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For Christmas my wife bought me a Netflix Roku.  It’ an amazing piece of technology. While I was on my holiday break I put it to good use and what a great stress reliever.  I was able to watch a ton of movies (in high-quality) on-demand.

Here’s how it basically works.  First you sign-up for the Neflix service and buy the Roku device (roughly $100).  You get the movie DVDs in the mail, but now with Roku you can watch UNLIMITED “Instant Watch” movies.  These “instant watch” movies comprise of about a quarter of my movies in queue.  With the Roku, you connect it to your TV and stream the videos directly to your tele.  It’s great quality, and I am even streaming this over our wireless network.  Set-up took less than 5 minutes – super easy.  We also have a HDTV which is great because Netflix is now offering HDTV movies through Roku.  There is no need to get the 3-DVDs in the mail plan for $15.99.  We are going to change plans, dropping down to the 1-DVD in the mail plus unlimited “instant watch” movies, saving around $85 a year.  This almost pays for the Roku itself, plus we get our most of our movies on-demand.

What’s a better way then to beat stress, but watching a great movie when you want?

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I came across an interesting post today.  I believe it accurately depicts the pressures we, as educators, face on a daily basis.  The post is an open letter to the next president-elect.

Dear Mr. Soon-to-be-President,

I’m a teacher and I’m tired.

Does that surprise you? Do you find it hard to believe that a guy who works “only 180 days a year” can be wiped out by November? Is it hard to believe that teaching can be exhausting?

It shouldn’t.

On top of the daily challenge of planning, instructing, assessing, remediating, and enriching to meet the individual needs of the 85-plus children that roll through my classroom each day, I wrestle with the constant mental pressure applied by a country caught in the grips of a “crisis mentality.

http://teacherleaders.typepad.com/the_tempered_radical/2008/11/letter-to-the-next-president.html

I just spoke with a friend that is student teaching.  The word “stress” popped up in our conversations several times.  He is doing what every student teacher does, putting 110% into the experience.  He is starting to feel fatigued and, overall, stressed from everything: lesson planning, school involvement, family communication, grading, paperwork, etc.

I shared with him one of my favorite quotes from Road to Teaching that reads:

The difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs.  The chicken is involved; the pig is committed.” – Martina Navratilova

While it’s important to be involved, my advice to my student teacher friend was not to be the pig.  Don’t over commit to activities outside of class and, in the end, you won’t get burned-out / slaughtered from the pressure.  For example, instead of committing to coach the basketball team, volunteer to be fill-in when needed or maybe even be the assistant coach.  Rather than taking lead on planning a big school-wide event, take a smaller role or just simply volunteer for a few hours.

Also, it’s okay to say “no.”  Your cooperating teacher, other teachers, and administrators understand that you are under a lot of pressure and you have some type of personal life outside of the school.

RESOURCE LINK

Road to Teaching: A Guide to Teacher Training, Student Teaching, and Finding a Job

The school year is definitely underway.  This past Sunday I spent (4-5) hours grading, calling parents, doing misc. paperwork, planning curriculum, and organizing my extra-curricula activities.  If this was a race I would say that I am sprinting.  Looking around and talking with my colleagues I would say they are sprinting as well.  And, why not?  It’s the beginning of the school year and we are energized to do a great job.  Yet, I have learned that we can’t keep this pace up for long.  By November or December teachers begin to burn-out and become sick. 

I have to remind myself to create a steady work pace that I can sustain throughout the year.  This involves being as productive as possible, and well organized, freeing up time for me.  An important part of this is NOT taking home my teacher bags full of school work every day.  Leave it!  The afternoon is yours.  Try to do this at least one day a week.  My other suggestion is to plan something special for that “afternoon off.”  Avoid becoming a zombie in front of the T.V.  Rather, invite friends over for cards, get some exercise, go to the beach, cook a meal for the family, or do something else out of the ordinary.  Make the day yours.  The outcome is you will come away feeling refreshed and at a work pace that is suitable for you.

Resource Links

Road to Teaching: A Guide to Teacher Training, Student Teaching, and Finding a Job

Student Teacher Topics

It dawned on me the other day how powerful lesson planning is.  It affects so many things: student learning, classroom atmosphere, student discipline, and, of all things, my mood.

Yesterday was a rough day.  I had not lesson planned for the 4 different classes I teach.  My planning period was eaten up by paperwork, parent phone calls, and a meeting.  The previous evening I had a personal obligation which didn’t allow me time to plan.  I had a basic idea of my learning objectives and how I was going to do it.  This lack of clarity and planning resulted in a horrible teaching day.  The day felt like it dragged on.  I felt disorganized, always trying to find this or that pile of paper.  I felt like I was always putting out fires, and running from one place to another.  The students became restless with the gaps in instruction.  Student learning was not at the level I expected.  Then, I became frustrated, which quickly transferred to my students.  At the end of the day I was drained, out of energy, and irritated.  The lack of lesson planning completely affected my mood, and, the outcome of my day.   I was stressed.

Today was a different day.  I had time in the morning to plan.  I created a comprehensive lesson plan for each of my classes.  The lessons were organized and I communicated my expectations and learning objectives to the students.  Students were engaged and had fun learning the various learning objectives.  The day flew by.  I was energized and realized that this is why I love teaching.  I practically didn’t have any stress.  There was not one discipline issue.  Students were happy and, most importantly, learning.

It’s amazing to see the stark difference between yesterday and today, and how lesson planning affected my day’s outcome in such a high degree.  I usually lesson plan, but after yesterday I am going to make sure that I wake up a little earlier or find some time to at least organize my thoughts for the days I am crunched for time.  The payoff is definitely worth it.