Planning Series BONUS Episode: Give Yourself the Gift of Time & Believe You Deserve It with Lori DollRead Now
Listen to the episode by clicking the link to your preferred podcast platform below:
Lindsay Lyons: I am super excited for this bonus episode where you get to listen to Lori Doll. Lori was born and raised in the Reno Tahoe area of Nevada, a place she will always call home. She graduated with a bachelor's in education (history) from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1987. She taught in northern Nevada for 13 years and she had a wide variety of experiences including technical schools, adult education, as both large, suburban and small rural high schools. In 2010. Her family relocated to Connecticut and she earned her master's in education technology from Central Connecticut State University where she was awarded a fellowship in the Educational Leadership Policy and Instructional Technology Department. But knowing her joy came from teaching adolescents, she went back to teaching middle and high school. And so she's currently teaching history at Bloomfield High School in Bloomfield, Connecticut. Lori was a student in my Work Less Teach More course. She has revolutionized her sustainable teaching practice and work-life balance and I can't wait for you to hear what her experience has been like in radically transforming that work life, particularly amidst a pandemic.
She also has created an amazing resource for you all around how she prioritizes her To-Do list, which we'll include in a link to the show notes and on our blog post/transcript for this episode. Get excited to listen to Lori Doll.
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Hi, I'm Lindsay Lyons and I love helping school communities envision bold possibilities, take brave action to make those dreams a reality, and sustain an inclusive, anti-racist culture where all students thrive, I'm a former teacher leader-turned instructional coach, educational consultant, and leadership scholar. If you are a leader in the education world, whether you're a principal, superintendent, instructional coach, or a classroom teacher excited about school wide change like I was, you are a leader. And if you enjoy nerding out about the latest educational books and podcasts, if you're committed to a lifelong journey of learning and growth and being the best version of yourself, you're going to love the Time for Teachership podcast. Let's dive in.
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Lindsay Lyons: Lori Doll.
Welcome to the Time for Teachership podcast.
Lori Doll: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Lindsay Lyons: I'm so excited that you're here and I'm so excited for our conversation and before we kind of jump into it, I just read your professional bio and so I'm wondering if there's anything else that you want to add to that or anything you think, you know, listeners should know as they kind of jump into this episode.
Lori Doll: So I have a variety of experience in education, but I must say that my favorite place to be is in the classroom, whether it's high school or middle school. So out of all the other experiences, this is... this is where I want to be and I actually left the collegiate level to come back here, because it makes me the happiest.
Lindsay Lyons: Oh, that's amazing. Thank you for sharing that. So one of the things that I always like to start the podcast episodes with is just this idea of Freedom Dreaming and Dr. Bettina Love talks about it as "Dreams grounded in the critique of injustice". And I think this just really situates all of the different work that we do as educators, and so I'm curious to know as we kind of get into this episode, what is that big dream that you hold for the field of education broadly? For educators?
You know, however you interpret that question.
Lori Doll: I think that I really would like to see more creativity and imagination come into our classrooms. I think that the way that american education has been going, we are so focused on the academic skills and test scores and that's all well and good because our kids need that. But I feel like in my years of being in the classroom that this generation has really stopped being imaginative. And I think it's several reasons why I think this overuse of technology, they don't have to imagine things because it's right there in front of them, but I also think it's that we have really taken out some of that creativity of just having fun in the classroom. Every, every activity has to be connected with the standard and it's not about just, you know, let's just enjoy learning today or enjoy each other's company today. And because of that, I think that we've stifled the creativity and because everything is linked to a standard, I think sometimes kids are afraid to try because they're afraid if they have the wrong answer or what they're going for is not exactly right, that perfectionism, they stop, they stifle themselves, they just stop.
And then with the technology again, I think they just don't have that quiet time that we need to focus to be creative. Sometimes we just need to sit in that quiet and take a few deep breaths and really think and contemplate and reflect. And I would like to see education get back to that, not just for our students, but for our teachers too, because I think teachers are becoming stifled as well. And we're losing the creativity and the love of learning that we carry to our students. You know, because if we're bored with our lesson plan, of course, the students are gonna be bored with our lesson plan. Like I, I don't want to have the classroom like, "Oh my God, I can't believe I'm teaching this. I'm so bored". I don't want that in my classroom. I really do feel I want to bring creativity and imagination, and of course you can have academic skills go along with that. And I think by pulling out opportunities from our campuses and separating into magnet schools and saying, "Oh, this is the vocational high school".
Well now the kid who wants to do AP classes, where are they going to be able to take a shop class or a cooking class and that's creativeness. That's where we put our math and our science into the application, but they don't have that opportunity. It's all academics or it's all vocational or it's all visual arts or it's..., you know. So I feel like we're really just doing a disservice to our students that way.
Lindsay Lyons: Oh my gosh, what a great answer. There's so much in that around, like, you know, what education could be as well as thinking from a student perspective and like you said, the educator perspective too, right? We need to take care of our educators and I think we'll talk a lot about that today in our conversation, but I think that's so critically important, this creativity element and just being able to have fun, right? Like you can hit the standards and then you can also have fun and you can have those days where you're in connection like you said. Oh my gosh, I just love everything that you said and I hope listeners rewind and listen to that part again. As you kind of think about this idea of educator wellness and thinking about maintaining that creative spark for educators, I'd love for you to talk about...
so let me back up, rewind, and so talking about the course that I developed, the Work Less Teach More course, that wasn't part for my dream, which is kind of what you're speaking to for educators. Like I want educators to live their lives to the fullest extent, both personally and professionally, to find that creative energy, to not feel burned out. And that's really common now that COVID has hit and so you took this course, you absolutely rocked it. I am just shocked and amazed by all of the amazing things you just kind of took and ran with and so I am so curious if you are willing to kind of go there and have conversation about, you know, what that was like for you? How did you put those concepts into action?
Lori Doll: Sure. So I am a self proclaimed workaholic, and my children who are in high school will say the same thing. They ask about my work ethic and say "Oh my parents work all the time". And we do really. We have this ideal of "This is important work that we're doing." But I let it take over my life and like, before I took your course I worked all the time. And even though I had kids and was taking care of kids, I would leave this-- I would get to the school at 6:30 in the morning and then I wouldn't leave until four or five o'clock at night, and then I would take care of all the activities that my kids were in and take care of my kids and put them to bed, and then I would go and work for another three or four hours.
I was getting like four or five hours of sleep at night. I was incredibly stressed and tired. I worked all the time and I had this mentality that everything had to be perfect. It had to be-- I had to always have something new and I always had to have this-- the perfect stuff and I let this perfectionism kind of take over my life. And I was tired and I was stressed and I wasn't happy teaching. That-- I had returned back into the high school classroom. The district I work at is great, but our curriculum is very prescribed at times and I really didn't like the methods that they wanted us to use. But as a person who's kind of a perfectionist in their job, I got to do what I'm asked to do and I have to do when I'm asked to do it. So I let that kind of... that kind of take over, this perfection takeover. And so, in March of 2020, before lockdown, my husband had a heart attack.
And so, things were so crazy then and I just, I didn't know what I was going to do because we really co-parent and now he's like on the sidelines and I have all this stuff to do and I have to do his stuff. And it was crazy and I was on Facebook like, yes I still had time to scroll through Facebook and I saw your ad for your course and I'm like, "I gotta try something". So you have like a little introduction to the course, I'm like, "Oh my God, I need this. I really need to do this". And so I purchased the course and then we went into lockdown so then everything changed because we were all quarantined. My whole family was at home, working from home, learning from home, teaching from home. And so we were, you know, it was just like overwhelming and then school really took over my life because I was doing everything all the time. I was online all the time helping the kids and the kids wanted to have school like between nine p.m. and 12 p.m. Like that's when they were up, they were sleeping during the day and at first we didn't do Zoom classes or anything like that.
So it was really just all up in the air and like, gosh I really need to get organized. So I started going through your course and like, the first one of the first lessons was your schedule. Like, "Budgeting Your Time" and that just like was a lifesaver, you know. So I set boundaries, this is what I'm teaching, this is when I have family time and it really... it really helped. So and setting priorities in my life. What do I want? What do I want for my classroom? What do I want for my kids? What do I want for my relationships? And by setting priorities and being able to say "No, you know, I can't do that right now". It really set the tone for when I was gonna schedule. And so and then I love research. Like, research is one of my favorite things to do. So I am that teacher that when I go to lesson plan, I go down the rabbit hole, not because I'm getting lost but because I want to dig deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper.
And so I learned to set a timer. Really setting that timer, sticking to certain sites. Not, you know, and it's not that I can't go there. I bookmark a lot of stuff now, I'll come back to that. We'll look at that later. So that has helped as well to cut down that time. And then the way that you divided time into the 40, 50, 10. It was a huge help because it was like an assessment. I don't need to grade everything, which I didn't always grade everything, but it really helped kind of like pinpoint those key things that I want to assess and with the standards, I would say, okay, we're looking at key detail today. So that is all I'm going to look at in this constructive response is key detail or citing evidence or whatever the standard I'm--, that's all I'm gonna grade, nothing else. Like I'm not going to grade if they had a good topic sentence or anything else, just very focused on what skill we're doing. And by focusing that, grading became controllable and then my favorite is the professional development.
So like, I love learning. Like, I love, love learning. So being able to listen to podcasts and sign up for classes and doing that is great. And although I don't do a lot of it in my prep time, I do--, I have put for my commute time, I do a lot of listening to podcasts and audiobooks and in different things. And it also allows me to kind of decompress for the day, like this is just my time and I get to learn and I get to learn what I want to learn. And so it's been really helpful there and I put that into my practice. I really try to find new things to put into my pedagogy and to really try to just be a great teacher because that's what I-- that's what I am. I want to be a great teacher and I'm getting there. I think I'm okay. The kids like this. I get better every day and that's all I ask of all my students is you just got to get a little better every day and I think that's like the biggest takeaway from me. That there's no guilt, just do what you need to do, get it done when you can, and do the best you can.
So, and the stress level is really gone down, although even through the pandemic and the hybrid teaching last year, which was just nuts. I was able to, you know, kind of keep it together, which really was good for everybody. My kids thought it was really good too.
Lindsay Lyons: Yeah. Oh my gosh, I love, I love the kind of overview of like all the things, all the practices and mindset shifts that you kind of got and put into action. And I love that you're kind of going there now towards this idea of like lowered stress and what that looks like. Could you kind of paint us a picture for like, I know you painted us a picture of what did life look like, you know, a few years back. That, like, exhaustion and like the constant working, sleeping four hours a night, what does it look like today? Like what is your day to day? Either in work or out of work? However you want to answer that question real quick.
Lori Doll: Yeah, so now I still come in the morning between 6:30 and 7 but if I'm having a slow morning, I'm good to get here at 7:10. Like, I don't stress out about it.
It's like, okay, I'm just a little later today. I do like, I wouldn't say I'm a morning person, but I definitely am more productive in the morning, so my prep periods all in the afternoon. So I do like to come a few minutes, half hour earlier to kind of do that, for me, and I'm also able to kind of focus. I do my calendar in the morning and so that really helps me, you know, focus my day. So I set three or four priorities. This is what I want to complete today before I leave. And so it just kind of keeps me focused. I also, at the end of the day I say I'm done with any schoolwork. I still sometimes take school work home, but I say after nine o'clock it's done. The computer shut. I shut down my computer. I don't look at my emails, I don't look at my text messages like I'm done, I'm gonna get ready for bed and I try to be asleep by 11. So it's still pretty late for me. My husband thinks I'm crazy. He goes to bed at eight, so it's like, "11?
Oh my God", but for me, I just need that time and it's my time and I'll crochet. I finished a beautiful afghan for my mother over lockdown and it wasn't because I was sitting at home. It was because I actually budgeted time to do it. So I was able to finish this afghan and I really did budget time. Like I said, I'm gonna work on this for a half hour. I'm gonna work on this for an hour. And I try to do that when I, when I sit down and do my schedule, I usually do it Sunday night or Monday morning and I make this To-Do list and then I schedule my To-Do list. So I don't only, I not only schedule what appointments if I have and, and meetings and things like that. Well, if I have to grade papers, I schedule a time to grade the papers. If I have to, if I want to go out to dinner with my friends. I put that in the schedule. And then it's there and I look at it and I'm like, "Oh, I have to get all this done because over here I have this that I want to do". And I try to get at least 5-10 minutes for myself.
Like if I'm going to crochet, or I'm going to go out with friends, or play games, or just something that's me. And then I always budget time for our family. [inaudible] Sometimes that's difficult with, we kind of have to rearrange things to accommodate their schedules. But we really try to eat as a family every night and come together. And that family time is so important to us. So being able to do that and again, it's just budgeting time. And the stress level of my house is so much better for all of us. And we had to make these lifestyle changes because of my husband's health and we want to be good role models for our kids. Like I don't want my kids to be in jobs and just stress over work all the time. I want them to know what a balanced life is as well.
Lindsay Lyons: Yes. Oh my gosh, yes. I think about like my personal journey to teaching and I started as a kid being like "I will never be a teacher" because I had two teacher parents who would bring home the stress and be like, "I have a ton of work to grade" and all these things and I think "That's what teaching is. I don't want that." And then I realized there's all the good, which is why they stay in the jobs. But sometimes kids don't see that when we take that home, so that's such a good point, I appreciate that.
And as you kind of think about, I know you talked a lot about like some mindset shifts, some specific practices. If there is a person who is currently kind of where you were two years ago, what are the things you would emphasize for them or what would you want them to know in terms of like either what is possible, what can be done, or anything that you haven't said so far that you want to make sure that they kind of come away from this episode knowing.
Lori Doll: That's-- you, you can do this. You have to believe that you can balance your life. And like, my life is not perfect and I'm working at it every day. It's a process. I always tell myself it's a process. You're getting better and there are goals that I want to meet and set. But I want people to know that they can do this, and if you start doing this, and budgeting your time, and really telling yourself you don't have to have everything done at the end of the day, that you can come back to it, reschedule.
that's okay and that-- then take the baby steps. Like, if you feel that you can't leave at three o'clock every day, then just leave 10 minutes earlier than you did yesterday, and then the next day, 10 minutes earlier than the next day. So you-- sometimes you can't do it all at one time. I think for me, it was so transformative because of lockdown. Like, it was like the whole world was changing and everybody was in this like up in the air kind of position, that it was easier for me to just throw everything up in the air and change everything. So, but that's not possible. when we're not in that situation. So little changes. Like, little things. Start making a To-Do list and putting it in your calendar, or start saying, "Okay, I have 90 minutes and 45 is going to be for planning," and set your timer. And go just these little changes and little changes end up to be big changes. Habits that you form just and if you say "I gotta do this" and I don't, don't be guilty, don't kill yourself with guilt.
Just start again. Like, because I think as a perfectionist that I know I still am. Like, it's still, I'm a perfectionist, I want everything to be perfect in my way. Kind of selfish that way. I know that if I let myself feel guilty or try to punish myself for not getting things done, that it's going to be counterproductive. So I have to let that go. I would, I would forgive a student, you know, we're always giving our students second chances. Well, don't be so hard on yourself. Give yourself a second chance. And then find ways to motivate yourself. Like, just find ways to say "This is what I want," and again and believe that you deserve it. You deserve it. Believe in yourself. Believe that your time is a gift. And by setting those priorities, you are giving yourself the gift of time. So it's-- and I think that's important to know that you're worth it. Like, I think sometimes teachers, we are givers and we give, give, give. So, but you're worth it.
You're-- the gift is yours. So you should take it.
Lindsay Lyons: Oh my gosh. Yes, exactly that. I'm just going to echo that. That is, that is exactly right. And I think there's so much pressure that we as, like you were saying, as givers, we put on ourselves to just be there for everyone else. Our families, our students, our colleagues, our-- just everyone, and we can't show up for those people if we don't like give to ourselves. And so I love that you, you framed that that way, that the guilt too is just kind of like a... I've heard it called like a shame shower also, right? It's just like, I'm so ashamed and like that guilt is not helpful. It's not productive. It's not generative. And I love that that is kind of hopefully a big takeaway for listeners. It's just like, don't get it done. Don't take that guilt with you. It just doesn't get done and we'll come back to it. It's fine.
Lori Doll: Yeah, It's, you know, it's--, we're really--, in my district were really trying to do growth mindset and we have to have a growth mindset for ourselves as well. We have to be able to say it's a process.
And you know, sometimes it goes well and sometimes it doesn't and we just have to really believe that we'll get there.
Lindsay Lyons: Absolutely. And I think one of the things that can feel overwhelming is kind of the big difference between like where I am now and then where I could be or where I want to be and it's sometimes it just feels so overwhelming. Like you were saying with COVID, I'm sure like all of it is so overwhelming because everything is changing, right? And there's so much overwhelm. And in a way, I love that you had a positive frame. Like, in a way that's good because you're like, all right. Let's throw it all out and restart. And in other ways I think some people could get stuck in that overwhelm. So I'm curious to know if someone's kind of listening and like, "Yes, I want this transformation for myself, but I'm stuck kind of in the overwhelmed phase of, I don't know where to just start". Like, what's the first step or what's the most important step that you would say to someone if there's one takeaway they have, that that would be it.
Lori Doll: For me, it was budgeting my time. And making a schedule. So I make my schedule every week.
And so, and I know that if I miss that Sunday night or Monday morning, my week-- I play catch up. I play catch up every single day because I've missed that. And I don't like that. So I try not to do that. Like, that's my motivation. I know what I'm going to feel like on Wednesday. So let's get it done tonight. And so, and to realize you're never going to budget everything. Like, you're never going to get everything in there. So really prioritize. So prioritize and schedule. Those were the two big steps that helped me the most. I am a really productive person. Like I, it wasn't that I wasn't getting things done, I wasn't overwhelmed because I wasn't getting things done. I was overwhelmed with the amount of time I was spending doing things that were not important to me. And so by prioritizing and scheduling, now I'm still busy, like my kids still say I work a lot, but now I am working on the things that are important to me, important to make my students stronger students, important to make my school a stronger school and on the personal side,
my family life, my spiritual life, all of that is what's, you know, important. So that's what I budget for. Budget my time. And so, you know, and I still, like if I want to binge watch something, I just put it on the schedule. it's not like I'm working all the time, but it's just really, so if people feel overwhelmed, make your list of priorities, 3 to 4 things that are really important to you for the week and then schedule. And I say schedule everything. Like, my husband still does it To-Do list. He says, "I don't get through my To-Do list". I'm like "Put it in your calendar". Like, don't just write it on a piece of paper, put it in your calendar and then you say this is what I'm working on this. And you still have phone calls and emails that kind of trip you up. But you can always put that on the calendar too. Like this is my email time. This is my phone call time.
Lindsay Lyons: Oh my gosh, yes. Put it on the calendar. I love that. That is amazing.
So as you kind of think about or as we kind of move to close, close the episode today, I think this is just a really fun question to think about. It's not really necessarily related to what we're talking about, although it can be, but I just love that everyone who's on the podcast as a guest is a lifelong learner and kind of self described as like being excited about their personal or professional growth. And so I'm just curious about, it could be totally related, unrelated to work or again unrelated to this conversation. What's something that you've been learning about lately?
Lori Doll: So my modern world history class right now is looking at World War I. And I haven't--, this is the first year I've taught modern world history in about 13 years. So it's been a long time since I've taught this class. And so I'm like relearning everything too from the European kind of world perspective I've taught of course World War I in US history. So we're looking at the impacts of war through art and we're looking at two artists.
One is Anna Ladd who created these prosthetic masks for the mutilated faces of war wounded warriors. And so and how this sculptor, she was a sculptor, I was able to create these masks and then we're looking at the impact on their lives. So the kids are looking at not only the mask but like why would they need the mask? And like we were in class and like "These aren't... these aren't so bad, why do they need a mask? Like why, you know, I'm not, this isn't disturbing, this is dull, why would they need this? Why can't they just go around", and I go "Why don't you think it's disturbing?" And so then we got to talk about culture where they're exposed to so much more through the internet and through movies and the people in 1918 weren't and this was just so grotesque to them that they were never exposed to disability like this.
And so that we had a great discussion about, "Do we need to mask disability? And is this something that we have to hide? Do we have to hide our flaws?" So that was just like a great teachable moment that I just loved. And then we're also looking at Kathe Kollwitz who lost her son, a german artist who lost her son in World War I and her reaction and her sketches and etchings that display the loss and the grief and the anger for war widows and mothers and children,
Lindsay Lyons: Wow, that is powerful. I am really excited as a former history teacher, I want to like now dive into those artists, more about what they've done. That's amazing in terms of the conversation that's coming out of that and I love that you are so creative in what you're bringing to the class and also how you let the class kind of go where it needs to go. That's really inspiring.
Lori Doll: And again, that was all through art and creativity and bringing in, you know, we didn't have to read a speech and it wasn't political and it wasn't, I mean, we could talk about the politics and bring that in later, but all they did was like, look at this lady's work with Anna Ladd and look at how the men were reacting when they were because they filmed it. There's film of it, so that it's just amazing that we have that archive and then with the work with Kathe Kollwitz,
it's-- it really is, I mean, they're just sketches, but they're so powerful and the kids connect with that because they're human beings. They're little human beings that connect and they have brains. And they can make the connections to the politics and as curriculum wise, you know, with like we need to look at the Treaty of Versailles and we need to look at the boundaries on our map and that's all fun. I mean, I love that stuff. Don't get me wrong, I love looking at maps and I love looking at treaties, but I think to make it-- to find that love and for the kids finding the creative side of it and finding what they connect to, then that will spark their curiosity to say, "Well why would we have this for?" Like, you know, and now that I just said that I made you this unit at the beginning and not the middle, right, and make that the connection to find, why did this happen? So that's-- that is something else that I learned in your class is really reflecting and I've tried to reflect and so yeah, I have [inaudible] write that down.
Lindsay Lyons: That is a brilliant idea. Yeah, definitely write that down. I love that as a creative book. and then I guess the final question, I thank you so much. First of all for sharing so much great information and wisdom throughout this episode. But I think a lot of people are going to be like, okay, I want to learn more. I want to follow what you're doing or I just have questions. If people have questions or want to just kind of connect, where would you recommend they go to be able to do that? So I don't have a huge online presence, which is crazy because my masters is in educational technology. But I, I do have my PLN on Twitter @mrsldoll yeah @mrsldoll. So that's my twitter. And that's really my PLN and I, you know, that's where I go to follow people and get information. And then my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. So if they have questions. But I put it on my big dreams, you know, find time to create a website and be more online.
Have that presence.
Lindsay Lyons: That is fantastic. And I am so excited for people to connect with you and learn more from you. Thank you so much Lori. This has been a wonderful conversation. I just really appreciate your time and being here on the podcast today with us.
Lori Doll: Well thank you because it's your course that really has changed my life. So you really impacted my life and I appreciate it. Thank you.
Lindsay Lyons: Thank you so much.
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Lindsay Lyons: Thanks for listening, amazing educators. If you loved this episode you can share it on social media and tag me @lindsaybethlyons or leave a review of the show, so leaders like you will be more likely to find it. 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.