What does it mean to be strategic with your time? Strategic is the word of the year for Lindsay and today she’s reporting on all the benefits of tracking your planning so you can shift your planning practice.
How much of your work is generating your results?
How you choose to spend your planning time as a teacher is crucial because it determines how much time you’ll devote to each piece of your planning. And since time is already so precious, we have to have a strategic approach to planning that gets you results with less paperwork, researching, etc. In order to be more efficient with it, you need to first know how much time you’re currently spending on each activity. The 80/20 principle says that 80% of your outcomes are from only 20% of your work. So that means that certain things you’re doing are driving the majority of your results and that the rest is really something that should be reassessed and perhaps cut down on in order to save you more time for what’s working.
The 50/40/10 Strategy
The strategy that Lindsay started using is based off of her resource the 50/40/10 Planning Bundle. This bundle is composed of eight pages of documents of synthesized research with a step by step checklist along with planning templates that you can fill out in a variety of ways. This strategy asks you to first identify the “buckets” or categories that your tasks align with. These are those high leverage activities but can also include those that are low leverage as an "other" category. Then you split your time into specific ratios and allocate certain activities to those ratios. The most ideal ratios that Lindsay found after research and experimenting is 50% for planning, 40% for professional development, and 10% on student feedback. These percentages can be played with to find what works best for you. But these ratios are shown to increase the quality of teacher instruction and raising quality instruction means that student achievement levels start to go up as well.
“This is all about really removing the unnecessary things that don't produce as big results as we could be producing in order to get to a place where we're really thinking strategically and making those big powerful high leverage shifts.”
So 50% percent of planning can look like designing the content, researching, gathering resources, and writing out the lesson plan. The reason that 40% goes towards personal development is because the research shows how closely connected student success is with you, as an instructor, developing your capabilities and skills. If you want to go beyond staff meetings, you can also consider attending a colleague’s class (even on zoom) or listening to a relevant podcast as a method of personal and professional development. And then that last 10% is focusing on providing students qualitative responses to their assignments rather than a simple grade. If you aim to give the majority of feedback during class time then you won’t need very much time for this outside of class. Lindsay says that before using this strategy she was spending so much time outside of class on planning with no room for professional development and it wasn’t getting the results she wanted.
“I could see that it wasn't producing results. And so when I shifted over time and experimented pretty boldly, actually, with different approaches to planning, and tinkered with that formula, it ended up saving me about 700 hours per school year, which is monumental! So it reduced my time spent planning outside of school to just zero to two hours a week, which is a world of difference.”
Identify what is needed and get rid of what isn't
To get the same benefits, you should first take one week to track what you’re doing. Time yourself for every activity you do during planning time. Next, categorize these activities into three to four themes. After that, take a look and find the thing that’s using up the most time inefficiently. Make a plan for how you can either outsource that work or automate it. Once you’ve done all that you can set a weekly time limit for each bucket activity and use that new space for your goals and opportunities for professional development. You may find that it’s tough to stick to this the first week. But don’t think of it as “I don’t have enough time to finish this.” Be determined and use creativity. Think of some low-prep strategies that deliver high impacts. Also use the 50/40/10 Planning Bundle as a helpful resource that divides your percentages into your three buckets, makes suggestions, and reminds you of your goals and your big thinking for the semester.
To continue the conversation, you can head over to our Time for Teachership Facebook group and join our community of educational visionaries. Lindsay can be found on LinkedIn and Instagram. Until next time leaders, continue to think big, act brave, and be your best self.
Leah Urzua is the founder and CEO of Results by Riviera which is an online business that serves other service-based entrepreneurs who are looking to streamline their business so they can leave their stress behind and work within their passion. She specializes in systems and overall business management. In addition, she’s a racial justice advocate and activist who is eager to dismantle systemic racism and white supremacy in today’s society.
The problem with the way we run our businesses today
Many entrepreneurs and CEOs tend to treat their business like a completely separate world from politics, social justice, and everything that triggers strong feelings. But just as a school is a small representation of what goes on in the rest of society, so is the workplace. It’s time we take a closer look at just how connected business is to the systems of racism. The way capitalism was built was to lift up anyone with white skin while forcing the Black diaspora to be the ones who labor to keep it running. So think of it as a large gap that started during the era of slavery and never really closed since. So now we have normalized white businesses as being the go-to. We seek out white coaches and hire white candidates. We collaborate with other white entrepreneurs. The list goes on and on.
When you’re searching for new business accounts to follow and connect with on social media, have you ever looked at an Black owned business account who shows up with expertise on social media and then ended up following a white owned business account with more followers and pretty branding? You’re not the only one who has experienced those feelings of internal bias. They are more a part of our decision making process than we care to admit. But continuing to give in to these biases is what perpetuates the inequality and racism that affects Black and Brown entrepreneurs. Leah tells us if you want to start being a better, more equitable leader in your business, it’s time to make yourself aware of the privileges you hold and be more mindful of what you can do to be a more justice-centered business and human.
“[My] dream is to have a marketplace that's liberated from oppression and inequality and racism. And ideally, that would be, because all businesses and corporations are collectively deciding to do the work—to take action.”
Things to pay close attention to:
Creating an anti-racist business
These are just some of the ways to hold yourself accountable. The hardest part of ending racism will be changing our world on an individual level. We have to be able to all take responsibility whether you're in education, business, or any other constructed institutions. Consider how it affects the people of color who follow you and buy from you when violence and oppression hits their communities and they hear no one talk about it. Being silent or neutral is never the right answer. You can do a lot of good by staying up to date on what’s happening in the real world and make an effort to be supportive to those who might be affected by systemic racism. Leah shares how much she strives to integrate more justice in her own business. She says,
“I said in the beginning that I work with systems and usually, my job entails building and implementing systems. But if there's one system that I really want to be known for working against, in my business and my life, it's systemic racism and oppression.”
Some of the things that Leah does to make this a reality is that she makes sure she is very clear about what her values are, she openly talks about injustices and demands action. In addition, she amplifies Black and Brown voices as well as learns from women of color who teach people how to make change. To get started on your own journey with intersecting racial justice and your business, Leah created a resource made called “Strategies for Justice” that you can access at the link below. As a final note, this is possible for everyone no matter what type of business or field of work you're in. I hope you feel inspired to take more action for justice in your own career and business.
To continue the conversation, you can head over to our Time for Teachership Facebook group and join our community of educational visionaries. Leah can be found on her website, Instagram, Facebook, and Email. Until next time leaders, continue to think big, act brave, and be your best self.
Lindsay considers the moments leading up to the attack on the U.S. Capitol and what she decided to talk about with her white teachers teaching mostly white students after realizing it was an important learning opportunity.
What happened that day
On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, the United States experienced a domestic terrorist attack on its government for the first time in history. An angry mob composed of thousands of white supremacists stormed up the U.S. Capitol and passed Capitol police officers with ease. A dozen of the men from the mob made it into the building These rioters occupied, vandalized, and looted parts of the building for several hours. The events of this day led to much damage, disorder, and stress about how to handle the situation and all those responsible. In the weeks leading up to the attack, there were multiple social media groups and far right organizations that discussed plans to occupy the Capitol after a tweet by President Trump urged his supporters to gather on the 6th for a rally and protest. On the morning of January 6th, Trump provoked everyone there to march to the Capitol and fight to disrupt Congress’s certification of Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election. It took hours for the national guard and extra officers to clear everyone out and yet all the members of Congress still came back together at the end of the night to do what they had set out to do.
Creating options for our students
Lindsay was in the middle of a virtual teacher training when news of the insurrection broke out. Everyone took a 10 minute pause to catch their breath and do whatever they needed for their own wellbeing before reconvening. Once they came back together, there was an unstructured talk where they could talk about what it was they were feeling. And once that had passed, they moved on towards ideas for students and their curriculum. She knew that what was happening needed to be at the front of their session, so they adjusted the workshop to incorporate a discussion about how to talk to the group's classes of mostly white students, specifically about the attack on the capitol.
Bringing up heavy or difficult content is something that many teachers are used to at this point given all that has happened last year alone. Lindsay published an article for BetterLesson about talking to students about the U.S. presidential election in November. We've talked about this on a previous episode of the podcast. Many educators had some helpful advice on how to have these conversations. One educator that spoke said that students should get enough space to process their thoughts and emotions. They might talk it out with someone, journal, step outside, or just have some quiet time. Discussions are an option that many like to use because it gives students the chance to express their internal emotions and gives teachers the chance to sit in the “listening” position and consider their student’s frustrations and thoughts. Any discussions that come up should have a reminder of some agreements for engagement preceding them in order to make sure there are opportunities for everyone to be heard and validated. In these discussions, it’s also important to center dignity.
“I love Donna Hicks’s book” Dignity”, [as] another great source.. to really center dignity in everything that we do and discuss in our class and name that a person's humanity, either in our class or beyond our class, it's not up for debate in our conversations or disagreements.”
Sudden events like this one are important to include in your classroom because of the large effect they have on your students and their communities but some teachers don’t feel like they can just pause their curriculum with the fast pace it’s set at. Almost everything is planned out for the year way in advance. One of the ways a teacher can make it easier on themselves is to adopt a flexible curriculum already based around racial and social justice. This ensures that these important issues that come up have a place in your class and schedule.
Another thing you can do is help white students develop antiracist identities within this justice-forward curriculum. It’s important for white students to see examples of white folx as co-conspirators advancing racial justice. If they don't see racism as their issue or they don't see examples of how to challenge it, white students may avoid talking about or acting against white supremacy. Curriculum can also give students space to take action within the class. Examples include:
And lastly, remember to deconstruct and analyze the event itself. As educators, we have to take what we’re seeing on screen and in the news and help students make sense of what it all means. Take all this surface level information and help them figure out how white supremacy is present. Why did it happen? What allowed for this event to happen? How would it have been different if these people did not have white-skin privilege (i.e., advantage)?
To recap these points:
1. Give students enough space to process their emotions
2. Design your curriculum with foundations in social justice
3. Help white students develop antiracist white identities
4. Analyze the event itself
If there’s one takeaway from this conversation it’s this: “The question that I came to ask myself every day to address this question for my own practice is this: what does it do to my humanity if I don't teach for justice, and is my humanity a price I'm willing to pay?”
To continue the conversation, you can head over to our Time for Teachership Facebook group and join our community of educational visionaries. You can follow Lindsay on LinkedIn and Instagram. Until next time leaders, continue to think big, act brave, and be your best self.
Morgan Atkins is a third and fourth grade teacher in Rochester, NY. Morgan specializes in Social and Emotional Learning in the classroom. SEL defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning as “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” She is currently also the head of the General Studies department there where she helps plan events and lead teachers in their creation of curricular scope and sequence documents.
Morgan opens the conversation with the urgent message that children who don’t have their mental health needs met are more likely to struggle with attention to content in the classroom. Education needs to reach all students not just white children. That’s what drove her to apply an anti-racist curriculum for her class. It’s important to educate all people on the history and current reality for everyone. But all of this requires the right energy from school staff who may not feel like they have that kind of time or energy. Morgan acknowledged that many teachers are drained and just trying to make it through the day. The way things are currently isn’t going to be sustainable for teachers or their students long term. There needs to be a change with the way we assist teachers and give them the tools they need to support their students in return. So the question that comes up is: How do we improve mental health? What techniques or methods can be used?
Putting mental health at the forefront has always been a big dream for Morgan. She believes schools are capable of finding a way to blend social and emotional learning with academics in order to really support these future leaders. She joined a charter school after graduating and was impressed by the school’s attempt to close the achievement gap for low income students and students of color. But even with those attempts, there was a link missing with considering students’ needs. So it was time to head off to another school that had shared leadership and allowed her to choose a behavior management system for each student. During this period, the one thing that Morgan says made a big difference in her teaching life was being introduced to mindfulness.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Mindfulness is defined in one way as the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. Another way to think about mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique. Mindfulness is something anyone can benefit from, teachers and students included. It gives students and teachers some powerful ways to cope with stress and find an inner calmness. Not to mention it boosts self esteem. Some teachers across the country have been using mindfulness in their classrooms, hoping to see these changes in their students. Research shows that mindfulness for teachers has reported teachers feeling more successful in their work and having more emotionally supportive and organized classrooms. In the case of children and teens, the results have been impressive. Students who practice more mindfulness show:
After realizing these benefits, Morgan decided to share her practices with her own students. She shares,
“I want to give them that tool to cope with their emotions and past, current, or future trauma and I think that adults deserve that, too,”.
Educators who are inspired to get more mindful can start this journey is to try some popular resources like the CALM app, Headspace, or Mindful.org. Leaders and admin can also take initiative by hiring outside contractors to guide professional development sessions. There’s a lot of value in having an external organization or consultant who can drop in on virtual classes and offer some objective feedback. This is all connected to the idea of instructional coaching and how it can really help teachers develop their practices in a way that feels manageable. With instructional coaching, there’s no pressure to apply all these things that a coach and teacher discuss. Instead, it’s a way to ignite creative energy and name goals whether that’s a personal goal or a goal for your students. The last thing Morgan recommends is to find some time for journaling. Writing down your thoughts is a simple but effective way to release some emotions, find extra gratitude in your day, and change your mindset.
If you want to connect with Morgan, you can find her on her LinkedIn account Morgan Atkins or on Instagram @mindfulwithmorgan.
To continue the conversation, you can head over to our Time for Teachership Facebook group and join our community of educational visionaries. Until next time leaders, continue to think big, act brave, and be your best self.
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Lindsay Lyons (she/her) is an educational justice coach who works with teachers and school leaders to inspire educational innovation for racial and gender justice, design curricula grounded in student voice, and build capacity for shared leadership. Lindsay taught in NYC public schools, holds a PhD in Leadership and Change, and is the founder of the educational blog and podcast, Time for Teachership.