What Teachers Should Be Thinking About on Monday

So here we go.

Another week.

You got this.

Today you have the opportunity to get a little momentum going. You don’t need a lot. Just enough so that you head into tomorrow, Tuesday, with a little more swag than you had the day before. It’s possible. In fact, I think it is likely if you follow the three suggestions below. One has to do with work. One has to do with play. And one has to do with people.

Check On Certain Students and Staff

While many of us may have had a fun and relaxing weekend, we must remember that the past weekend may have been very difficult for some staff and students. What can make a bad weekend even more difficult is hearing about everyone else’s great weekend.

Yes, some of us got to sleep in and go out to breakfast with our friends and family. Others? Maybe they had to work a second job that didn’t allow them to sleep in. Or maybe some kids didn’t have any breakfast food at home so all they had was a bag of chips or a soda.

The thing is, we don’t know. How could we? I mean we can’t be expected to know everyone’s story. Okay, then what can we do? In other words, what can we do to make Monday just a little bit better for staff and students that had crappy weekends?

We need to start doing a better job of noticing. The kind of noticing to which I am referring, goes beyond someone’s shoes or hair style. We need to pay attention to body language, mood and overall demeanor. Here’s the thing—we are good at this. It’s what we do for a living.

But …

Life can become so busy that our focus and our attention is divided such that we miss things. Important things. Like the fact that our colleague still has the hospital band on her wrist. She spent 5 hours in the Emergency Room Sunday night because her two-year old’s asthma was acting up again and she was barely able to drag herself out of bed and make it to work. We were so busy thinking about being observed 3rd period that we didn’t even notice something as obvious as a hospital arm band. It happens to all of us.

Something else, when we do in fact notice that one of students or colleagues is struggling, we should, quietly and respectfully, let them know that we notice. This isn’t to embarrass or call them out. It’s to show that we care. There may not be anything we can do to help them. But we can let them know that we see them and that we’re there if they need us. Being ignored or going unnoticed, especially when in pain, can be worse than the pain itself.

Why do I bring this up on Monday?

Shouldn’t we practice noticing every day of the week?

Absolutely. But I feel like Monday is the day that those that are suffering are the most vulnerable.

Take a few minutes to read Trevor Muir’s piece about a time when he spoke before learning a student’s story. If he had only checked on her. Once you’re finished reading his piece, listen to him share the experience. It’s powerful. It’s painful and it’s important.

Take the time and make the effort to notice.

It’s that important.

Begin With the End in Mind

I know. I know. You’ve heard this advice from Stephen Cover a million times. And yet we—I put myself at the top of this list—continue to wander aimlessly through weeks, months and years with nothing or very little to show for it at the end. But why? We all have good intentions once we begin the week or a project or a task. Yet, somehow once we get going, we lose our focus. We get caught so caught up in the doing that we lose sight of where we are going.

Try this. This Monday morning, on the way to work, visualize where you want to be on Friday. Now sometimes you need to check the pulse of the classroom on Monday to get an idea of what is possible for Friday. That’s okay. The time you take to gauge where you are and where you want to be is time well spent.

Set a classroom goal and share it with your students. Maybe you want your students to give 100 compliments by Friday. Maybe you want students to finish reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Friday. Or maybe you want the students in your fitness class to have worked every major muscle group at least once by the end of the week.

Obviously, you are going to have more than goal—more than one end in mind. But place your laser-like focus on just one of your goals. Too often, we become overwhelmed with so many different things that we end up doing poorly on everything. By placing your focus in one area, you have increased the likelihood that you will succeed in that area. Furthermore, you will increase your mental bandwidth because you are focusing on just one thing.

Guess what?

You’re still going to be trying to achieve your other goals. The only difference is, you are not overwhelming your brain and stretching your bandwidth too thin by focusing on too many things at once. Try this strategy for a week and see how it works. I think you’ll find that by the end of the week you will not only be more relaxed, you will also have reached more of your goals.

Give Yourself Something to Look Forward To

Okay, so far this piece has been super positive about Mondays. But trust me, I get it. Sometimes waking up early Monday morning after spending a few relaxing days with family and friends just plain stinks. Your weekend was awesome and you’re ready for another. But you got five days staring you down.

Try this Jedi mind trick.

Give yourself something to look forward to. And I don’t just mean Monday night. Give yourself something to look forward to on the weekend as well as each night of the week. And here’s the thing. What you are looking forward to doesn’t need to be expensive, elaborate or involved.

Maybe on Monday night you plan on sitting down with a bucket of popcorn and watching Breaking Bad with your spouse. Just an hour. But it’s your hour. So, if or when Monday gets rough, think about what you’re going to do that night. I don’t mean blank out and I am not talking about shirking your responsibilities. But sometimes we must take ourselves to other places and times so that we can make it through. There’s nothing wrong that. Plus, it works.

Better yet, try this with one of your students that is having a rough day. Take them aside and ask them what they are looking forward to when they get home. And when they say nothing—keep going. What I mean is search for even the smallest little thing that might make them smile or bring them joy. It may be something as simple as sitting on their couch eating a candy bar. Or maybe they are looking forward to talking to their girlfriend or boyfriend, on the phone, in private. Some students might just be ready to be somewhere where there is no noise, stress or demands placed upon them.

I get it. Mondays aren’t always easy and sometimes getting through them can be tough. I hope that is not always the case, but I am a realist. We all need something to look forward to—something to keep us going. Yes, school is our job and we are often passionate about what we do. But we all have those days and more often than not, they seem to fall on Mondays.

Start Your Week Off Right

Mondays can make or break your week just like mornings can make or break your day. Hopefully I have given you a few things to think about and a few strategies to try that will help you start your Monday off right. It’s perfectly normal to miss the weekend—but I also think it’s time we start heading into Mondays with a little more purpose and a little less dread.

 

*If you would like to have my next article and my latest podcast episode delivered to your in box just click HERE. And as an extra bonus, when you sign up for my newsletter you will receive “A Teacher’s Blueprint To The Best Week Ever”. This is a free, 40 page pdf designed to help you have an awesome week. It’s not what you think, trust me.

Related Pieces I Have Published Previously:

What Teachers Should Be Thinking About on Friday

What Teachers Should Be Thinking About on Saturday

What Teachers Should Be Thinking About on Sunday

The Night Before Tomorrow

What Teachers Should Be Thinking About On Sunday

The last time I checked, Sunday had the same number of hours as Saturday. And yet we often act as if the weekend is over once we wake up Sunday morning. Why? Well, that question was rhetorical because I myself have wasted many a good Sunday just worrying about Monday. It is time for us to stop wasting our Sundays worrying about Monday. Heck, it is time to stop worrying about Mondays. This is the third piece in a seven-part series that is aimed at helping teachers get the most of each day. If you have not read What Teachers Should Be Thinking About On Saturday, I suggest you take a few minutes to do so now. If you haven’t and don’t have time that’s okay, I think you will still find today’s piece instrumental in helping you have an awesome Sunday.

Visualize Your Ideal Monday Morning

Oftentimes we are so worried about Monday morning rolling around that we forget to fully capture Sunday‘s potential. We allow negative images of Monday morning to wreak havoc on our entire Sunday.

From now on, do this:

Think about what you want your Monday morning to look like, feel like, sound like? I imagine, if you’re anything like me, you have a clear picture in your head of what could go wrong on Monday or what worries you about Monday. Hopefully, some of the suggestions I have given in the previous pieces in this series have helped to lessen, if not eliminate, your worries about Monday.

But right now, find a quiet place and visualize your ideal Monday morning. Start from when you first open your eyes and end with the first words you speak to your first class. Most likely there are several hours in between those two times.

And I am not so naive as to think that everything you want to happen, will happen. But I do believe that visualization is a powerful tool. It can help prepare and set yourself up for success. For example:

  • If you visualize yourself waking up refreshed => go to bed early
  • If you visualize yourself having a healthy breakfast => get everything out the night before
  • If you visualize yourself exercising => have your workout clothes ready and laid out by your bed
  • If you visualize your first period going well => think about how you are going to greet each student

Most likely, you’ve heard about how athletes from Serena Williams to Tom Brady practice visualization to help them reach high levels of performance. Yeah, but Jon they’re world class athletes, I’m just a teacher. First, don’t ever say you’re just a teacher and second, visualization works in all fields at all levels.

Positive visualization not only helps you see yourself in a more positive light, it helps you perform better. And you don’t need to be in the U.S. Open Finals or the Super Bowl to take advantage of the benefits.

In her article, Visualization: Dominate Your Career Like Serena Williams, social researcher and therapist, Dr. Kesha Moore, says that

Visualization strengthens existing neurological pathways as well as creates new ones. Through visualization we “rewire” our physical bodies. In 2007, the North American Journal of Psychology published a study reporting that athletes accomplished almost comparable gains in strength through mental exercises (visualizations) as those who actually did the exercises on weight machines. If visualization is this powerful alone, imagine how it can improve your performance when combined with physical practice.

Dr. Moore goes on to provide suggestions to help with positive visualization.

  1. Using all five senses, repeatedly imagine yourself performing the task with the desired result.
  2. Imagine yourself as the “hero” in the story, not the outside observer.
  3. Practice visualizing often.

You can do this!

One thing is certain though. Actually, two things. First, if you don’t prepare a little bit on Sunday then your Monday morning will not be as you visualized. Great Monday mornings don’t just happen by accident. They take a little preparation. Not much, but a few minutes here and there are all you need to have the Monday morning you had envisioned. Second, remember that stuff happens and everything will not always go according to plan. But visualization can help you begin to stack the odds in your favor. 

Set Aside Time For Three Deep Work Blocks (just 20 minutes each)

I know, I know. At first, this sounds like a lot. But remember, if you read What Teachers Should Be Thinking About On Saturday and your action steps are set up, these blocks are all ready to go. You know what you have to do and now it’s just a matter of taking that next step to move the project forward. Furthermore, depending on what you have to accomplish, you may be able to accomplish everything in two deep work blocks.

Once again (I talked about this in the previous post), I can’t stress enough how important it is that these short, 20-minute blocks be treated as sacred. To the best of your ability, make sure that each one is uninterrupted, focused and continuous. Remember, every time you have to switch tasks, it takes 10-20 minutes to regain your focus. Heck, that’s your entire block!

Now I realize that you have families, obligations, dogs, etc. And when you let others know that you do not want to be disturbed during the next 20 minutes, they may freak out a bit. But Daddy what if…? But Honey what if…? But, but, but..

Listen, the key to these blocks being successful is the fact that they are uninterrupted and focused. The selling point for you, when others balk at the fact that you can’t be interrupted, is that you’re only talking about 40-60 minutes. Tops! In the past, you tried to do your work for school in front of the television, while watching football or Game of Thrones, and your attention was so divided that it often took you three hours to complete one hour‘s worth of work.

Not anymore!

Now that you are a full-fledged member of the Deep Work Club (there’s not really a club, I kinda just made that up), you will be available and able to play, clean, run errands, do whatever for the majority of the day. And I am betting that the quality of what you accomplish during those 40-60 minutes will be much better than what you would have gotten done in front of the television or at the kitchen table while everyone is watching Stranger Things. Just a hunch, but I think I am right on this one. 

Decide on One Tiny Little Habit to Start on Monday

So often in life we look at others that are able to do things that we can’t or have things that we don’t and think that there is no way that could ever be us. Well, as long as we think that way, we are right. But I know a secret that can help transform your life. It takes little time and very little effort. And at the end of a year, you will look back and be amazed at what you were able to accomplish with just this little Sunday night ritual.

This isn’t about getting 1% better each day (Atomic Habits) and this isn’t about building up to something big. I am talking about the accumulation of 52 small habits by the end of the year. By themselves, these habits are small and barely noticeable, if they are noticeable at all.

But, here’s the thing.

You will notice them.

And you will feel better about yourself as a result of these 52 tiny little habits.

Furthermore, let’s be real. if you take on 52 new habits this year, even though they are small, the odds are that you are not going to continue with all of them. Maybe half of them stick. That’s okay. Think about it. If someone told you that this time next year you will have begun and maintained 26 new habits, you would probably think they were crazy. I know I would.

The key is that the habits must be small and they must me simple. For example, this week I am going to try to stop biting my fingernails. Not a big life change and not a habit that requires much work. I have clipped my nails so that they are short and I have filed the jagged edges. Now it is just up to me to try to not bite them. Of course, I am going to forget and slip up. But maybe after a week I will be closer. Then maybe a month later I will have stopped biting them altogether.

What are some other examples of small habits that you could start on Monday?

  • Do not look at your cell phone for the first 10 minutes upon waking up
  • Drink a glass of water before every meal
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible
  • Read 5 pages a night of the book you’ve been meaning to finish
  • Walk around the block without your phone and just notice what you see, hear and smell

As you can see, these aren’t habits that are going to immediately change your life? Or are they? I believe they have the potential to do just that. First, you are beginning the habit of making little promises to yourself. Yes, some you will break. But many you will keep. That will feel good. Next, each week you will be thinking of small little tweaks that will make the quality of your life better. Finally, never forget that it is the accumulation of small steps that lead to great strides. I know that is such a cliche´ but it’s true. So start thinking about what small habit you are going to start next Monday.

Sunday Can Be Fun-Day Again

It’s time for you to start enjoying your Sundays again. I mean really enjoying them without the thought of returning to work on Monday looming over you like a bad smell. Yes, you have to go back to work tomorrow. And yes, weekends are awesome. And yes, it is important that you are ready and prepared for work.

And you will be if you follow the suggestions I have laid out in my last two posts. I think with minimal work, done the right way, you will be more energized than ever once Monday rolls around.

Now go out and enjoy what’s left of your weekend.

*If you would like to have my next article and my latest podcast episode delivered to your in box just click HERE. And as an extra bonus, when you sign up for my newsletter you will receive “A Teacher’s Blueprint To The Best Week Ever”. This is a free, 40 page pdf designed to help you have an awesome week. It’s not what you think, trust me.

Resources:

Moore, Kesha. Visualization: Dominate Your Career Like Serena Williams, retrieved on 9/9/2019.

Newport, Cal. Deep Work.

Related Pieces I Have Published Previously:

What Teachers Should Be Thinking About on Friday

What Teachers Should Be Thinking About On Saturday

One Little Habit

What Teachers Should Be Thinking About On Saturday

Oh, the joy of Saturday. Sleeping in, college football and knowing you have another day before you go back to work, makes Saturday the favorite day of the week for most teachers. And yet, how many of us have gotten to Sunday evening and wondered where the weekend went? I for one have wasted many a Saturday. I have recently developed a plan that will help you feel as if you’re Saturday was not wasted. Not only that, it will help propel you into Sunday like you never have before.

Schedule 2 “Deep Work” Blocks (just 20 minutes each)

Cal Newport defines deep work as, “professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit.” Why would I suggest you put yourself through something that sounds so rigorous on a Saturday? Uhhh, because it works and it takes less than an hour.

I am recommending that you schedule two 20-minute deep work blocks on Saturday. They might be first thing in the morning. They could be in the afternoon. Or you could spread them out—one in the morning and one in the afternoon. When you schedule them is not important—that you schedule them is.

The first deep work block should be a brain dump. Many folks, the most prominent being David Allen, have written about the importance of getting what is in our heads, out of our heads and down on paper. So, for 15-minutes, write down everything teacher-related that is on your mind. Don’t stop. Don’t think. Don’t analyze. Just write. The purpose of this exercise is to free up space in your head. Once you put something down on paper, you know where it is and you no longer have to worry about remembering it.

You will need this list during your 2nd deep work block.

Once you hit the 15-minute mark, stop. Next, for 5 minutes take a look at the list and circle 3-5 items that you would like to tackle on Sunday. They don’t need to be projects or tasks that you finish, just things you want to spend some time moving forward the next day.

During your next deep work block of the day, you will plan action steps for the items you circled. Traditionally when we make lists, we simply put stuff down on paper. And that’s okay. But you can do better in just a short amount of time because during this next 20-minute block you are going to put an action step next to each of the items you circled. In other words, you are going to be more specific about exactly what it is you are going to do to move the project, task or job further.

For example:

  • Grade essays => score 3rd period’s essays for punctuation and word usage
  • Plan reading center => make a list of supplies needed to create suffix center
  • Write fraction lesson plan => brainstorm possible hooks for adding fractions with unlike denominators
  • Reread 1st act of Hamlet => Read 1st act of Hamlet and generate a list of possible questions students may have

Remember, you are only writing the specific action steps. Tomorrow, Sunday, you will begin to work on putting these actions into place.

There you have it. You just spent 40-minutes total, broken into two 20-minute blocks, and you are ready for the next day. In less than an hour, you probably accomplished more than you often do in several hours. Your day wasn’t disrupted and you can rest easy knowing that you are ready for Sunday.

Dedicate a Portion Of Your Day to Loved Ones

School weeks can be busy and because of the time we spend at school, we have less time than we’d like to spend with loved ones. It becomes a balancing act that often leaves us feeling guilty by the time Sunday evening rolls around. We look back on the weekend and we realize that we did not really spend any quality time with the people that matter most to us—our significant others, our children, our friends, our parents and yes our pets.

This is why it is necessary that you dedicate and plan a portion of your day to spending it with the people that matter most. As I mentioned above, the weekend has a way of getting away from us. How is this possible? I don’t know. But it happens and before we know it, it’s Sunday night and we wish we had just one more day.

Right about now, some of you might be thinking, Jon I spend my entire weekends with my loved ones, this isn’t a worry for me. And to that I say, awesome. I realize that we all have different schedules and different priorities and responsibilities on the weekend. I get it. I just know that, I often plan on spending most, if not all, of my weekend with my family. But somehow it gets away from me. A football game here, a nap there, mowing the lawn, etc. Before you know it, it’s Sunday night and you haven’t really spent any quality time with the ones that matter most to you.

Here’s the thing. You don’t need to plan elaborate activities and hours-long events for it to be considered quality time. Sometimes it may be as simple as going for a walk with you wife, dining at Panera with your daughter or playing a few video games with your son. Maybe your dog has been pent up all week just waiting to spend some time with you. Take her for a long walk on Saturday and maybe even Sunday. Or maybe, as KJ Dell Antonia suggests, you all just turn into jello in the same room—on your devices. That’s okay and it doesn’t make you a bad parent.

I say all of this because I don’t want you to get to Sunday and realize that there are tasks that you must complete and that you have no time left for your loved ones. Because then the guilt creeps in, you feel bad and it effects your mood and your whole evening.

By strategically planning to spend time with your loved ones on Saturday you have already eliminated the possibility for Sunday guilt. By no means am I saying that if you spend time with your family on Saturday you ignore them on Sunday. Not at all. Sundays are awesome. But this way, by planning this quality time on Saturday, you prevent feeling the Sunday guilt that has a way of creeping up on us all.

Take Time For You

Yes, we have jobs and yes, we have families and yes, we have obligations and responsibilities, but …

We must take time for ourselves. Like the airline stewardess cautions us before we take off and like Mandy Froehlich and I say each week on Teachers Aid, you must put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others. I know, it often goes against the way we are wired. We are wired to serve and to take of those around us. But in order to do so, we must take care of ourselves.

And Saturday is one of the best days to take a little, or a lot, of time for yourself. It is important that you set aside a large block of time for yourself on this day. What you do during that block of time is obviously up to you. Maybe you go for a long run. Maybe you find a quiet place to read that book you’ve been wanting to delve into. Or maybe you notice that Can’t Buy Me Love, Grease 2 or Breakin is on and you just have to watch them for the 31st time. Give yourself permission to do this. (BTW, I know I’m not the only one who loves these oldies but goodies).

Remember, you have already scheduled your two deep work blocks for the day so you don’t have to worry about school. This time is for you to forget about everything and just have fun, oftentimes mindless fun. Maybe you spend a few hours working on something that you are passion about that has nothing to do with school. Something that feeds your soul. Because while education is what we do, it is not who we are.

We are writers and dancers and preachers and runners and artists and activists and many many other things besides teachers. Take time Saturday to feed your soul. It is not selfish and you are not a bad husband or wife or parent for taking and needing this time to yourself. The people in your life that matter to you, need you to take this time.

They need you at your best and they want you to be happy and fulfilled. So, pack your headphones, your computer and your journal and settle in at your local coffee shop for a few hours. Or, go for that long bike ride in the country and make sure you stop periodically to take photos and take it in nature.

Remember this is your fuel. This is what is going to keep you going for the rest of the week. This is what keeps your soul alive. This is what you need. No guilt allowed.

Tomorrow is Sunday

Unlike past Sundays, you are prepared. You have generated a list of specific action steps. In other words, you won’t have to waste any time wondering where to start because you already know. I’m sure you’ll spend time with loved ones, but it won’t weigh on your mind as much as before because you spent quality time with them on Saturday. Finally, you gave yourself permission to spend time on something for you on Saturday. Hopefully, you can find some you time Sunday as well, but if you can’t, you won’t be frustrated because you got to spend some time Saturday feeding your soul.

Aren’t Saturdays the best?

*If you would like to have my next article and my latest podcast episode delivered to your in box just click HERE. And as an extra bonus, when you sign up for my newsletter you will receive “A Teacher’s Blueprint To The Best Week Ever”. This is a free, 40 page pdf designed to help you have an awesome week. It’s not what you think, trust me.

Sources:

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success in A Distracted World by Cal Newport

Related Pieces I Have Published Previously:

What Teachers Should Be Thinking About on Friday

I Got Nothing Done & It Was Great

Must Education Feed Your Soul?

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.

But …

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 ….

Sources:

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.

*If you would like to have my next article and my latest podcast episode delivered to your in box just click HERE. And as an extra bonus, when you sign up for my newsletter you will receive “A Teacher’s Blueprint To The Best Week Ever”. This is a free, 40 page pdf designed to help you have an awesome week. It’s not what you think, trust me.

Three Students You Need to Reach Right Away

Don’t the first few weeks of school always seem to fly by? It usually takes you a week or so to get back into the routine of waking up early—but before you know it, you’re up before the alarm even goes off. Depending on the size of your class or classes, you are getting to know your students and you probably know most of their names.

And while I know you try to connect with every student every day, I believe there are three students that you must reach right away. Let me explain why.

The New Kid in Town

At some point in our lives, each one of has been the new kid. Maybe you had to change schools when you were a child. Maybe you’ve changed schools recently. Or maybe you’ve recently switched grade levels or departments.

The thing is, we’ve all been there and it’s tough. You don’t know anybody or if you do, you’ve never worked with them before. Oftentimes, you feel as if you must re-establish yourself all over again. And it’s nerve wracking. You just want to fit in or at the very least, not stand out.

Imagine how new students feel. They know or believe that all eyes are on them. And while we try to reassure them that that’s not the case, we know that it is. Kids size each other up just like adults. The major difference is that adults usually have the benefit of being a bit more secure. They have gone through puberty and their brains are fully developed. Actually, I wonder about mine at times, but …

So, even though the new kid in your class seems to be fitting in with everyone, make the extra effort to check in with them. As we all know, it’s one thing to put on a mask and act as if everything is okay. It’s quite another to be okay.

Maybe eat lunch with them and a few other students. Getting to know everybody all at once can be overwhelming. I mean when was the last time you remembered the names of the 24 people you just met? This will give them the opportunity to get to know some of their peers without having to do so in front of a big crowd.

Or, call home and talk to their parent or guardian. Ask them how their child seems to be adjusting. Maybe they can give you some insight into what their child is feeling. Or maybe they’ll tell you that everything is fine. In that case, keep doing what you are doing. But keep an eye out. It’s never easy being the new kid.

The Kid That Flies Under the Radar

How many of us have felt invisible before? Like, if we didn’t go to work the next day nobody would even care or notice. Now, whether our feelings are justified is irrelevant. The fact that we feel that way can be brutal.

Now imagine being a kid that feels that way. A kid that does all the right things. They stay out of trouble. They get decent grades and they always come prepared. We all know that it’s often the students that require the most attention that get the most attention. Especially the first few weeks of school. You want your class to be orderly and conducive to learning. So, it’s the students that threaten that order that often receive the bulk of our attention. Which means who doesn’t get any attention?

The quiet kid.

The compliant kid.

The kid doing everything they are supposed to.

And because they remain quiet and calm and compliant, we often assume that everything is okay. We forget how difficult it is to follow every direction, rule and procedure. When was the last time you did? I can’t remember the last time I did. But I know it’s harder than it appears, and we need to recognize students that are putting forth this effort. They deserve our praise for working hard and helping make the class a better place.

We must remember that they may not stay this way for long. When they notice that aren’t being noticed. When you barely recognize that they’re there. Or when they get tired of always doing the right thing. They will. We all do! Doing the right all the time is exhausting and impossible. Let’s be real.

So, try to see who you are not seeing. Who have you not had to speak to? Speak to them. Who has not raised their hand? Call on them. Not to embarrass or call-out, but to recognize. Smack dab in the middle of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is belonging. It’s that important.

Believe me, I have been guilty of this my entire career. I often gave the most attention to the kids or adults that I felt needed it the most. And while I am sure my attention wasn’t wasted, I am certain that I could have divided it much better.

The Kid Whose Summer Wasn’t

Summer is my favorite season. And yes, it is because of the time that I get to spend with my family and traveling and relaxing by the pool. No, I didn’t get into education to have my summers off. And in my current role as a vice principal, I am an 11-month employee. So, I do work part of the summer. But having that month and the luxury of getting to, within reason, do whatever I want is wonderful.

And yet I know that, for some of our students, summer is a time they hope flies by quickly. They don’t get to go to the beach or travel the country or even simply relax in a cool air-conditioned room. No, summer sucks for many of our kids and we must remember that—especially those first few weeks of school.

Many students will be wearing their new outfits. They’ll be talking about their trip here and their weekend there. All the while, those kids that didn’t have a summer will be listening and feeling bad about their summer. They will think back to their summer and remember the hot days with no air conditioning, the nights where they didn’t get dinner or maybe even the fact that they didn’t get to simply just relax. Surrounded by noise, smoke and chaos for most of the summer—these students are looking forward to the comfort of your classroom.

Furthermore, please don’t think this all about social economics. There are students who live in luxury and have everything they could ever want, well almost everything, that still didn’t enjoy their summer. Maybe they were shipped off to camp after camp and never got to spend time with their family. Their parents meant well, but all their kids wanted was to spend some quality time with them and not 75 strangers at the local Y.

Whatever the situation, watch these students carefully. They will not return from their break as happy and as well rested as your other students. It may take them longer to adjust to your routines and they are not going to be as excited about Family Meetings in which students get to share what they did over the summer. Most likely they were ready for it to be over after the first week.

What do you do?

Give them options? Maybe ask them what they are most looking forward to this year. Or, have them talk about a kind thing they did for someone else. Oftentimes, these are the students that are caring for siblings, parents, grandparents and themselves. Give them a chance to shine by talking to them ahead of time.

Give them time to reset. School might be the only place that they are able to achieve any sense of calm. They will be ready soon—just not right away.

Give them personal attention. They didn’t receive any this summer and they felt like a number or a t-shirt. The kind that every camper had to wear, every day. All they want is a little attention. To be seen and to be noticed. You can give them that.

You’ll Find Them

Maybe you’re wondering how you will be able to pinpoint the three students above. Some of you may teach upwards of 200 students a semester. I mean how is it possible to know everything about every student. It’s not. But this is at least a start. And I believe if enough of us are on the lookout for them we can make a difference. In fact, I’m sure we can.

Further Reading:

You Don’t Have To Like It (Students Watch and Talk About Us, Anyways) | José Vilson

How We Pronounce Student Names, and Why it Matters  | Jennifer Gonzalez

Why Some Kids Hate Christmas | Trevor Muir

*If you would like to have my next article and my latest podcast episode delivered to your in box just click HERE. And as an extra bonus, when you sign up for my newsletter you will receive “A Teacher’s Blueprint To The Best Week Ever”. This is a free, 40 page pdf designed to help you have an awesome week. It’s not what you think, trust me.

%d bloggers like this: