The Minimalist Educator Podcast

Episode 012: Routines and Habits for Minimalism with Tammy & Christine

November 07, 2023 Season 1 Episode 12
The Minimalist Educator Podcast
Episode 012: Routines and Habits for Minimalism with Tammy & Christine
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In today's episode, we focus on how to build routines and habits to serve our priorities. Our pare down pointers are around feedback and remembering to check in with each other.

 Today's episode was brought to you by Plan Z Professional Learning Services, Forward Thinking Educator Support. Find out more at www.PlanZPLServices.com. Follow us @PlanZPLS on Twitter and Instagram.

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Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Minimalist Educator Podcast, a podcast about pairing down to refocus on the purpose and priorities in our roles with co-hosts and co-authors of the Minimalist Teacher Book, Tammy Musiowsky-Borniman and Christine Arnold.

Speaker 2:

In today's episode, we focus on how to build routines and habits to serve our priorities. Our pair down pointers are around feedback and remembering to check in with each other. Hello and welcome everybody to today's episode of the Minimalist Educator Podcast. Today, Tammy and myself will be discussing some routines and habits for minimalism. How are you, Tammy?

Speaker 3:

I'm pretty good today. How are you?

Speaker 2:

Pretty good. So, tammy, we are always advocating for minimalism in order for people to have a more achievable, meaningful workload as educators. So, thinking about habits and routines, how can this contribute to building these practices?

Speaker 3:

I think that as educators I'm going to generalize here we are in a place where routines are critical in our daily routine of the day. So we have structures and routines in place for our students a lot of times, so they will know what to do when they come into the room, when they unpack for the day. I'm thinking here of the littles, because we're both elementary teachers, but also even students at that upper level. They have routines that students and teachers. I should say there's routines for everyone. It doesn't matter what level learner you are or what level of school. We have to have things in place so that we just know what to do every day. Otherwise we're going to be flailing around like not knowing what's happening.

Speaker 3:

The thing that I think we need to remember is that when we have routines, we have to maybe categorize them by how efficient they are or how productive they are, to make sure that we are staying on track for the goal that we might have.

Speaker 3:

I'll call it a goal. Maybe it's not necessarily a goal, but to have a good, productive day, because sometimes we can have routines that are I'll call them negative and maybe don't serve us well, even though they're things that we've been doing for a long time. And then we have the positive ones that help us achieve what we want to achieve and that might look like a routine for having your kids get out their laptops or that structure to get people transitioned between things easily. But if we sometimes I think about negative habits, maybe more in a personal life, because we might get up in the morning and have three cups of coffee and whatever your morning routine is to get you set to go to school, but maybe that isn't the best routine for you to actually feel physically well. Maybe that caffeine isn't the greatest thing like three cups of it before you get to school.

Speaker 2:

That sounds amazing. No, I have to say three cups of full school samples.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, you're definitely going to be jazzed. I would be sweating. But maybe it's not the best routine to get the jitters before you're arriving at school. And of course this is kind of like a simple example, but maybe just having one to start would be just enough to get you to school and then get yourself on your way.

Speaker 3:

But I think that we just sometimes get into routines because we're used to them and so we keep teaching ways you know could be traditional ways or whatever. We're hesitant to make shifts in the way we teach because we're just used to doing things a certain way. And that can be okay for comfort's sake. But it can also be negative because if it's not serving our learners in ways that we want them to engage in learning, or if it's making us use too much of our mental energy to do something just because it is an old routine, even though the cognitive load should be lessen because it's routine, but it doesn't mean it's a good one. So we do have to reevaluate. What are the routines that I have that are the positive ones, what are the habits or the actions that I'm taking to to? I keep saying be productive, but I don't know if that's the right word, but to achieve the goal that you have for the day without having to expend more energy than you need to, absolutely.

Speaker 3:

If that makes any sense. I feel like I said a lot of words there and maybe not like a lot of content.

Speaker 2:

No, I think you were making sense. It made me think about the teachers that I've worked with who have gotten into the habit, for whatever reason, to just work through lunch. They eat their lunch at their desk while they keep working and I think it's almost like a false feeling of doing your job. Well, I feel at this point in my career because we know from all of the research that's come out how important it is to have friends at work and how important it is to have a little bit of downtime and to talk about something else. And so really you're by feeling like I've got this habit that works for me because I can get more done in that 20 minutes, half an hour.

Speaker 2:

I don't think any teacher's got an hour lunch break. I don't think that's happening. I got a picture, but I think it's actually adding to this feeling of heaviness about the work because you're not having a break and having a moment to connect with the other people in the building and how important those relationships are in the enjoyment of your work. And we've seen that if people are feeling positive about being in the workplace, no matter what field, they're more likely to stay, and so I think that's one of those negative habits that you're talking about. That I know a lot of people fall into that.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, that's a good point. It made me think about when I taught in New York and I co-taught with a lady named Monica not our good friend Monica Burns, but another Monica she and I would always make a point of going outside at lunch to get to go get our lunch, so at least we were leaving the building. I think we had 45 minutes for lunch or something. We'd leave the building, have a chat, bring our food back. Yeah, we'd eat in the classroom most days, but we weren't working. We wanted to have a little bit of downtime and this connection from that load of teaching. So that was one of those positive habits that I think that we created because we knew that it was helpful for us, because we did have a really good relationship. You know, like we are basically, you know, in a co-teaching relationship, you're kind of married to that person, right?

Speaker 3:

You're with them a lot of hours and you're doing some intense work together. But you also need the time to just talk about personal things or just not talk at all. Sometimes you just like want to sit and that relieves some of that cognitive load of just always having to be on all day long.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely yeah yeah, that's a really good point. When you were talking there too, it made me think of do you have some habits that you have created over time that you think are positive ones, that have helped you just kind of have some of that mental health? Do you have some of that mental downtime during the day, the mental downtime.

Speaker 2:

Yes, as we're talking about positive habits. I think I was thinking of other habits, but having that down, time, whichever ones, whichever ones you think are serving you.

Speaker 2:

Well, I don't know, it is important to do the mental downtime. I think it is. Let me think about this. I definitely like I love my coffee. I think we've established that already in this episode. I definitely take the time.

Speaker 2:

As soon as I walk into the building I turn on the computer and I go to the kitchen and make a cup of coffee. I do that at recess and I do that at lunch. I do that whenever I can, partly because I love the coffee but partly because I have got that few minutes to walk over to the staff room maybe have a little chat with whoever might be in there and then a little walk back. Those moments are important for me, just to be out of the room for a second and say hello to some different people and obviously drink the coffee. I think that's a big one for me.

Speaker 2:

Also, I have got into the habit of after I drop the kids off, I always feel this physical, just tired wall come down as soon as I say goodbye to my students. I don't know what it is, whether it's a blood sugar fitting or just I can stop being on now I feel tired automatically. I'm not sure I've got into the habit of when I feel that tiredness wave come over me, I sit at my computer and I do something where I can just sit, even though there might be things where I need to get up and move around or go to the photocopy or go and see someone. I do just take a little bit of time to sit at my desk and check the emails or do something where I can just sit for a few minutes. That does help me to get over that feeling of tiredness. How about yourself? What have you found over the years?

Speaker 3:

Well, we talk about the focus on people in relationships and how we've been talking about this a lot in a lot of our episodes and how central to what we do are the relationships of the people that we're working with every day.

Speaker 3:

That's our young learners or adult learners, it doesn't matter the age of the learner and our colleagues. I think that when we have built in some of those routines, like you mentioned, where just the walking over to the staff lounge to make the coffee and just have a chat with someone who's in there is a positive routine to have, because I think a negative routine to have would be to isolate yourself, that happens a lot, right? Although I understand a lot of teachers are introverts and I can relate to this, I know you can too we need the decompression, downtime away from people, even though we love people, right, we love being around them. The energy can often be great and positive, but it can be really easy to create this habit of the disconnection time instead of reaching out to people to say hello. It doesn't have to be a huge conversation, but it might just be like to see another adult, especially you're teaching little learners like kindergarteners, right, where you having these funny conversations all day long, but then you're like where are the adults I need?

Speaker 3:

a regular conversation. I think that's a positive habit also, too, that I've created is that checking in with people to just have a quick hey, how are you, would you do on the weekend we're not talking about work for a few minutes Again, it doesn't have to be a big thing. I'm also a person where I don't like interrupting people when they're in workflow. I have a thing where I feel bad about that, but I also know that it's important for all of us to have that look outside of the work and look at the people in front of us. That's one of the things that related to what you said, too, but I'm like you got to focus on people Absolutely.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah. I wouldn't want to be in the building if it wasn't for the people, that's for sure. Right? What about thinking more about our physical spaces? What are some habits or routines that you have built into your day, your week, your year around the physical space?

Speaker 3:

I'm one of those people who I need to operate in a pretty tidy space. It doesn't always appear that way, but as long as it makes sense to me, then I feel okay. So I am one of those people, even when I was teaching full time in the classroom and now you know, I tidy up my space at the end of the day, make sure everything's back in its place, my desk is pretty orderly, and that's one of those things that I think most of us teachers teach our students to is that when you're finished with something, we're going to tidy up what we've used and we're going to put it back because we want whoever's going to use it next whether it's the space or the materials we want them to be able to find what they need and use them accordingly. So that's been a really important routine and those specific habits to build, I think, with students and just something that I do all the time. So at my role at the school now I'm not in a classroom full time, but I work at the school with teachers as a coach and, you know, sometimes with their students, and my space is flexible, mobile spot, so I will bring my bag in each day and I have, you know a table and I just put my things out for the day and then I put it away always at the end of the day. So I also am not there all the time, so I bring my things with me each day and I feel like that keeps me pretty in check with the materials that I'm actually using and then the things that I use at school, too.

Speaker 3:

Anytime I'm using something, it goes right back to its spot, and that's something that we're working on a lot this year is having everything labeled in its spot so everybody knows where it is, where to access things, because that's a time suck sometimes is when you're like where is the box of play dough or glue sticks or whatever it is? Because, being a small school, we have a lot of centrally located materials and so you know if we don't have to ask somebody, so it's wasting our time, their time. When it's, you know, labeled in a central spot, then we all know where to access the things and I think that we can spend a lot of time like wasting time looking for stuff that we need and you know. So that's always been important to me in a physical space. How about you? Because I know we're a little different with physical spaces.

Speaker 2:

You're not talking about my messy desk, are you telling me?

Speaker 2:

Yes so, yes, you could not say from my desk that I am a minimalist in any way, but I have my system and it works. I'm one of those people who looks like I've got a crazy stack of papers on my desk, but then you could say when is that summative assessment that we did last week? And I will be able to find it straight away. I'm one of those people. But no, I think I think you know. Thinking about physical space, we do need to think about the walls of the room and how we can use that effectively in a way that is not going to take over our time and our effort over other tasks that might be more meaningful, more important. So I really do think carefully about what I'm putting up in the room, how I can put things up that is going to be useful for the kids, that they can refer to and use. And if I do put up, you know something pretty, something you know some of their artwork or you know things like that that we've worked on, that it doesn't need to change every two, three weeks. It can stay up for longer and, and you know, do it once properly and then you can leave it up for a while. But really being thoughtful about what you're putting up on the wall, so you're not spending all of your time making display after display after display. I think that's a big one for me.

Speaker 2:

And then, yeah, enlisting the kids to help Absolutely, and it depends on the group of kids that you have in front of you.

Speaker 2:

I mean, I've used many different strategies over the years, from you know classroom jobs to you know desk ferries, to we're all going to tidy up for five minutes, find the special piece of trash that I've got my eye on, and that person gets a prize. Like, it completely depends on the group of kids that you've got in front of you and you, you know there'll always be those kids who are willing to help out. At the end of the year just finished, I had some kids who were very happy to help, and so I'd, you know, read a chapter of our read aloud book and I'd have my kids running around in the background tidying while we're listening to a story, and that seemed to work well for us as a community. So it really just depends on the group that you have. All groups are going to respond in the same way, yeah, but it's definitely needs to be a shared activity, monitoring the space and keeping everything organized and accessible.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, for sure. What are some challenges that people might experience when they're trying to build out a minimalist set of habits or routines? Do you think?

Speaker 2:

I think part of it we've already touched on is that you know, we haven't really thought about whether the routine, the habit, is serving us and that it actually may be a negative habit rather than a positive one. I think there may be a little bit of I should do this that creeps in with teachers. I think a lot of people find it really hard to shake off some of that stuff. I know, you know, for many, many people they've learned or they've been told, some sort of value system attached to you know, the last car in the car park or the first car in the car park, and you know, I'm pretty sure there's not a teacher around that hasn't at some point heard someone make a comment around that sort of thing. So I think we do have to be really thoughtful and reflective for ourselves and what works for us, rather than feeling like what we should do. You know what about you? What do you think are some challenges, some barriers that people might experience?

Speaker 3:

I think that, and often we use time as an excuse, right, Like I don't have time to think about this or make adjustments. But I think people will say that it's time, and I'll say it's time because it does take time to think about what you're doing every day. We do get into autopilot and just do the day, and I think that's kind of a negative right, and it can be a challenge. So if we're just going about the day, I don't know, it doesn't feel like there's much value or meaning there, which is what you were just talking about. So the challenge for people is that they maybe just don't pause and think about what routines are serving me, which ones do I need to change, what habits do I need to change? Because it is hard, right, and being reflective about the things that you're doing all the time is a hard process for some people and it creates some angst and uncomfortable feelings because you're just used to doing things the way you've done them or you just get in those smooth ruts that you drive in every day. And so the challenge can be and I'm thinking about too like working as a teacher coach, when we get in those ruts or like those just everyday routines. It's a challenge to get people to think a little bit off track, right, yeah, and so like, maybe we need to change this routine to make this better and so that, especially when it comes to like room setups right, Because, like, right now there's people are reevaluating their spaces, right?

Speaker 3:

So you look on Instagram and people are doing all different kinds of things with their classroom spaces. Sorry, I'm getting a little off track, but I'm thinking. Sorry, I'll stop there because I'm thinking about something else, but anyway, when people are setting up their classrooms, let's say, they will tend to just set it up the way they've always set it up, because that's what they're used to. But what is it in the environment that they don't need to have there? Right? That's a challenge for getting people to think about that, in a way, Like, do you need to have that set up for your first days of school, let's say? Or do you need to have that display for Thanksgiving? Do you even need to put up a thing for the holidays? Right? Like, I'm thinking about that different way of thinking. That is the challenge for people and to like, okay, well, last year I put up this display and you were talking about, like, the use of your wall space, Just getting people to think about the space differently to minimize what's happening in it, like visual clutter or stuff out.

Speaker 3:

That's a challenge. That's a challenge, it is for sure. Even the type of furniture, the type of furniture that's in the room you know like, does every kid need to have a chair? Maybe they don't, maybe they just need a spot? Yeah, you know, because chairs take up a lot of space. So it just depends it depends.

Speaker 2:

For sure, for sure. I think, tammy, we should revisit this because, as we're talking, I'm thinking about all the little habits and routines that I am, and you probably as well everybody we're probably unconsciously doing, that We've picked up over the years. You know shortcuts to giving feedback, you know the sort of ways that we can make the use of our time in a lesson, even like the digital routines that we have. I feel like maybe this is something we need to revisit at some point. What do you think?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I think we need to break it down actually, because there's just a lot of there's a lot so many routines and I know we kind of went over arching idea, but we could really break it down into so many different conversations.

Speaker 2:

So, I think, stay tuned everyone. I think we will come back and keep sharing some hints and tips for building these habits and routines.

Speaker 3:

I think so too. But before we go, christine, yes, we always give people a pair down pointer. Mm-hmm, what do you think our pair down pointer is for today? I have a couple in mind, but I wonder if they're the same as yours or the same as mine.

Speaker 2:

Well, yeah, it's. Which one to share is the question Right? I think the one that's popping into my head right now is just talking about giving feedback. Is I invested in buying a couple of uniquely designed stamps, maybe, I should say, and so I have ones that like just say low and grow so I can give some feedback? You know something that they can work on and something that they excelled in, or just one that I can tick a box, whether they did it with assistance or whether they were able to do it independently, and so, with these stamps, I can just very quickly give some feedback over the shoulder without having to write full sentences, etc. Etc. And that that has been a huge time saver for me. So that's the one that popped into my head first. How about you?

Speaker 3:

Oh yeah, that's a good one, that's a really good one For me. I think I would go back to that routine of making sure you're checking in with a person every day, whether it's, you know, when you're going to get your coffee, just remembering that people should be part of your routine and not just the routine of being with the people as your routine. Right, because we know that's part of our everyday, but focusing on that, you know, I'm not going to talk about school or work or whatever for this few minutes, but I'm going to pop in to see whoever next door and just chat for a few minutes and just do that every day. Right, because we just disconnect sometimes from people when we're deep in the school year and we get floundering around, and so I think when we can make a habit of checking in with each other, then we're better off.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely, and it's so good for the kids to see us being like that too, like sharing a laugh with someone or checking in with people. I mean, it's good role modeling for them as well. I agree. Thanks so much, christine. Thank you Till next time. Today's episode was brought to you by Plan Z Professional Learning Services, forward Thinking, educator Support. Find out more at PlanZPLServicescom.

Speaker 1:

Be sure to join Tammy and Christine and guests for more episodes of the Minimalist Educator Podcast. They would love to hear about your journey with minimalism. Connect with them at PlanZPLS on Twitter or Instagram. The music for the podcast has been written and performed by Gaya Moretti.

Speaker 3:

Thank you.

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