What Teachers Should Be Thinking About on Friday
The last bell rang and students are on their way home. It’s Friday afternoon and the weekend is almost here! Some staff members are contemplating happy hour while others just want to rest. But before you pack your bag and head to the parking lot, I want you try the following three things. Trust me, you will thank me later.
Tying Up Loose Ends
You know that conversation that you didn’t have? The one with the parent who called because they were concerned about their child’s grade. Maybe you and a colleague had a disagreement, and while it wasn’t a big deal, it didn’t sit well with you. Or, it could be that you don’t like the way your administrator handled a situation that involved one of your students.
As much as you want to begin your weekend, you know it would be best to have that quick conversation. Oftentimes we think to ourselves, it can wait til’ Monday. And that’s true. I’m sure it can wait until Monday. Not having the conversation isn’t going to be the end of the world and you are not doing anything wrong by putting it off until next week.
If we don’t have that conversation or make the phone call, it’s going to nag you all weekend. Not to the point that it shuts us down. But it will linger and always be in the back of our mind. It goes away once we distract ourselves with some other weekend activity or maybe even a glorious nap. But it keeps showing up uninvited. And to be honest, it’s becoming annoying.
Call that parent. As much as you don’t want to. You know it probably won’t start off well. The message they left on your answering machine at school was not pleasant. But here’s the thing. Regardless of the result, you won’t wonder anymore. It won’t linger and you may find that you and the parent are on the same page. They will be appreciative that you called, although they might not express it at the time, and you will feel as if you have some closure.
That colleague that you had the minor disagreement with? I bet, especially since it’s Friday afternoon, that you two can sit down and work it out in a matter of minutes. Heck, maybe even over a drink or dinner at happy hour. It’s worth a shot isn’t it?
The most difficult conversation and the one that has you worried the most is the one you want to have with your principal. Ask them if they have a minute. Close the door. And calmly and professionally share what is on your mind. They will appreciate you coming to them with your concerns as opposed to gossiping about it in the teacher’s lounge. And nine times out of ten you both will leave the room in a better place and most importantly you will have said your peace. It is out of your hands now.
You will feel so much better knowing you didn’t put off until Monday what you could have done Friday afternoon. No lingering residue and no loose ends to tie up. Let the weekend begin.
Reminding Yourself What Went Well
Unfortunately, our brains are hardwired to hold onto and process negative events much more so than positive ones. A flower might smell wonderful and a cloud formation may be spectacular, but these memories don’t often linger.
On the other hand, a botched lesson, an angry parent or a confrontation with a student will most likely stick with us much longer. This is unfortunate, but true. I have been guilty of dwelling on negative events to the point where they caused me to forget about the happy ones. For the past 13 years I have worked with teachers in a supervisory role and I have tried to help them tip the balance.
I remind them how easy it is to have a great day filled with many victories and accomplishments only to have one negative interaction or experience erase them all. This sets off a downward negative spiral that tricks our brain into thinking that our day or week was bad when in fact just the opposite was the case.
This is when the negative self-talk begins. Every misstep, mistake and blunder from the day or the previous week races to the front of your brain to remind you that it’s there. A good and even a great week can be forgotten due to the ability of the negative memory to push to the front and remain.
There is a way to outsmart thousands of years of evolution. Remember, it’s not your fault that you dwell on the negative events from the day or from the week. The wiring of your brain is the result of thousands of years of evolution and having to survive and avoid danger. Your brain is designed to remember negative events to avoid them in the future.
On Friday afternoon, before heading home for the weekend, jot down a list of things that went well. I am certain it won’t be difficult. The student you reached for the first time. The parent you made a connection with. The new technology you tried and nailed. List as many as possible in 5 minutes.
Just five minutes. You can do that. If we can dwell on one negative event that occurred, we can certainly take 5 minutes to make a list of what went well. And maybe you don’t even write them down. Maybe you turn off your radio for one song and allow yourself 5 minutes of silence and calm to look back on what went well over the past five days.
Will this prevent us from remembering what didn’t go well? Of course not. But I think the lone negative event deserves a little competition up there in your head. Don’t you?
Putting Your Subconscious to Work
Okay, hear me out on this one. At first you might be thinking, Jon my subconscious is always working—too much in fact. And I agree. The same subconscious that will not let you rest when something is bothering you is the same one that you can begin to use to your benefit.
While this is a technique that can used any day of the week, I think Friday night is the perfect time to start. As Thomas Edison once said, “Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.” If we stop and think about it, we are already doing this. How many times have you been trying to remember the name of a movie or a song but just couldn’t? Yet, you knew it would come to you later while you were simply going about your day.
That was your subconscious working. You weren’t focused on remembering and you didn’t put any demands on your brain. But you knew that eventually the name would surface. Well it’s time to harness and direct that skill for tasks other than remembering movies or finding lost keys. It can be accomplished with a little bit of practice and patience.
This Friday night, before going to sleep, jot down a few things that you have you stumped. Maybe you are not sure how to arrange the seating in your classroom or maybe you’re not sure the best way to get your students to understand point of view in Hamlet. Write these concerns down on a pad that you keep by your bed. As Benjamin Hardy puts it in How This 10-Minute Routine Will Increase Your Creativity, “your goal is to direct your subconscious mind to create the outcomes you seek. Additionally, you want to tap into your subconscious mind to unlock connections and solutions to your problems and projects.”
Next, according to Hardy:
Consider the “requests” you made of your subconscious just before going to bed. You asked yourself loads of questions. You thought about and wrote down the things you’re trying to accomplish.
Now, first thing in the morning, when your creative brain is most attuned, after its subconscious workout while you slept, start writing down whatever comes to mind about those things.
I often get ideas for articles I’m going to write while doing these thought-dumps. I get ideas about how I can be a better husband and father to my three foster children. I get clarity about the goals I believe I should be pursuing. I get insights about people I need to connect with, or how I can improve my current relationships.
What a powerful machine our subconscious can be. It’s not like we’re not aware of this already, it’s just that, up until now, we’ve just never thought to tap into it. Now, let’s be real. We can’t go to sleep with a list of questions and wake up with answers neatly arranged in our heads. But, with practice, this technique, can provide us seeds and head starts that can lead to full blown solutions.
In the past, we’ve woken up worried about or reminded of things we need to do or haven’t done. Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up with the seed of a solution to a problem we’ve been trying to solve? Try it this Friday night. Why Friday night? Because it gives your subconscious three nights, before you go back to work, to begin searching for and working on solutions. Once you begin to see the benefit of planting these nightly seeds, I bet you’ll begin doing this every night.
Let the Weekend Begin
You’ve worked hard all week. It’s Friday and you are ready for some well-deserved rest and relaxation. The three suggestions above will help you enjoy your weekend even more. Hopefully you will have fewer worries that linger, more positive memories of your week and you will begin to figure things out while you sleep. And just remember, it’s only Friday. You have the weekend ahead of you.
*This is the first of an ongoing series I will continue each week; What Teachers Should Be Thinking About On ….
Cherry, Kendra, What Is the Negativity Bias?, retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/negative-bias-4589618 on 8/24/2019.
Hardy, Benjamin P., How This 10-Minute Routine Will Increase Your Creativity, retrieved from https://www.inc.com/benjamin-p-hardy/this-10-minute-routine-before-and-after-sleep-will-increase-your-creativity-and-.html on 8/25/2019.
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