats available so you want to get registered as soon as possible, and when we’re finished I’ll send you a PD certificate for your CEUs. I hope to see you there.
Alright, I’ll see you, same time, same place, next week. Bye for now.
Don't miss the opportunity of my free, one-hour workshop on the flipped classroom that starts TONIGHT (at the time that this episode airs), and will have four total LIVE workshop offerings. So it will go away... don't miss it 😀