Less is More – A Personal Reflection on Work, Tech and Life

Ever feel overwhelmed?  I’d be willing to make a large bet that more than 90% of the people reading this will say loud and clear, “YES!”

That’s how I’ve been feeling lately with many things and I’ve been contemplating all the ways I can try and simplify things at school, at home, on the computer…

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was having a conversation with one of my close co-workers about how much we try to cram into our days at school with our students.  We constantly feel the pressure to do more, make it happen, but the time to do all that is just not there.

There have been many times since the beginning of this school year when I have said, “Stop, you are trying to do too much at once.”  I mean I have actually put myself on pause in the middle of class as I was about to hand out another assignment, start something new or try to get ‘just one more thing in before we leave’ and said, in my head, “Stop, it’s too much!”

What really needs to happen is for us to feel like we have the permission to do less, because we know that in the end that really means more gets accomplished.

Let’s face it.  It’s hard to say, “No.”  We want to do it all, help everyone, make our mark, make a difference: but sometimes we lose our way.  Take me and my tech journey.  I’ve been blogging faithfully three times a week for almost 2 years.  I feel quite a sense of accomplishment from that.  I’m proud that my content has been, in my opinion, strong.  I’m not in any way running out of ideas for posts.  There is SO much to contemplate and reflect on for that and this space I’ve created has truly made me a stronger, more effective educator.

The problem is that once we try to do too much, something’s got to give and, in some cases, things tend to drop out.  For example, with all the writing I’m trying to do and technology I’m keeping up on (not to mention the lesson planning and correcting that needs to happen on my own time…oh, ya and raising a family and being a good wife…), I feel like I’ve fallen off the Twittersphere.  Some of you may laugh, maybe even roll your eyes at that, but Twitter is a large part of a blogger’s world.  Creating and keeping a supportive PLN is so important.  I don’t want to stop, I want to find that balance.

Have you ever read Seth’s blog?  Seth Godin is Mr. Super Blogger Man and has a highly successful blog.  I really admire how each of his posts are short (unlike what I believe this post will end up being), to-the-point, and though-provoking.  With him, less is certainly more!  In some ways, on some days, I aspire to be like that.  Giving a seed of an idea that stays with you and grows with time.  That’s what I hope to do with my students, and with this blog.

So at this junction in my life, I’m trying to do a little fall cleaning of my home, my teaching and my online world – a decluttering, a streamlining, a re-prioritizing of my time and energy.

So, I offer you my plan, at least for now.

Online, I plan to cut down my posts to 2 times a week (Tuesday, Friday) and schedule in time each morning and some evenings to catch up with friends and trends on Twitter.  I want to use some found time on the computer to work on my new book Studio Days which I have self-inflicted a deadline of April 2012.

At school, my overall goal is to give myself the permission more often to slow down with my students and allow for the time dive into things worth while.  At times that will mean to spend extra time on those skills or students that need extra attention.  Less quantity will mean more quality.

And as for home, well, here are some examples of less in more:

  • less TV, more quality time with my kids
  • less clutter, more relaxed feel every time I turn to go into another room
  • less procrastination of house work during the week, more time on the week ends to enjoy
  • less junk food, more energy!
  • less toys, more involved play

I hope you don’t mind my getting a little personal here, but the way I see it, this site is not for the educational scholars who want to only talk curriculum and data.  It’s for real teachers, real administrators, real people who want to make a difference in education and in children’s lives.  And if we are to make a difference as we help others mold their own way, we need to talk about how we do that ourselves.

If you’ve made it this far in this post, you must been gettin’ me, so I ask you to please comment and let me know what your thoughts are.  Don’t just click a new link, but take a moment to ponder what “Less is More” means to you.  We must be supportive of each other if we are to be encouraging to our children and students.

 Image from www.premierdecorativestones.com/

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Article by Elizabeth Peterson

Elizabeth Peterson has devoted her life to education and to reaching out to other teachers who want to remain inspired. Mrs. Peterson teaches fourth grade in Amesbury, Massachusetts and is the host of www.theinspiredclassroom.com. She holds an M.Ed. in Education, “Arts and Learning” and a C.A.G.S. degree with a focus in “Arts Leadership and Learning.” Elizabeth is author of Inspired by Listening, a teacher resource book that includes a method of music integration she has developed and implemented into her own teaching. She teaches workshops and courses on the integration of the arts into the curriculum and organizes the annual summer Teacher Art Retreat. Mrs. Peterson believes there is a love of active, integrated learning in all children and from their enthusiasm, teachers can shape great opportunities to learn.
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18 Comments

  1. Justen Eason says:

    I have been struggling with this for the past month as well. I work full time at school as a teacher assistant and then work two-four hours every evening tutoring. While, I’m only 23, don’t have a family, and need the extra cash, it is very tiring to do this every week. My only day off is Saturday. Time is of the essence. I’ve virtually taken my blog and twitter feed to a crawl of what it used to be and will focus on the people around me to provide support during these stressful times. I don’t do any work outside of school because that is simply not an option. When I’m not at work my time is mine.

    • Thanks for your comment, Justen. I would agree about the Twitter at a crawl. I do feel like it’s hard to keep up like I used to. Seems like it’s just a great time to reprioritize the things that are most important…everything else will fall into place.

  2. Paige Vitulli says:

    I certainly can relate! This is such a timely post for me. I was just today discussing with a friend and colleague how we have almost desensitized ourselves to the overwhelmed feeling because it has become the norm. Finding balance and learning how to say no are in my future!

  3. Pam Harland says:

    I’m loving this, Liz! I’ve been thinking about this a lot since last Spring when I started finding it difficult to lose myself in a book– especially an adult book! I felt like something had happened to my brain. I seriously believe that all of the 140 character thoughts, Facebook posts, and text messages changed the way my brain works. I couldn’t concentrate entirely after a page of text with no graphics or links. I decided to stop all of the twitter and blogging when I’m home and devote some time every afternoon for quiet, uninterrupted reading. It was fought at first, but I think that my brain is rewiring itself, allowing me to focus and concentrate again. I read the book The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, in which he discusses the same phenomenon. Keep at it, sister!!

    • Hey Buddy! Interesting what you said here… We are at this point where we really need to make a conscious effort to stop and find balance. I’m so glad to hear you are finding time to read. (Is it paper or digital? I’m curious. 😉 )

      Just this summer I not only read ONE book (for our summer book club), but TWO. And they were both adult books (you know, for audiences over 13). It was so nice to have my Kindle with me and just whip it out and read for a few minutes here and there. It was kind of freeing!

      • Pam Harland says:

        I have a Kindle, but I still find it difficult to really “lose myself” in my reading. Instead, when I read on my Kindle there is always a little part of my brain continually making the decision to keep reading rather than to see if there might be a better book in the Kindle store that I could download in 30 seconds…

        I’m trying not to sound like a neophyte with technology- and I completely embrace it and promote it at work, but I really have to make an effort to shut it down during non-working hours.

        Thanks for the thought-provoking post! You’re the best!

        • That’s funny about the Kindle. Actually, I refuse to buy anything more than my Kindle for that very reason. I only want to read when I have it in front of me. If I try to read from my iPad, I can’t concentrate and there’s no way I’m going to get a digital reader that can do it all.

          I get so distracted on my computer… if I try to accomplish one thing, I end up starting about a dozen things and not getting any of them done! Ugh! There’s just too much!

          Thanks for the fun conversation. I miss teaching with you!

  4. Lisa says:

    Less is more and simple is better. I think in our efforts to do more, we also risk overwhelming kids. I think we feel so much pressure from the outside in that we are not slowing down to take things deeper. Instead, I feel as if teaching widens everyday with a sense of unheard of urgency. We are in a sense creating a burn-out factor. Teachable moments happen when we put things in perspective and slow down.

    ❀Lisa
    @teachingfriends
    Effective Teaching Articles Blog

  5. Hi Elizabeth, Thanks for writing a post that speaks for all classroom teachers trying to keep home/school balance, grow as professionals and serve children well each and every day. I appreciate your candor and ideas.

    I want schools to restructure so that passionate teachers like you are given some time to grow and share their craft on school time–it could be a model that gives individual teachers or collaborative groups several hours per term for study, share and reflection–time outside of the classroom.

    I’m excited about your book, Studio Days. It sounds very exciting. Have you blogged about it?

    Finally, I agree with you that it’s good to keep up with Twitter even when you’re busy as that’s a great place to generate new ideas and keep abreast of what’s happening in education.

    Take care. – Maureen

    • Maureen,
      Thank you for your comment. I love your idea for teachers to have time built into their day to, well, work on their craft. The short time we do have is never enough.

      And we all crave the community that can be built with our own co-workers. I don’t know what I would do without my teacher pals. And the supportive friends I have made on Twitter are the best! (like you!)

      I have written a few posts on the idea of Studio Days. Here is the link: https://theinspiredclassroom.com/tag/studio-days/ I’m looking forward to getting that out! 🙂

  6. Beth says:

    Cheers to everything you wrote! You know I am on the same page. As I told you this morning, I’ve been trying to just sit down and read this post for 2 days! Finally got to it..after ordering my Christmas cards – yes, Christmas cards. But I got 40% off if I ordered by today! You (we) are on the right track…less is more. Focus is a good thing for us, our families and our children. Can’t wait to talk more on Friday morning!

  7. I’ve been really working on embracing a more minimalist lifestyle lately, and it’s nice to see that other educators are also using this mindset. I hope that you find ways to achieve your goals both in the classroom and at home!

  8. I just did something that I’m pretty happy about! I took about 30 minutes and unsubscribed to about 20 newsletters/promotional emails that I get on a regular basis and don’t ever read. I would say that would give me back about 10 minutes a day of going through junk email. It was very easy and I’m not sure why I didn’t just do it earlier. Every email had an easy-to-find unsubscribe link at the bottom of their email. No guilt, no thinking I’ll read their content “some day”, just less – less emails to deal with…more quality time back in my day!

  9. Here I am, just about a year later, reading this and thinking, “Is there something about this season that makes me get this way?” A need for some streamlining, pondering how I spend my time: that is how I’ve been spending some of my time lately. (It must come with a new school year and the impending holiday season.)

    With Hurricane Sandy, I’m in the midst of two days off and I have loved having the time to spend playing games with my kids and organizing some much neglected piles!

    I hope everyone is doing well. I would love to hear how things are going a year later. Do you feel a cycle too?

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