The following is a guest post by Anish Passi, Director at Neostencil, an ed-tech startup funded by the Times Group. He previously founded Testcafe – also in the ed-tech space. He has extensive experience in the education industry, with past exposure to investment banking, technology, real estate, and retail consulting.
Hard work and smart work go hand in hand. There is no denying that people need to work hard to create a foundation for great achievements. However, if students work smart, they can do the same amount of work faster and efficiently. Teachers need to understand the thin line between making students work relentlessly hard and enabling them to learn smart work.
There is a preconceived notion among students that to succeed one must put in effort and work hard for it. Some people also think that one should give up everything else and focus all their energies on the final goal. While this is somewhat true, they can do the same amount of work in a shorter time by simply working smarter.
Merging Hard Work & Smart Work Together
To help students succeed in life, teachers should push students to practice both hard work and smart work simultaneously. It is essential to work hard first because only then will students understand the depth of exactly what they are doing and then devise a smarter plan accordingly. The unfortunate truth is that in this fast-paced world, people want to switch to smart work but don’t put in any effort first. This could lead to a downfall. Like during preparation for competitive exams such as the UPSC, CAT, GMAT etc. people put in very little time to get the concepts right and jump to problem solving. Instead, they should focus more on concepts which would be hard work at the start but will make the process a lot simpler and easier.
Students must understand the project thoroughly, plan, and build a process around it. When they do this, they’ve framed all the possibilities, and only then can they undertake an easier way of completing the task. With teacher’s input, working smart won’t be much of an issue, and students will be able to work efficiently using fewer resources and time. The trick is to combine hard work and smart work.
Example: Every talented artist trains and gets mentored to perfect their skills. They spend years practicing without taking any breaks or shortcuts to make themselves the best. Once they reach the peak of success, they tend to make fewer errors and are more experienced. This results in better time management and less use of energy and effort. They have now become smart, but they started by working hard. This rule applies to every sphere of life.
Differences Between the Two
Let’s take a look at some of the differences between working hard vs working smart.
Hard work means putting in a lot of time and effort doing a certain amount of work. Whereas, smart work means spending less amount of time performing the same amount of work.
Hard work aims at the quantity and may become monotonous and boring after a certain period. Smart work aims at achieving goals with quality.
Process of Working
Working hard involves a lot of tedious work which is carried out traditionally. But, if people work smartly, they can achieve more output by working in an unconventional and modern way which could include attending webinars, classes, and coaching.
Hard work utilizes the traditional format of working, and there aren’t many changes involved. On the other hand, smart work involves using old ideas and transforming them to yield better results.
People who work hard sometimes feel that they weren’t able to achieve their set goal. Smart workers attain their goals faster through proper time management.
A simple way to turn hard work into smart work is by understanding the aftermath of the process. If students keep on working continuously without any reliable results, then they should consider working smartly. Rather than focusing all the attention on just the work, think about all the alternatives that can be undertaken to do the same amount of work in less time. Set deadlines and goals that they should achieve in a set timeframe and prioritize the important tasks first. This way you will not waste a lot of time on unimportant things.
Contrary to this, some people believe that there is no replacement for hard work. Working smart is a shortcut that doesn’t work at all stages of life. Still, smart work has no doubt worked for many. If one can achieve the same quantity of work at the same time, that is not exactly a shortcut; it is just a better alternative.
If you can incorporate working hard and smart together, you will achieve great heights and lead yourself to a better life. One who works hard and smart will in due course of time procure all the benefits and rake in the golden opportunity to probably not work at all.
A couple of days ago you did a round of walkthroughs. You popped into five different teachers’ rooms for about five minutes each. I know this because at lunch later that day, we teachers talked about it. We have a request.
Please ask us why.
We would prefer these walkthroughs not happen at all than continue as they have. Even though I’m sure you tell yourself that you’re doing them to stay informed and to be in a position to help should you notice any problems, they’re nonetheless evaluative. How could they not be? Most of us remember our undergrad experience where we visited actual teachers’ classrooms. While the purported purpose of such visits was to learn from a professional, we spent most of the discussion afterward picking apart the teacher’s decisions. We judged. It’s what people do.
It’s not the judging we have a problem with. We expect to be evaluated. The real problem with walkthroughs is that they don’t happen often enough.
It’s human nature to focus on the negative. We get that. We also get that you’re going to find something to criticize. When I conference with my best writer I’m going to highlight some area where she can improve, even though she’s heads and shoulders above her classmates. That’s my job, after all, to help all students get better. Same as yours with respect to your teachers. Constructive criticism isn’t the problem. We can live with that.
What’s harder to stomach are the assumptions you make. You have an impossible job, often made more impossible by your bosses. You’re pulled in a hundred directions and you just can’t get into classrooms as often as you’d like. We get that, too. But it matters.
Because the infrequency with which you visit our rooms leads to a lack of context. And that lack of context causes you to make assumptions, which are often wrong, but which may be reflected in our evaluations anyway.
During your five minutes, you noticed that Sarah had her head down while I was teaching and that I did nothing about it. You saw Patel go to the bathroom without asking, just as I got to the critical part of my lecture. Joseph sits by himself at the front of the room and that didn’t sit right with you.
So ask me why. Ask me why because you don’t know.
You don’t know what happened five minutes, or five hours, or five days, or five weeks, or five months before you walked in my room.
You don’t know that Sarah complained all morning about not feeling well and that she only got three hours of sleep because of her new baby sister. You don’t know that the reason she’s not engaged is because her body won’t allow her to be and that the reason she has her head down is that five minutes before you walked in I told her to put her head down.
You don’t know that Patel’s mom emailed me at the start of the week to tell me that Dad’s about to come home from prison after three years and that Patel’s anxiety over the change has manifested as a nervous bladder. You don’t know that Patel and I have a deal to prevent a mortifying accident for which he’ll be remembered the rest of his life: don’t ask, just go.
You don’t know that I’ve tried everything with Joseph for the past five months, but the kid just can’t sit near anyone with bothering them all day. You also don’t know that his seating location is a sign of tremendous progress. Because Joseph finally acknowledged his problem and asked to sit by himself so he could focus better. He’s not separated from his classmates because I gave up on him or I’m trying to shame him. He sits there because he wants to sit there.
You don’t know these things because you lack context for what you’re observing. That’s not your fault. But it is your fault if you don’t ask me why.
Why didn’t you tell Sarah to sit up?
Why did Patel leave the room without asking?
Why does Joseph sit by himself?
It’s a simple word that invites teachers to provide you with the context you lack.
Because if you don’t ask why, many of your teachers won’t tell you. They don’t want to rock the boat. They don’t want to come off as whiners. They don’t want to be the difficult one because the difficult ones get let go when districts cinch their belts and principals vote teachers off the island.
By not asking your teachers why, you put them in a difficult position. They can keep their mouths shut and risk having your ill-informed observations affect their evaluations and your opinion of them moving forward, or they can try to explain. But whenever people initiate explanations for their choices they come across as defensive, which others perceive as tacit admissions of error.
So, principals, do your walkthroughs if you must. Do them more frequently if you can. Don’t tell us they’re not evaluative because they are. And please stop assuming you understand the choices we’re making in the five minutes you’re judging us.
When I made my departure official and announced it to the world, I was humbled by the response of kind words and expressions of sadness for losing what I had to offer the classroom. But I was also alarmed by the number of responses I received from teachers asking how I managed to do it. I received texts, emails, and phone calls from teachers all over the national network I had been a part of declaring that they wanted out, too…I began receiving messages from friends of friends and even a few strangers. I had somehow become the exodus guru. I still receive these messages with the most recent just last week from a woman I once met at a conference who found me on LinkedIn and wondered if I could give her friend some advice.
This article, the third and final part in this series, is Dan’s advice.
Since I was employed by the same district where I completed my internship, I never really experienced the whole job search process. I earned my place, but I certainly was lucky to be interning in a school with an opening. I now found myself looking for a job with no experience looking for a job. Obviously, I knew the basics, but I was now swimming in unfamiliar waters, waters that had expanded thanks to the internet.
Step 1: Update the Ol’ Resumé
Since the last entry on my most recent résumé from 1999 was for being a delivery driver for Pizza Hut, I had some work to do. And since that résumé was stored on a 5 ¼” floppy disk, I found it best to simply start over rather than see if the Smithsonian offered computer time. Because I was keeping my options open, I realized that I would be tweaking my résumé and cover letter again and again to match the job for which I was applying. After all, I highly doubt that the folks hiring for the copywriting position I pursued were interested in my proficiency with Google Classroom. To handle the task of juggling multiple résumés, I paid for a monthly subscription to the résumé building site, MyPerfectRésumé. It allowed me to save multiple drafts and focus on the content without the hassle of the formatting. (Helpful hint: I also discovered that if you pay for a month or two then attempt to cancel, the site will offer you a full year for the price of one month.)
Every time I applied for a job, I made a folder on my computer for that application, résumé, and cover letter. In the modern tech age, it is easy to apply for jobs at a rapid-fire pace. Despite that, some companies will respond as if it is the only job you pursued, and, believe it or not, their initial correspondence may offer very little indication as to which job posting they are referring. If you are casting a wide net, it can be very easy to lose track of your applications and nothing is more of a turn off for potential employers than confusing one opening for another. Also, by keeping a file for each application, I could easily find the closest résumé version for adaptation that best fit the next job posting.
Step 2: Finally Learn About LinkedIn
Despite being the butt of jokes for years, LinkedIn proved to have a place in the job search world. It turns out that employers may want to do their homework on you and this gives them a social media source to learn more about your professional accomplishments without having to sort through New Year’s Eve photos, your angry comments about being a cursed Detroit Lions fan, or hilarious cat memes. (Sidenote: You might want to check the privacy settings on your Facebook account). Since I was determined to go all out on this venture, I paid for the premium subscription during my job hunt which allowed me to see who was reviewing my profile. I was pleasantly surprised to find views from companies to which I was applying.
In addition, many job search sites allow you to attach your LinkedIn profile to applications. Some even convert your LinkedIn profile information into the application itself. Since the résumé needs to be short, sweet, and right to the point, the LinkedIn profile allows you to really draw attention to work you want to emphasize.
Step 3: Find Your Source for Jobs
Job search sites seem like a dime a dozen. It’s important that you do your homework and monitor your success rate so you know what works best for you. Check to see if the site allows you to apply on its page or if it redirects you to other sites. Remember that companies pay to post their jobs on these sites. If the site you picked isn’t taking the application directly, it probably isn’t being used by the company who posted the job, which means your application may be dead in the water and lost to the internet.
Most of my success came from Indeed.com. In fact, that is where I found my current job. Indeed provides a very quick application process. If you have your résumé and cover letter ready to go, you can send it with the click of a button. A nice way to tell if a company has invested its money with Indeed is to see if it has added on to the application process. Companies can use a default application or they can add their own questions to the process. If you see these extra questions, you know that the company has prioritized this hiring source in its budget. If you do see short response questions on an application, always save your responses in a separate document so you don’t lose them once you submit your application. If you apply for another similar position, you may find a similar question.
Step 4: Cast a Wide Net
One of the biggest misconceptions teachers have is that their qualifications lock them into a teaching role for life. It’s certainly what I thought. What else can you do with a history major and English minor? Curate a museum? Write the great American novel? Finding an open position with the former is about as likely as becoming a rock star and the latter isn’t exactly a financially sound decision for a 40-year-old with two children and a mortgage.
I learned to stop searching for jobs for which I thought I was qualified and instead to start searching for my qualifications. First, I searched for ALL jobs in my city and state. For years I had been telling my students that they may very well end up in jobs that haven’t been invented yet. Here was my chance to see what had been invented since I joined the workforce. Of course, there were jobs that sounded great for which I was nowhere near qualified. Still, those are options if you have a long-term plan that involves going back to school. So if you want out and can bear it a few more years, target one of these jobs and start taking classes now. But there were also opportunities for people like me looking to make an immediate evacuation. From there, I started looking for more jobs like the ones I stumbled upon. It was a domino effect of discovery. As it turns out, the world needs teachers in every corner of the workforce and not just for teaching STEAM.
Step 5: Don’t Wait. Keep Applying.
Just because a position is posted, it doesn’t mean that anyone is in any hurry to fill that position. Nothing proves this point more than positions for the state. When you check your state government website for job postings, you will most likely find more postings than you have time to look through. After applying for a few state positions, I started to get the feeling that even the state didn’t want to look through all of them. Rarely did I ever hear back from one of these applications. A few times I was told a position was filled. Once I was told that the state changed its mind and eliminated the position. Most of the time, I heard nothing. The downside to fast and furious job application technology is that most companies now have to sort through applications from people who only applied because they had nothing to lose.
Step 6: Know What You’re Getting Yourself Into
It’s a very exciting feeling to get called for an interview. While the interview is a great chance for the employer to get to know you, remember that it is also a good opportunity to learn more about the job for which you applied, sometimes without even asking a single question.
Not all job postings are specific. They may give you enough information to pique your interest, and hold back information that may cause you to look elsewhere. In addition, some job sites allow you to leave your résumé posted on a general “bulletin board” for any employer to see. This may lead to calls for interviews you didn’t expect, especially from insurance companies. Because I was keeping my options open, I attended some of these. A few of these interviews were located in bare offices that looked like they had been rented for the day. One interviewer mistakenly thought, ¨How would you like to live in Indiana?” was an enticing sales pitch. And one scheduled interview turned out to be a group interview with a dozen other candidates. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when asked what we were all looking for from this position, one applicant responded, “I want time to do my karate.” No offense to the karate kid, but I felt like I had a bit more to offer and was surprised we were up for the same position. It was clear that I was not invited there for my extensive résumé. Lower level employees were clearly mass-hired, disposable commodities.
Don’t be embarrassed about getting tricked by these “opportunities.” This process took me almost a year to get the hang of. As long as you’re not sacrificing something more important, you have nothing to lose by going to these interviews. Use the opportunity to brush up on your interview skills, learn to anticipate some typical questions, and, at the very least, give yourself an interesting story to tell. You never know when something might surprise you. In fact, before I took my current job, I was in the process of accepting a position with a financial company that happened to specialize in teacher 403b retirement funds. It was an unanticipated natural fit and the company was excited to have an actual former teacher on the team. I would probably be working there if my current job hadn’t made an offer right before I was to take my exams.
So, to recap:
You have value outside of the classroom.
Your qualifications do not lock you into a teaching job for life.
Learn about expectations for résumés outside of education. They’re different. Then update your résumé. I recommend subscribing to a résumé building website.
Set up or update your Linkedin account. Learn about best practices that will help attract interest from employers.
Investigate different job search sites and determine which works best for you.
Search for all jobs in your geographical area. You’ll learn about jobs you didn’t know existed. The discovery process will help you figure out which jobs fit your qualifications.
Don’t wait to hear back because many times you won’t. Just keep applying.
Keep your options open. Attend interviews. You’ll become more comfortable with them, become better prepared to answer common questions, and learn what companies are looking for.
Be patient but persistent. Keep looking, applying, and interviewing.
Forgive yourself. I made lots of mistakes, but this was a new experience. Recognize that it’s going to take you a while to get the hang of it.
Thanks for reading the series! Dan and I both appreciate your interest and we hope this has helped those of you thinking of making a change. For those who plan on persisting in the classroom for the next five or ten or fifteen years, I have a book called Leave School At School that will help you cut back on hours without sacrificing your impact with kids. In fact, because you’ll be more focused, better-rested, and less stressed, you’ll probably be a better teacher.