Teachers Pay Teachers Is Not the Problem

 

(A few disclosures: I have a Teachers Pay Teachers account. I think I have two products for sale. Last month, I made 24 cents. So this isn’t something vital to my financial survival. Second, I don’t often buy things from Teachers Pay Teachers. I’ve probably downloaded five or six freebies and purchased two or three products in all my years of teaching. I disclose these things so you know I don’t really have a vested interest in TeachersPayTeachers. But I do have opinions.)

Teachers Pay Teachers is a divisive topic in education. On the one hand, millions of actual teachers use it, not only to find materials to use with students but to make money selling their own content. On the other hand, TpT receives a fair amount of criticism from a second group of teachers and those connected to education who aren’t teaching classrooms full of kids. The following popped up in my Twitter feed a couple of days ago and it represents the general sentiment of many critics:

 

TpT has been on the receiving end of growing criticism like this for the last few years. There are concerns about copyright infringement. Critics contend that the available materials are worksheet heavy (‘worksheets are bad’ being a relatively recent piece of conventional wisdom promulgated by a subset of vocal teachers). Some sellers have been accused of ripping off fellow teachers by copying their freely given content and selling it on TpT. Of course, there are also teachers who don’t like that their fellow educators are engaging in capitalism and hoping to make a buck. (I imagine a Venn diagram of people who feel this way and people who believe teachers should donate hours of their time every week to their employer would only have one circle.)

But perhaps the most persistent criticism, and the one reflected in the tweet above, is that TpT is a terrible source of instructional content. Like Mrs. Boyd, some hold this view with the same certainty that they believe cigarettes are bad for your health and Howard the Duck is a shit movie. The value judgment that wafts off of so many of these folks’ criticisms is that no good teacher would use anything from Teachers Pay Teachers.

Yet many teachers do. Why? For those who believe TpT is a heaping pile of steaming instructional garbage,  the only possible answer is that teachers lack access to quality curricula. And while that may be part of the answer, the more complete answer is that many teachers simply don’t share the opinion that TpT is an educational junkyard. For teachers in actual classrooms, there are a number of reasons why TpT is a valuable resource, and there are other reasons why critics’ disdain of TpT is misguided.

Why Teachers Use Teachers Pay Teachers

They Have No Curricula

Certainly, there are teachers who have no curriculum at all but are still expected to teach the standards. The recent report on Providence schools from Johns Hopkins makes this clear. Researchers wrote:

“Teachers, principals, and even students noted the lack of an established curricula as problematic. When asked about the fact that there were supposed to be just four curricula vetted by the district, we were told about multiple impediments: in one school, the new curriculum materials did not arrive until November and included no appropriate materials for IEP students. In other cases, it was clear that ambivalence about using a particular curriculum started at the top. In one school, the principal told us that the school had purchased Eureka [a math curriculum] but that s/he was “not a fan of programs” and so ‘considers Eureka more of a resource than a curriculum.’ Nevertheless, this principal intended to purchase three new ELA curricula next year.”

The report continues:

“In one school, the principal listed almost 20 different curricula, between math and ELA, that are in use.

“We use what we can find,” said an elementary school teacher in a group interview. Teachers in several schools told the team that they would “trade autonomy for a curriculum.”

This is what teachers do. They use what they can find. And it’s really easy to find things on Teachers Pay Teachers. Something is better than nothing, and TpT offers these teachers what their employers haven’t.

They Have Poor Curricula

Like the content on Teachers Pay Teachers, not all curriculum is created equal. Some of it stinks. And some districts purchase odiferous products. Teachers are the people who have to use the smelly lessons and they quickly learn just how offensive the emissions are. If teachers are stuck with stinky curriculum, they have two options: Keep using something that isn’t working or seek out better resources. That such a high percentage of teachers search for resources on Teachers Pay Teachers says less about these teachers’ unprofessionalism and more about how deficient they find the curricula they’ve been asked to use. If anything, the use of Teachers Pay Teachers indicates teachers’ earnest desire to find resources that engage and educate, not that they’re abdicating their instructional responsibilities. The graphic above could easily be seen as a good thing.

To Break the Monotony

While the above graphic was a lamentation for Mrs. Boyd, she ignored the stat on the top line: 83% of teachers use their district-adopted curriculum. My assumption about the 17% who don’t is that they may not even have a district-adopted curriculum. That means most teachers are willing to use the curriculum provided to them and do so regularly. That many of them also use Teachers Pay Teachers and Pinterest suggests that they sometimes find those curriculums lacking. How might they lack? In my experience, the programs can get monotonous over the course of a 180-day school year. Also, some lessons are boring. Sometimes, teachers feel the need to change things up and make lessons more engaging.

I teach bar graphs to my third graders. To understand them better, we create them. The way this is done in the Go Math! program is boring and it’s not a skill that students learn with one lesson. So I have a choice: Keep teaching students how to make bar graphs using the district-adopted curriculum, which is unengaging, or come up with something a little more exciting. If I’m feeling creative that day — a likelihood that becomes less and less so with each passing school day — I might come up with an original idea. More often, I google something like “Fun bar graph lesson for third graders.”

Guess which two websites show up at the top of the search results.

To Reteach or Extend

Some programs are good but don’t have enough. I may need to teach students how to create bar graphs three times but the program may only have one lesson and some remediation and enrichment ideas. Sometimes, students just need to do the same thing a few times in slightly different ways. Since my program doesn’t provide these additional opportunities, I have to look elsewhere. Twenty years ago, I would have made a trip down the hall and asked the old veteran in her swivel chair to check her file cabinet. These days, the Internet is faster and its file cabinet is larger.

To Have a Life

Some critics of Teachers Pay Teachers bemoan the fact that teachers aren’t designing their own lessons. They make the specious claim that teachers should be customizing lessons because each class is different and only a teacher who knows her students well can design an optimal lesson for those students’ particular needs. This argument is usually self-serving and detached from reality. People are far more alike than they are different. Third graders sitting in a Montana classroom are not different enough from third graders sitting in a Michigan classroom to justify the creation of customized lessons. Most teachers know this, which is why they’re perfectly fine using lessons created by other people, whether those people work for Pearson or are teachers in a neighboring state.

While I have argued that canned programs and easily available Common Core-aligned lessons have destroyed teacher motivation by removing autonomy from the classroom and robbing teachers of one of the more enjoyable aspects of the job (the creation of materials), I’m also a realist who knows that we would quickly accelerate the pace at which teachers are quitting if we expected them to still create all their own materials with all of the other expectations we’ve placed on them in the last 20 years. Most teachers have zero training in curriculum design, and for the sake of their own energy and mental health, they should take advantage of the fact that there are hundreds of lessons on nearly every topic at the click of a mouse. Chances are strong you’re not going to create the best bar graph lesson on the planet. Hundreds of better ones already exist; teachers should use them and save their time for the ridiculous number of other things they’re expected to do. 

Returning to the bar graph example, once I’ve decided I want to teach students how to make bar graphs in a more engaging way than that offered by my district-adopted curriculum, I now have a second choice:  I can create my own more exciting bar graph lesson or I can save my time for other things, especially since I know full well that there are probably hundreds of more exciting bar graph lessons on the Internet. I might even have an idea. I want students to graph the colors of Skittles in those little fun-size packets you get at Halloween. I could create my own bar graph template thing or I could click a few times, maybe spend a buck, and print out 25 of them in about two minutes. As someone who has to teach reading, writing, science, social studies, and math lessons every day, I can tell you that this is no choice at all. When I google “Skittles bar graph lesson,” guess which website shows up first? Why in the world would I spend my most precious resource making something that already exists and that’s probably better than anything I’m going to design? (And if you think you can make a better lesson than the hundreds already out there, then I invite you to read The IKEA Effect of Lesson Creation.)

Why Teachers Pay Teachers Is Not the Problem

It’s important to remember that Teachers Pay Teachers is a marketplace. As such, it’s no different from a Moroccan bazaar or a supermarket. Just like Amazon and your local Piggly Wiggly, there are some shady players operating within the marketplace and not everything available is of high quality. You can buy fresh fruit or a box of donuts. A good pillow or a flat P.O.S. A standards-aligned, high-engagement lesson on reducing fractions or a fluffy waste of time with lots of cutting and coloring. It’s up to the consumer to find what they need.  Any criticism of Teachers Pay Teachers is almost always a criticism of the buyers and sellers using Teachers Pay Teachers. The solution is not to remove all the junk but to educate consumers on junk’s identifying characteristics.

Some TpT and Pinterest critics lament that teachers are neglecting better resources for the ease of TpT. They point to excellent content on other websites. They share links and try to convince teachers that this site over here has excellent NGSS resources, and they’re free! This blog over here written by this high-performing math teacher is excellent and she shares free resources that align tightly with the standards. The state of Florida has links to standards-aligned content that’s been rated by some other website as high-quality.

But that’s the problem! TpT is like Amazon for many teachers: it’s the first place they check and it often shows up at the top of Google’s search results.

My local hardware store might be selling better nails at a lower price, but I’m still probably going to get my nails from Amazon because it’s faster, I’ve purchased other things from them before and been pleased with the results, and I don’t have to search high and low for the nails.

If there are people out there creating great stuff for teachers, they should be selling or giving away that stuff on Teachers Pay Teachers, just like brick and mortar stores list their products on Amazon. Content creators must go where the customers are, not expect the customers to find them, no matter how good (or inexpensive) their stuff is. That’s why my books are available on Amazon and I don’t sell them out of my garage. If Teachers Pay Teachers is where teachers are going to look for resources, then people who make excellent resources should offer their content there, not try to convince millions of people to visit thirty different websites which are always changing.

Inconsistent Arguments

Finally, every criticism of teachers who use Teachers Pay Teachers runs into a logical consistency problem.

If you think teachers should collaborate with colleagues in their building or via social media and share materials they’ve used successfully with students, then why would you have a problem with Teachers Pay Teachers, where teachers do the exact same thing but on a larger scale? Why would the size of the user pool change the quality of the lesson? Why would the fact that the products cost money negatively affect their quality?

If you believe teachers are, in fact, capable of creating excellent lessons, then why would you assume teachers are not offering excellent lessons on Teachers Pay Teachers?

If you think teachers are only buying garbage from Teachers Pay Teachers, then how can you have any confidence that they will be able to distinguish garbage from high-quality materials outside of Teachers Pay Teachers?

If you believe teachers should create their own lessons instead of downloading them, then why would you have confidence that teachers who can’t recognize quality content on Teachers Pay Teachers would be able to create quality content on their own? That’s like expecting a person who doesn’t know how to assess the quality of a car to be able to build a good one on their own.

 

There are many problems with education today. Too many students receive low-quality instruction. We would be better off if districts ensured their teachers knew the standards, provided those teachers with high-quality, standards-aligned curricula, and trained their teachers in its effective use. But blaming Teachers Pay Teachers for providing a marketplace where well-meaning teachers do what they’ve been doing since the beginning of formal education is directing your ire in the wrong direction. Teachers, almost all of them, want their students to learn and they do what they can to provide the best education within limits that are usually beyond their ability to control. Teachers Pay Teachers does nothing more than provide these teachers with a place to find materials other teachers have used. That some of those materials are good and some are bad doesn’t make Teachers Pay Teachers a problem; it makes it the same as every other marketplace.

 

 

 

Are Phones Distracting Teachers Too?

 

Guest Writer: Frankie Wallace

 

It’s hard to find anyone without a smartphone nowadays. Adults and kids alike seem to be glued to these handheld devices around the clock. While smartphones are meant to keep us connected and help us access useful information and tools, they can also end up causing a lot of problems — especially in the classroom. 

In 2015, Apple sold 300 million devices, which equates to just under 1 million devices being sold each day. The smartphone trend hasn’t stopped from there. In 2019, the number of smartphone users is expected to increase to 2.5 billion. It’s not just adults using these devices, either; about 56% of kids ages 8-12 in the U.S. have a smartphone, and that number increases when it comes to teenagers. It’s no surprise that smartphones in the classroom have become a problem in recent years. 

Cell phones can obviously be a distraction to students in school with so many apps, social media, and the ability to text friends. They’ve become such a problem, in fact, that some schools have pushed to ban them from the classroom. But is it just students who are distracted by smartphones, or are teachers struggling too? 

What Are the Risks of Too Much Smartphone Use?

Smartphone addiction is real, and the risk of it affecting adults is dangerously high. Don’t think you have a problem? Consider this: On average, smartphone users look at their device 80 times a day. This includes checking it right before bed and right when you wake up.

Reaching for your phone so often can be triggered by a variety of things, including the need to feel connected to social media, games, shopping, or even checking on work. Any type of content you could want is in the palm of your hand. Teachers certainly aren’t immune to this problem, and it’s important to understand the risks involved with too much smartphone use. 

The physical and mental implications of too much smartphone use include higher stress levels, anxiety, and sleep deprivation. If you can’t stay away from your phone, you also run the risk of being easily distracted, which can have fatal consequences. Smartphone use is a common problem when it comes to distracted driving. Even a few seconds with your eyes off the road to read a text message or to check Facebook can lead to a car accident. 

If you’re a teacher, the temptation to check your phone regularly can be even stronger, especially if you see kids with their phones out all day. Maybe you have a few minutes of silence while your students complete a test. Or maybe you’re itching to see what your friends have posted on social media in the last few hours and it distracts you from your lesson. Keep some of these risk factors in mind if you start to feel overly connected to your mobile device. If you feel like you’re struggling to stay away from it, you may need a more drastic solution. 

Do You Need a Smartphone Detox? 

Whether you’re constantly using your smartphone to access school-related information outside of school hours or you’re frequently being distracted by using your phone for personal reasons while in the classroom, you may need to evaluate your relationship with technology — a key component of having a healthy work-life balance. If you feel like you have too much of an attachment and don’t want to develop some of the issues listed above, it could be time for a digital detox. 

Detoxing from your smartphone can take many forms. It probably won’t be easy, which can tell you just how “addicted” you really might be. Try some of the following tips to try to make the process feel less overwhelming:

  • Hide your phone away during school hours so it’s out of sight.
  • Turn it off when you’re in school.
  • Download an app to keep you off your phone.
  • Practice being more mindful and living in the moment.
  • Leave your phone at home during the workday.

 

If you’re really struggling with a smartphone addiction, you may benefit from simply not having one. If you feel as though your phone has taken over your life in a negative way and you need a long-term break, you might consider getting rid of your phone entirely. If you decide to take this route, consider destroying your phone to make sure no one else gets their hands on any of your private information. 

How Can Teachers Use Smartphones for Good? 

It’s important to understand that smartphones aren’t all bad. Some schools and teachers have embraced the fact that they can be beneficial tools in a learning environment. In fact, some have actually started giving their students smartphones so they can do everything from sending emails to teachers to keeping track of their schedules and homework. 

Teachers can also benefit from using smartphones. They can keep track of their own schedule, remain connected with students, and even discover digital learning resources like flashcards, tests, and games that they can show to their students. Because this generation is growing up surrounded by technology, kids may be more likely to show interest in something educational if it’s presented to them in a familiar way, such as through an app. 

Smartphones aren’t going anywhere, and they’ll likely continue to become an even bigger part of our everyday lives. While they are unavoidable, it doesn’t mean they have to cause problems. If you’re a teacher, keep your job and your students your top priority. As long as rules and boundaries are set in place with smartphone usage in a school, both teachers and students alike can use them for good.

Squeeze Fewer Lemons

 

I have, on a few occasions, enjoyed a delicious glass of fresh squeezed lemonade. I would say it’s superior to the kind of lemonade I usually drink, which comes from this:

But that could just be priming at work; tell me it’s fresh squeezed and I’m inclined to believe it’s going to be better before even bringing the glass to my lips.

For the sake of this article, though, let’s say that fresh squeezed lemonade is, in fact, a better product than the stuff that comes from mixing flavored powder with water.

In spite of its superiority, how often do you drink it?

How often do you buy lemons and squeeze them yourself?

My guess is not very often, and for good reason. Fresh squeezed lemonade is a hassle to make, and while it might be better, it’s not that much better. The payoff is rarely worth the extra effort, especially when you have an alternative that takes seconds to make and tastes enough like real lemonade that you can overlook its inferiority.

We make choices like this all the time. We don’t need top-of-the-line running shoes because we just don’t log that many miles. The Kraft cheese is fine for our purposes; we don’t need the expensive artisan stuff for a cheeseburger. Sure, the $4500 saxophone produces a better sound, but the $270 one on Amazon will do.

Most people have no problem admitting they sometimes settle for an inferior product because it’s not worth their time, money, or effort to have something better.

But not teachers. We rarely make such an admission.

Teachers, many of them, are spending too much time and effort squeezing far too many lemons, and people who aren’t in the classroom are encouraging them to do so. Too often, we aim for “best” practices when “good enough” practices would be the better choice.

There is no better example of this than how administrators shove John Hattie’s work down teachers’ throats, the unmistakable message being that good educators employ those practices with the highest effect sizes, without giving any thought to what those teachers sacrifice to do so. They want their teachers to make fresh squeezed lemonade because fresh squeezed lemonade is better, but they don’t ask how much better it is and if making it is worth the effort.

It’s not just Hattie’s effect sizes that get misused by hard-charging administrators. There are many practices teachers are made to feel they ought to be using that are the educational equivalent of fresh squeezed lemonade. Sure, teachers could do them. Yes, they might work better than what those teachers would otherwise do. But teachers should always consider the tradeoffs. Before deciding on something you’ve been told is wonderful, you should ask:

Is this going to lead to significantly more learning, or just marginally more? If just marginally more, then is it worth my time and effort or might those limited resources be better deployed elsewhere?

Here are five of those times:

Having Students Track Their Own Progress

I love this practice. It’s motivating. It’s visual. It can help reinforce a growth mindset when students see their own progress recorded in hard numbers or pretty bar graphs. When I’ve used it, I’ve seen students excited to improve their performance.

But…

it’s a hassle. At least in the grade I teach (third), it’s time-consuming and I simply have too many other more important things to do (like, you know, teach). Have students record their progress on paper and at least three of them will regularly lose all of the data they’ve collected. Have them use a device and it takes even longer to get the thing out and enter their numbers.

Instead of squeezing this particular lemon, just keep track of the students’ progress for them and share it periodically. Even better, take advantage of digital solutions that score and keep a record of student performance automatically.  Many curricular programs do this for you, and websites like Quizizz, Kahoot, and Prodigy produce reports that can be downloaded, printed, and shared with students.

Class Discussions

I’ve been told time and again how important class discussions are. Hattie found that they have an effect size of .82, so they have the potential to make a real difference in student understanding. But, to his credit, Hattie also cautioned that it’s hard work to establish a climate of trust and respect where classroom discussions flourish. And that’s not even half of it. They’re difficult to manage. You’ve got students who want to dominate and others who won’t talk at all. To address those issues, you have to design systems that limit the speech of some while encouraging the thoughts of others. Then there’s the issue with what you do when someone says something certifiably wrong or universally offensive.

And they take forever.

You’re also never quite sure if those who aren’t talking are getting anything out of the discussion and you might have the sneaking suspicion that some of what students are saying is not what they actually believe but what they think someone else (possibly you) wants to hear.

Having sat through countless discussions at staff meetings, I’m left to conclude that discussions aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, or, if they are, then they’re so difficult to do well it might be better to avoid them altogether, which is largely what I do. I prefer digital alternatives that allow students to submit their thoughts anonymously. Padlet, the Google Question feature in Google Classroom (with student comments enabled), Jamboard, or even a shared Google Doc all work well, and they’re far easier to manage. You might also save discussion for smaller groups.

Inquiry-based learning

The idea here is that kids learn by doing and that knowledge uncovered in the pursuit of a (preferably student-generated) question sticks better than knowledge that is dispensed from the front of the room or absorbed from a textbook. Probably true.

But as anyone who has led an inquiry-based unit knows, it’s fraught with peril. An experiment doesn’t go the way it’s supposed to and students’ misconceptions are reinforced instead of challenged. Some kids do a lot of inquiring, while others freeload. Experiments are inefficient; they’re time-consuming and usually include a number of false starts. There’s also an incentive problem: students aren’t tested this way, so a teacher who’s concerned about standardized test scores might decide that reading about a topic makes more sense than designing and executing experiments that will be a management challenge and might not lead to the kind of learning the standards demand students attain.

Students might learn better this way, but there’s a real risk they won’t learn anything at all. And, of course, this all assumes your district is willing to spend the money to purchase the materials you need for whatever students are inquiring about. Experiments are fun. Students will like science class more if you do them, so do them you should, but it’s worth asking if this method of teaching and learning is worth the costs.

Feedback

Feedback is great. Research shows that timely feedback works; kids learn more when they receive it. But providing timely, individual feedback is labor-intensive and many teachers give more than is useful. I’m thinking specifically of writing. Whenever I write about not taking student work home, I inevitably hear from writing teachers who tell me such a practice is impossible because when would they ever read and respond to 25, or 75, or 160 student papers?

And the answer to that is they should not be reading and responding to all of those papers. I wrote about this in detail in my book Leave School At School, but to save you the purchase, here are some ways to stop squeezing the feedback lemon:

  • Have students give each other feedback. Yes, feedback from you will probably be better (it’s fresh-squeezed), but student feedback isn’t worthless (it’s Country Time). If you’re using paper, do a gallery walk where students have sticky notes that they can leave their classmates after reading their work. Require they leave two positives and one area to improve (and for the love of all that is holy please don’t call these “glows and grows.” Ick). If students are typing, have them share documents with one another and require a certain amount and type of feedback.

 

  • Provide feedback while students are writing. I have my students write their papers in Google Docs inside of Google Classroom, which allows me to jump into their work at any time and leave comments right on the screen. This saves me tons of time at the end of the process and gives them assistance when they need it and are still willing to use it. If you want it more personal, you could try Catlin Tucker’s station rotation model.

 

  • Limit your feedback to just one or two areas. Don’t overwhelm yourself or your students by trying to “fix” everything; you’re not the only writing teacher they will ever have. Focus on some high-leverage areas that will translate into other writing genres and provide feedback on those. If students can’t write a complete sentence, then it doesn’t make a lot of sense to tell them they need richer imagery.  Feedback to student writers is like salt: a little has the potential to make the final product better, but too much makes kids want to gag.
Feedback to student writers is like salt: a little has the potential to make the final product better, but too much makes kids want to gag. Click To Tweet

Rubrics

I used to be guilty of squeezing this particular lemon. Before any writing unit, I’d design my own rubric or I worked with colleagues to design them for our grade level. The process was messy and not worth the results. To start, designing a rubric is a painstaking process. You have to figure out which writing traits to include and how much weight to give each of them. Then you’ve got to come up with language for each level. Those levels have to be distinguishable from one another and you’ve got to make sure you imagine every possible contingency. What happens if a student writes beautifully but off-topic? What exactly constitutes a detail? What if the spelling and grammar are on point but the kid forgot to paragraph? And finally, on top of all that, you have to make sure the rubric is student-friendly and not verbose so there’s actually a chance it will get used.

And what usually happens after you pour in all that work? You go over the rubric in class and start explaining your criteria and students nod off after about three minutes. Then, when they turn in a draft, it’s obvious they haven’t used the rubric. Finally, when it comes time to score student papers, you wish you hadn’t created the thing in the first place and you’re chagrined to find that most papers need little consideration and you only need to refer to the rubric for the handful that fall somewhere in the middle.

These days, my first stop for a rubric is the Internet. If it’s already made (and with the Common Core standards, why wouldn’t it be?), then there’s no sense recreating the wheel. I look for single-point rubrics because they’re easy to use for both teachers and students. If I can’t find one, I’ll make one, but because they’re single-point rubrics, they take much less time to create and are quicker to use.

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If you read this article then you’re probably interested is optimizing your practices as a teacher so you can focus on the stuff that matters the most. The master class for this mindset is Angela Watson’s 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club, of which Teacher Habits is an affiliate partner. If you’re looking to cut back on the hours you work without sacrificing your effectiveness, then give the club a look. Here are some links that may help you decide if it’s right for you:

12-question quiz to see if the club is right for you

Reviews from club members

Summer Secrets Video Series

 

 

 

How to Get a Refreshing Sleep Despite a Busy Schedule

Guest post by Dr. Omiete Charles-Davies

 

Getting a good night’s sleep is very important for your physical health, mental health, and overall quality of life.

With the hustle and bustle of our daily activities, a night of refreshing sleep may seem like a luxury. Not getting between 7 to 9 hours of sleep as recommended by the National Sleep Foundation can affect your level of productivity and energy levels.

For many of us, our day to day activities and busy schedules can keep our minds churning and over thinking, preventing us from getting the sleep that we need.

Making some adjustments to your day and nighttime habits can have a great impact on how well you sleep. This article aims to tell you how to get a more refreshing sleep despite having a busy schedule.

How To Get A More Refreshing Sleep

1. Be In Sync With Your Circadian Rhythm

Getting in sync with your circadian rhythm is very important in getting a refreshed sleep. Having a regular sleep-wake schedule keeps you more refreshed than sleeping the same number of hours but at different times. The following tips can be helpful.

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day as this helps to set your internal clock and optimize your sleep, an alarm clock might help.
  • Limit afternoon naps to about 15 to 20mins. If you have trouble falling asleep at night, long naps in the afternoon can only make it worse.
  • Do activities such as washing dishes or getting clothes ready for work the next day if you feel sleepy before your bedtime. This will prevent you from sleeping too early, waking up later at night and be unable to go back to sleep.

 

2. Control Your Exposure To Light

A naturally occurring hormone called melatonin is controlled by your exposure to light, this hormone regulates your sleep-wake cycle.

It is secreted more when it is dark, making you feel sleepy. Too much light exposure decreases its secretion, making you more alert.

Here are some tips to control your melatonin levels:

  • Expose yourself to bright sunlight during the day as this affects your alertness. Let as much natural light into your workspace during the day.
  • Avoid bright screens like television, phones, and tablets within 1-2 hours of your bedtime. The light emitted from these devices can be very disruptive and prevent you from falling asleep on time. Listen to relaxing music or audio books instead.
  • Make sure the room is dark when it is time to sleep.

3. Exercise During The Day

Regular exercise helps to improve sleep at night. For a night of better sleep, the timing of your exercise needs to be right. Exercising too close to bedtime can interfere with your sleep pattern.

  • Finish moderate to vigorous workout at least three hours before sleep time.
  • Low impact exercises like yoga or stretches can help promote sleep.

4. Eat And Drink Smartly

Your eating and drinking habits during the day play a huge role in how well you sleep.

  • Reduce your intake of caffeine and nicotine especially close to bedtime. It is important to know that caffeine-containing products like coffee can cause sleep struggles even up to 10 to 12 hours after taking it. Smoking can also disrupt your sleep pattern.
  • Avoid heavy meals at night, try to eat dinner early in the evening. Very spicy or acidic foods should also be avoided as these can cause heartburn.
  • Avoid taking alcohol before bedtime.
  • Avoid drinking too many liquids near your bedtime because it results in frequent trips to the bathroom during the night.
  • Cut back on sugary foods, they can interfere with the deep stages of sleep.

5. Relax And Clear Your Head

Stress and worry from a very busy day can make sleeping at night very difficult. When you eventually sleep, you may find yourself waking up to think, making falling back to sleep a struggle. These steps can help you relax and make you stop worrying.

  • Learn how to manage your time effectively and handle stress in a more productive way.
  • Try not to overstimulate your brain during the day because it becomes hard to slow down and unwind at night. Set aside specific times to check your phones or social media and focus on one task at a time.
  • Leave office work at the office. If you really have to bring it home, try and finish up at least 2 hours before bedtime. This also applies to school work and homework.
  • Try leaving the office on time so you can also avoid traffic and get home on time.

6. Improve Your Sleep Environment

A regular and peaceful bedtime routine is very important as it sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to shut down. Your sleep environment can also make a big difference in the quality of your sleep.

  • Keep your room dark so that you can fall asleep on time. Also, make sure that your room is cool with adequate ventilation and quiet. If you can’t avoid noise, try using earplugs or a sound machine.
  • Ensure your bed is comfortable and these includes your bed covers, pillows, and mattress. You don’t need to break the bank for this, you can get a good budget mattress.
  • Reserve the bedroom for sleeping and sex. Try not to watch TV or use your computer in bed. This makes it easier for the brain to shut down and falling asleep becomes a breeze.

7. Get Back To Sleep

Waking up briefly at night is normal but falling back asleep may be a struggle, especially if you have had a busy and stressful day. The following methods can help you go back to sleep.

  • Do not stress over the fact that you can’t fall back asleep as this only encourages your body to stay awake.
  • Relaxation techniques such as meditation can also help you go back to sleep. Remember that the goal is to be relaxed and not just to sleep.
  • If it is worry or anxiety that has caused you to wake up, make a brief note on a paper and try not to overthink. Tomorrow is a new day to resolve it.

Here Comes the Goose Stepper

 

Last week, I came across this phenomenal video on my Twitter:

First, I thought, “That’s rather funny and clever.”

Then I thought, “Man, what a bunch of goose stepping morons.”

Then, I started thinking about teaching because that’s what I do. And what I thought – forgive me – is that we’ve got some goose stepping teachers walking around and they should probably knock it off.

We watch a video like the above and shake our heads. We chuckle a little over how goofy the soldiers look, even without the Bee Gees. Because the goose step is strongly associated with the Nazis, North Korea, and other dictatorial regimes, we see it as backwards, a symbol of blind obedience. George Orwell captured most westerners’ opinion of the goose step when he wrote that it was only used in countries where the population was too scared to laugh at its military.

But here’s the thing about those goose stepping soldiers: Some of them, maybe even most of them, are thinking about how much they’re killing the thing. Pick a soldier out of the above video clip and this is probably pretty close to what’s going through his or her head:

Look at me, crushing this march. Nobody goose steps like I do. Watch me swing my legs. Perfectly straight! Not like Chan-woo over there. Man, I feel good! I’m goosing the hell out of this step!

Which goes to show you that people have an amazing capacity to feel proud of themselves even where they’re doing stupid things.

And that brings me to teaching.

We do a lot of stupid things. Things that have little to do with helping students learn and become better people. And a lot of us are damn proud of these things.

We spend an hour on a bulletin board to impress other adults who happen to pop in or walk by our room. We’re proud of our work – as proud as a goose stepping Nazi – but that bulletin board isn’t going to make much of a difference, and we just spent 60 minutes on it.

We’re proud of our fancy newsletters with their decorative borders, perfectly arranged text boxes, adorable clipart, and copious information for parents. Look at us, establishing a consistent home-school connection! Nevermind that half the newsletters never get seen, another quarter of them don’t get read, and most of the information can be shared in an email that would take five minutes to write.

I’m guilty too. I feel all proud of myself when students are working quietly when the principal pops in. I’m strutting like a peacock when my straight line of third graders go marching walking down the hall in complete silence. Student compliance warms my heart far more than it should. I once nailed a lesson on rhombuses and felt great about it.

Until I remembered that knowing the characteristics of a rhombus is about as useful as knowing how to goose step.

The lesson is this, and it’s one I hope at least a few of those North Korean soldiers realize:

or

Some things are worth doing well and feeling proud about. These things include:

  • Taking the time to build relationships with students who will do better because of those relationships.
  • Teaching engaging lessons where students learn things.
  • Providing quick and targeted feedback that helps students improve.
  • Showing patience, tolerance, and grace in front of your class when a kid loses his shit.

But other things are just goose stepping your way past the reviewing stand with a silly look on your face.

Figure out the difference and spend more time on the stuff that matters. If you don’t, someone might just take a video of you marching down the hall with your silent, obedient class and add a Bruno Mars song to it.*

* If you know of such a video or can make one, please share.

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Want to know more about optimizing your time and focusing on what matters the most? Check out my book, Leave School At School, which does that and more.