Always live up to your standards – by lowering them, if necessary.
Being an overachiever is my strength and my weakness. I think that is true for most teachers. We take our work home every day and regardless of how many snow days we have, we can never seem to get caught up.
It’s been a busy winter and I am teaching a new grade level. I became a bit overwhelmed at all there was to do and how terrible I was at keeping up with everything. During one of my whining spurts, my husband said to me, “How about this? Why don’t you just try to be average for a few weeks? Just until spring break. You don’t have to be bad at anything, just average. Be an average teacher so the kids learn, but don’t go overboard. Be an average mom without the guilt of all you are not doing. Let’s keep the house average — not perfect but not a total disaster. Then at spring break you can be an overachiever again.”
Wow! Scott doesn’t often give me advice and I realized that this piece of advice may have been the best he’d given me in the 25+ years we’d been married. The beauty of Scott’s advice was that there was an end in sight. I didn’t have to be average forever — just long enough to get caught up a bit and to breathe. I could do that. Scott knows me well, my identity is tied to my accomplishments. To let go of some standards forever would not have worked.
So, for the past four weeks, I’ve been average. When I had to cook dinner for a friend after her surgery, I relied on supermarket prepared foods and shortcuts for most of it. When I worked on a project, I didn’t obsess over little details. When I missed a day of blogging, I didn’t worry about it at all.
And here’s the thing. I have been more productive these last few weeks than I was during most of my overwhelmed overachiever life. Somehow, letting go of the perfectionism I was holding onto allowed me to get a lot of good work done, and I’ve been kinder to the people in my life. Without the stress of getting everything done and feeling overwhelmed, I had time to be more thoughtful and generous to those around me.
It took this little exercise for me to realize that I create lots of work and overthink things that don’t need to be thought about at all. It seems overthinking has become a hobby of mine.
Many times, my overthinking doesn’t make the outcome better at all. And sometimes that overachieving part of me makes me achieve less because I become overwhelmed and do nothing well.
Wanting to do my best at everything has taken away my ability to prioritize and to put my time and energy into the things that matter most. In my overwhelmed state, everything felt equally important. But in my month of being proudly average, I realized that there actually are important things to work on, and I let go of other tasks and responsibilities.
I am feeling back to myself now. A little less overwhelmed and exhausted and ready to jump back into work and life with a bit more energy. I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure as a teacher, as we all have. There are so many outside forces at work to make us feel like we are not “good enough,” But in my month of being average, I’ve realized that for me, some of the pressure comes from within, and that’s the part I have control over.
This week we consider the needs of English language learners. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Lead Contributor, Choice Literacy
Franki Sibberson has worked for over 20 years as a teacher at different grade levels and school librarian. Franki is the author or co-author of many books and videos on teaching reading in the intermediate grades. You can keep up with Franki on the popular blog she writes with Mary Lee Hahn, A Year of Reading.
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From the Choice Literacy archives, Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan have advice for Selecting Texts for Strategy Instruction with English Language Learners in Mind:
Ruth Shagoury talks about working with young English language learners and their families in a new podcast:
Larry Ferlazzo has posted a comprehensive list of his all-time favorite resources, articles, and blog posts for teachers of English language learners:
Alphabet books are a wonderful learning tool with young English language learners, and alphabet videos are just as fun. Amy Erin Borovoy presents a “Five Minute Film Festival” playlist of favorite alphabet videos:
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Jennifer Schwanke writes about the need for teachers to understand how phrasal verbs work and why it is essential to teach them explicitly to English language learners:
Maria Caplin shares her strategies for slowing down at the end of the year with her fifth graders and reflecting on the growth and learning that can’t easily be measured with tests:
Stella Villalba has advice about connecting nonfiction, young English language learners, and the Common Core:
Stella is also featured in this week’s video, where she confers with Hermione, a first grader who is also an English language learner. Hermione is combining research and writing as she writes a nonfiction report:
If you’re interested in more videos and feature articles on English language learners, there are dozens available in the ELL section of the website:
That’s all for this week!