Each day is an opportunity to learn & develop but this does not happen without structure & discipline. We don't fully understand the need for boundaries until the ones we are used to suddenly disappear. Every day is a PD day. #myPDtoday
"Total freedom is false freedom. True freedom has healthy boundaries. " Todd Henry p 15
Each day is an opportunity to learn, grow, and develop but this does not happen without structure and discipline. Many of us don’t fully understand this need for boundaries and structure until the ones we are used to suddenly disappear.
When I returned to school, I figured I’d have all sorts of time to do various projects that I had been waiting until I had time for them. Well, I definitely had more time. But what I found was that I didn’t get as much done as I thought I would. In fact, there were days when I didn’t accomplish much at all! I lacked structure for my work. There was so much that I could be doing that I wasn’t sure exactly what to do. This led to wasting a great deal of time as I tried to structure the day so I could be productive. As a teacher, I used to the rhythms of the school day but these rhythms were no longer as helpful as they had been. I tried to resume a structure similar to the one I had when working in the school but found it didn’t work. The structure wasn’t transferable in the way I thought it would be. I wasn’t able to use my time or energy wisely or productively with this imposed structure. I had to come up with a new structure which then affected my habits and daily routines.
In his book The Accidental Creative, Todd Henry discusses how creative rhythm requires boundaries and structure in order for people to do creative work.
"Structure is the undergirding platform that gives you enough stability to feel free taking risks" p. 15.
For me, the daily rhythm of life had changed and I needed to reflect on how I could create a structure for my day. As an educator, I took the work that Henry had done and began to see how it could be applied to the work of educators. I saw that like entrepreneurs, teachers were often creating in many ways in order to meet the needs of their students. However, the daily rhythm of school often was disrupted which created dissonance for teachers, taking their focus away from student learning.
For teachers, the school day and the structures of the day provide the framework to do their work. This is the same for students and parents. The day has a rhythm to it that comes from this framework. Artificial at it is, it still provides the underlying structure that helps teachers, students, and parents in managing their day. Within this structure, the daily habits and routines that help us move through the day develop, freeing our minds and energy to be used during work and learning.
The Structure Is Gone
Right now the structure of daily life has been completely messed up for everyone. Gone are the daily rhythms and habits that have provided children and adults with the structures that frame their habits and routines. In its place is a new daily life that is confusing. In a rush to ‘return to normal’ school districts, schools, teachers, and parents have tried to adapt and fit the structure of school onto life at home. However, the underlying rhythms, the habits and routines that were part of this daily structure are no longer present. Parents are working from home while also trying to manage their children learning from home. The sudden disruption is causing dissonance in people’s lives which is adding more stress and anxiety at a time when there are already excess amounts of both.
But what can be done about this?
Re-Align the Structures, Re-frame the day
Trying to continue to work within a traditional learning structure isn’t sustainable for very long given the number of other changes that are happening. As I’ve discussed before, children and families are experiencing heightened amounts of stress and anxiety caused by this medical emergency. Creating more stress and anxiety isn’t going to help anyone at this point. The options are to continue to try to muddle with a system that wasn’t designed for this type of learning situation or to accept that there is a need to develop new rhythms and structures to support the current situation.
Because much of what teachers’ do is creative work, the structure of the traditional school day provided a framework for this creativity. The routines and habits of the day allowed teachers to be able to use their energy in making the necessary daily decisions with regard to the needs of their students. The foundation of a teacher’s work is the connections and relationships with students, colleagues, and parents. These connections are critical to the work teachers do to support students in their learning. The resources that teachers require are usually accessible from the school, including people with expertise. These resources provide the basis for the work that teachers do within the classroom Teachers also have a guiding set of outcomes that provide the impetus for creating learning experiences for students. These outcomes provide a focus, a destination, for the student learning that guides the various activities that take place during the school year. Finally, the school day and the school year have a defined amount of time. These time parameters guide the time teachers have to for learning activities, providing a structure for the work that they need to do. Because the traditional school day provided an overall structure for everyone, peoples’ habits and routines were guided by this structure.
The Creative Work of Teachers
As I mentioned, teachers are very creative people. They often are required to make changes to their plans in the moment in order to meet the needs of students. They draw on a vast understanding of knowledge about teaching and learning in order to create learning experiences that engage students and support their individual learning needs. In exploring the creative work of teachers and drawing on the work of others, there are a number of different areas that key to the work that teachers do each day.
Each of the areas described below is key to the successful work that teachers do each day.
Connections - these include the people with whom we meet regularly and other people with whom we have a casual connection. We seldom give these connections a second thought. For educators, these connections are often focused on the students in the classroom, the people in the building and the parents of the students. Because so many of the connections and relationships are focused on education, educators are often drawn to connect with other educators. This is great for sharing resources and ideas but can be limiting as new ideas often have difficulty finding traction, especially when coming from someone who is not within education.
Resources - these include the various tools that you need to do your work, the people you can turn to for support, and the learning opportunities you have to grow and develop. Each of these is an important part of a teacher’s professional development. Significant changes in any one of these can have a significant effect on a teacher’s sense of self-efficacy and motivation.
Actions - these are the various things you do during the day. Some of your actions require a great amount of energy and concentration while others, often part of our routines and habits, require much less freeing up energy for things that are deemed more important. Significant changes in routine and structure alter our actions which requires more energy and focus. This has an effect on how much and the type of work that can be accomplished in any one day.
Focus- where are you going and what is the goal that you wish to accomplish? Traditionally, teachers draw on a combination of curricular outcomes and experience in order to guide students toward a learning destination. They rely on their observations, formal assessments and their interactions with students to guide their focus. However, this has changed drastically. When things change, like they have right now, there is a need to step back to re-establish if our original destination is still where we want to go.
Time - this refers to how we spend the hours and minutes we have each day. For educators, a vast majority of their time is spent focused on students - preparing lessons, delivering lessons, assessing student learning, organizing education-related activities and learning new ways to support student learning. Again, this has changed drastically as many teachers are unsure of what to expect and are having to learn a whole new way of using their time. This also goes for students and their families. The traditional structures that guided the routines and habits of daily life have been altered. Adjusting their CRAFT
At this time, there is a need to alter the traditional day in order to meet the new demands of family and students. This will require changes in each one of the above areas. Trying to impose a traditional school day structure is impractical given the immense amount of change happening in children and parents' lives. Instead, there is a need to examine how each of the above areas might shift in order to allow for a new daily structure to develop which is more in tune with the developing daily routines and habits of families. What this will look like it's going to be somewhat different for each teacher because of the personal circumstances in which they find themselves. How this will unfold will also be different for each teacher. The one thing that is certain is that there is a need for a New Daily Structure.