Not all things hold the same value. Not monetary value, not sentimental value, nor usefulness value. Just because we have things in our space also doesn't mean it needs to be there because it is expensive, because it once meant something to us, or because it used to be a useful thing.
Part of the exhaustion we face in our field of education is waste fatigue. There is just so much stuff all the time. We spent so much time thinking about it's use, feeling guilty for not using it, spending so much time thinking thinking thinking and attaching emotion to something that doesn't need so much attention and mental space.
How can we get past this? How can we clear our minds of all the things we need to think about or take care of?
1. Take a step back and look at things with a clear perspective, and ask yourself: what value does this really hold for me?
2. Take the emotion out of it. Assessing value is much quicker to do when you can think objectively.
3. Think ahead to how you want to feel when you have less cluttering your mental and physical spaces.
Reducing stress due to too much is what we all need to focus on if we want to be our best, in whatever capacity that needs to be.
A Starting Point
Christine, my co-author, and I don't pretend to have all the answers when it comes to shifting to a new or reshaped approach to teaching, but we have done a lot of research and have tons of experience and insights about how we can all make some moves to becoming a minimalist teacher.
We do like to think that we are pretty realistic in knowing that all of us have our things that are part of our routines, habits, and the like, but yet we will grab what speaks to us, and hopefully give some implementations a try.
We wrote a piece for ASCD's blog with some thoughts and tips for how to make your move into a minimalist teacher lifestyle.
Would love to hear your thoughts and actions you take!
Start with The Mindset
The other day there was a comment that there is no such thing as a minimalist teacher. You all know how I feel about minimalism, and teaching, so....
Many of you also know that my good friend and I wrote a book about this exact thing, and that comment was at the bottom of a photo with the book cover.
Here was my thought process after I read this:
I felt defensive, then a bit angry and simultaneously a bit sad. But then, hope revealed itself.
A lot of thought came out of what was probably intended to be a 'whatever' comment, but it's our job as educators to share and learn from each other so we can be better practitioners and create better learning opportunities for our students.
Contentment in Your Space
I've been contemplating space use.
How do you feel in your spaces?
Mellow? Comfy? Stressed? Content?
I ask this because I wonder if we can be extremely intentional about what we add into our spaces and keep our emotions in mind. Can we resist the urge to binge and fill them with things, but instead find contentment in what's already present? Perhaps reimagine how we can find purpose for what's already there?
I bring this up because I have been so used to living in small spaces for the last couple of decades. Now I live in a large space that has been near empty for the last few months and I am feeling reluctant to put things in it. To say a felt a little cringe-y on the weekend when we brought out some art from our travels is a bit of an understatement. Perhaps I'm taking the joy out of developing a new living and working environment because it does require quite a bit of work to make it right and then maintain it. We have what I need right now and feel content in the space. I also know that when we find the right things, we will add them with intention.
I wonder if this sentiment can seep into classroom spaces as teachers and students begin to fill spaces that are once again restricted for distancing. Can we bring some of the thoughtfulness of space a little bit each day to find a little sense of peace in the places we spend so much time? Only having the things that add purpose, yet also a feeling of contentment without feeling empty or unfulfilling?
Is this something we are willing to focus on?
Making Hard Choices
"Making hard choices can actually be liberating because it helps you define who you truly are and demonstrates the power we all have to shape our lives."
These words have been on my mind since they popped up in my inbox this week.
These words come from Susan David, Author of Emotional Agility. Someone who knows her way around humans and the role of emotional intelligence and agility in our lives.
These words brought me to this point in time specifically.
A time in which teachers, school staff and students are heading into a new academic year.
A time that still holds so much uncertainty even after a year and a half of turbulence.
We are moving from an extremely challenging year only to follow it with another.
We already know that the most challenging decisions to be made are the norm. As teachers continue to make considerations about how to accommodate their learners in their spaces, let's envision for a moment that teachers begin with one immediate hard choice.
To do more, with less stuff.
Less, not just because we need to be mindful of the spacing requirements necessary during a pandemic, but...
Less, because we want it that way.
Less, because it helps us focus.
Less, because this practice can change our lives.
What will this mean to you as an educator this year?
Will this give you a sense of satisfaction knowing you are ridding yourself of some burdens?
This choice is not to be made for admin, other teachers or parents.
The choice for you.
For you to begin your year with a little clarity.
When you commit to making this kind of hard choice, you are preparing yourself to create space to focus on what matters.
You are committing to changing something that you know means to be changed.
And that says a lot about how you need your teaching life to be.