Confessions of a Teacher

It’s Time to Build A Shelf

Build That Shelf! Build That Shelf! Build That Shelf!
Overwhelmed. Overworked. Help?
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been completely overwhelmed. My new school district is way more demanding than any other district I’ve taught in, stateside and abroad. Not only are they more demanding, they also check, check, and double-check to make sure you’re doing what they’ve asked.
I’ve cried multiple times, quit multiple times, and completely broken my own rules for what a teacher should and shouldn’t say during the school year (check that article out here.) What can I say? I’m not a perfect teacher.
A lot of the frustration comes from who I am as an individual. I like to give my all to something. I like to be at the top of my game. I like to take what people give me and do it ten times better. So even though I landed back in the USA from teaching abroad with my husband and two toddlers, started the job five days later, while living in a hotel trying to find a place to live, I was still trying to give my all, when in reality, I had very little to give. 
I couldn’t take it. I got to the point where I started applying for other jobs. I was fed up. It was too much. Click To Tweet
Build A Shelf.
My husband, who was also a teacher, sat me down and told me that I had to start acknowledging what I could get to and let go of things that weren’t a top priority and sit it on the shelf. Even though everything was “required”, there was only so much I could do in a day. 
I tried excuse after excuse to get him to see that I HAD to do everything, but ultimately, in the end, he was right. (Don’t tell him I said that.)
As teachers, we try to take on so much. We have huge dreams and goals for our classrooms and students. Those take up a lot of time and energy as it is. As soon as administrators show up and add on “required” district/school-wide non-content tasks, we’ve internally given up. We know we can’t do it all, but that doesn’t mean we won’t try. 
Insert “The Shelf”. 
The Shelf has saved me as a teacher. It’s been the tool that removed the burden of trying to be the “perfect teacher”. 
The Shelf is not a physical space, but a mental place for the stuff you just can’t get to right now. It’s for those nobody’s gonna die, will-I-have-a-job-tomorrow, “I can’t worry about it!” tasks. Trust me, there are quite a few of them within that “required” pile of stuff you have sitting on your desk staring at you.
Some…most administrators will not like your shelf. 
*shrugs shoulders*
The Shelf has created a place of honesty and “real talk” during my conversations with administrators in my building. I don’t just tell them, “No I didn’t do it. It’s on The Shelf.” I come with valid student success and content concerns. When I show up like that, the attitudes settle and real solutions are formed.
What Goes On The Shelf?
So how do you know what should go on The Shelf?
Ask yourself these questions about the “required task”:
Does it affect the amount of time I have to teach content? (If yes, put it on The Shelf. You can get to it later.)
Is this something I have to present before administrators on a weekly basis? (If no, put it on The Shelf. You can get to it later.)
Is it content related? (If no, put it on the shelf. Find a valid content and student success concern for why it’s on The Shelf if asked.)
If I set this aside, is there time in the future to pick it back up? (If yes, put it on The Shelf. If no, determine why and go back to question three. Still put it on The Shelf.)
Will anyone die, get fired, or possibly fail if I don’t do this? (If no, you know what to do.)
One of the outcomes of The Shelf will be questions from administrators about why you aren’t doing something “required”. One of the best ways you can respond is to provide valid points based on student success and content. In addition to valid points, be sure to ask your administrators how they would do it, or how it can be modified to fit into your already demanding schedule. Their response will tell you one of two things about what’s on The Shelf; if it should come off, be modified and implemented, or be thrown in the trash. 
This is a mental health mandate. You need to Build A Shelf. For your classroom, home, and life. 
Everything is not “required”. There are things you will not and cannot get to…
… and no matter what anyone says, that is okay.
Build. That. Shelf.

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