Teaching Truth #3: You Can’t Do It All!

During my career as a teacher, I had the opportunity to work for both a very small, rural district and a very large, urban district. One thing that was true for both of them, perhaps more so for the larger district (which received more federal funds), was that administration frequently introduced us to new “tools” for us to use in our classrooms.

In my eagerness to be the best teacher I could be, and also to be the best employee I could be, I would attend the workshops, read the books, and work towards implementing whatever new tool had been introduced. I quickly became frustrated and discouraged by the lack of time to do this. During the workshop, I would be excited about the new product and I’d see just how it would fit into my curriculum. Once home, or back in the classroom, I’d realize the number of hours it would take to actually integrate this new piece into my lesson plans.

It became a source of anxiety for me, as I would definitely see the benefits of using the new technology or strategy, but I’d never have the time to use it. I also could see that once I took the time to work it in, my job could even be made simpler — but that still didn’t mean that I actually HAD the time.

Once I went to work for the bigger district, this problem became even more stressful for me. This district had the funds to provide us with all kinds of technology “candy”, and it seemed that they would even purchase subscriptions to products that directly competed and duplicated each other!

It was during yet another workshop, which was introducing us to a really nice piece of technology, that I realized this teaching truth:

You cannot do it all.

What needs to happen in order for you to keep your sanity is for you to sit through those workshops, be excited, see how that new product would make your students more successful — then go home and don’t worry about it. Now, I’m not saying that you should go home and never look at that product again. I’m saying you should go home, don’t stress, and then really evaluate that new product. Evaluate it against other products you already use. Evaluate it against your curriculum. If you still feel like it would be a useful addition to your curriculum, don’t try to integrate it into every unit in which you see a place for it. Work on just one lesson that would integrate that technology. Deliver that lesson in class. Evaluate whether it actually did make a difference — what could you change? did it flop? is there no hope for this product in practical applications? Based on this evaluation, you can either forget about the new product completely, or you can take it one lesson at a time. Don’t think that you are going to get every single lesson for the rest of the year transformed. You may only get 2 or 3 for the entire year done – then focus on another 2 or 3 next year.

The bottom line is, you know what you are doing right now. Adding new technology or strategies into your curriculum is supposed to be an enhancement to what you already do — it shouldn’t make you a less effective teacher because of the stress that integration has caused you.  And, by the way, your administrators know about this teaching truth. They do not expect you to drop everything and convert to this new product 100% before your next lesson!

Take a breath.

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3 responses to “Teaching Truth #3: You Can’t Do It All!

  1. Why do you think my Tech Motto for 2008 is ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’? Frustration runs high when we’re introduced to new tools, see the potential for our students, yet are given no additional time to develop, implement, and more importantly, reflect on its effectiveness. Now…take a moment to think…if WE feel this way, how must those who are less geekie than us feel?

  2. Good point – how MUST people who are already on a bit of a shaky foundation technologically feel when they have so much to sort through?

  3. elementarytechteacher

    Nancy, I agree and as the new elementary tech teacher in my district I’m trying to get the point across to the powers to be that we have to start supporting teachers by giving them time to practice a new technology and then coming back and discussing it and giving them a little more information and then more time to work with and so on. When we show teachers something new and then never come back to it or wait another year to do so most teacher just forget it and don’t try at our school.

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