In search of efficiency
When you work at a place that serves you three meals a day, provides accommodation, and has crews that keep the whole place tidy, that significantly reduces the amount of responsibility you have. When you live in your own home you have to do the grocery shopping, cook all your meals, keep your living and working space tidy and run other miscellaneous errands that eat up a significant time of your day. Time management is essential to allow yourself a chance to rest and keep your composure when the list of responsibilities gets too long. That’s when we need to learn how to become much more effective in our day to day living. This applies the same to the work we do professionally. I saw a poster online that I then went ahead and posted on the site’s Facebook page. It said ‘work smarter, not harder’.
It’s a neat trick to be sure. I get the impression sometimes that people manage to make the work so time-consuming and overwhelming that it consumes them to the point of a mental breakdown. Ok, maybe that’s a bit exaggerated but I’m just trying to make the point that it’s something that needs our attention.
How long have you been teaching? Have you been teaching for x number of years? Or have you taught the same thing x times? It’s an important distinction. Is being effective, doing the same thing, year in and year out? Sounds like grinding it out. Where’s the growth and professional development in that? Are students going to respect us if that’s our reputation?
Taking action through responsibility
We got to question these things as regularly as possible. Only then , will we manage to identify where we can do better, or be more efficient, effective, productive at home and at work. We have a lot of electronic devices that are vying for our time. They vibrate and beep to get our attention. But this new smart technology doesn’t own us, we own it. So it’s up to each one of us to clear out the clutter and distractions and focus on the most important and necessary stuff. Make a list of all the responsibilities you have and highlight which are the most urgent and necessary. Look for ways to keep your focus and not get distracted. Go for a run, exercise, meditate, do yoga, read a book, stretch, write down some ideas or thoughts in a journal or diary. These are actions you can take that allow your mind to block out all the thoughts that sometimes overwhelm us and just focus our minds completely on one thing. It’s an amazing state to be in, when your mind isn’t racing with thoughts. Try it. Keep your phone in a different room, or don’t answer it at certain hours of the day. At first this might be a bit shocking to those close to you, but after the initial surprise, your colleagues, friends, and family will know that you are not available at those specific times. Boom! Done! You dictate and own your life not your phone.
Teaching? Teachers need to excavate those activities and tasks that require no materials, get students working, is communicative, allows you the teacher to concentrate on the all-important task of correction, spotting errors and providing helpful, useful feedback live right there on the spot while students are working. That’s a vital element that is overlooked or forgotten. Students value the live feedback. The feedback you get from a written assignment comes days or a week later, how valuable is that? Not much. When it’s in the moment, that is when students feel like you are helping them, giving them that individual attention from time to time when they need it.
We don’t teach English, we facilitate learning and guide our students down the right path to success. Really, it’s a mind-set that needs to be spread and nurtured in all educational institutions. Think about how much more valuable that live feedback, communicative practice is to students. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you, standing in front of the class lecturing, is the only and best way to teach. Really? Nonsense.
Motivation can sprout from those types of classrooms. If a teacher can get all students motivated to learn what is being taught then that is a major accomplishment and a huge stepping stone to success for any student. Respect. It’s yours. For those not in educational fields I am sure you agree that the same applies. Working smarter, not harder is just as significant if not more so. The best way to find effective solutions would be to just try alternatives. Trial and error comes with a certain level of risk but you can mitigate that risk with some careful planning. Don’t be afraid to venture out of your comfort zone. As Brian Rose from London Real says ‘go towards the fear’. The resistance to change, adapt, and experiment with new ideas mostly comes from you. Fight that urge by accepting the risks and then dive in. Work smarter, not harder.