The Minimalist Educator Podcast

Episode 020: Embracing Minimalism and Self-Advocacy in Education with Christine and Tammy

January 23, 2024 Tammy Musiowsky-Borneman
The Minimalist Educator Podcast
Episode 020: Embracing Minimalism and Self-Advocacy in Education with Christine and Tammy
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Welcome to the Minimalist Educator Podcast, where education meets simplicity. Ever find yourself buried under the expectations and chaos of our profession, barely keeping your head above water? If so, we promise you'll find solace and empowerment in our discussion on the power of minimalism in education. My co-host, Tammy, and I explore how a shift in focus can reduce the unnecessary stress frequently associated with our roles, giving you the room to breathe and thrive.

We also have the pleasure of conversing with the ever-insightful Christine, shedding light on the pivotal role of self-advocacy in establishing boundaries in our professional lives. We believe it's high time we prioritized our own well-being, granting ourselves the permission to take those much-needed mental breaks away from work. Join us as we plead the case for a balanced life, one where education and personal growth coexist harmoniously. Tune in and learn how to navigate the demanding terrain of our profession, and to embrace a simpler, more sustainable approach to education.

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The Minimalist Educator Podcast is a Plan Z Professional Learning Services adventure.

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Minimalist Educator Podcast, a podcast about paring 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 this episode, Tammy and I settle into the new season with a chat about advocating for minimalism. We discuss how important this is to protect our time and energy in order to be sustainable in our profession. Hi everybody and welcome to today's episode of the Minimalist Educator. I'm here with Tammy today. How are you, Tammy?

Speaker 3:

I'm pretty good, Christine. I don't have any real complaints, which is sometimes unusual.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, pretty good, pretty good. We are talking about advocating for minimalism today and hopefully inspiring others around us with some aims and aspirations in minimalism.

Speaker 3:

Yes, yes, Because it can feel hard, as we've talked about a few times in our previous episodes last season, just how much we have to do, but we really do need to advocate for the not only the idea but the actions that we can take for just getting a little bit simpler, because things are just overly complicated sometimes and we lose sight of what it is, that what we're doing in our roles and what we're doing in our schools, and it feels it's just too much. And so if we can advocate for paring down and refocusing on our priorities, it's going to be really beneficial to not only the educators in various roles in schools but for students, because then they know that you know we're not floundering around because of other things we can. Actually, you know, they know that they're the focus rather than sometimes you know teachers can drop the stress on the students without really meaning to, because that's what stress does.

Speaker 2:

Exactly, and I think teaching is one of those professions where not only is it very busy, very hectic, whilst you're actually at work, but it's very common and presumed normal to work in the evenings and work on weekends and work in your vacation time, and I know that that adds to a lot of overwhelm, a lot of fatigue, a lot of stress for people that it's not just while you're at work, it continues on and you really have to fight for your own time and your own lifestyle.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, that's definitely true. One of the things that we try to advocate for our teachers at our little school is to do, you know, we really do pack the days, of course, because that's a school day, but we do really try to have, you know, support our teachers and not taking things home or as little as possible. So we do have teachers that will, you know, a little bit before the early start of 7.30, get themselves started and acquainted with the day and do some planning and then really just leave at that end time at three o'clock or three, you know, slightly after three, and people are pretty good with that and it makes a big difference. So people aren't hanging out in the building for endless hours and it does actually help that for us it's a shared space. So there's sometimes when we just can't be there. So we have to be thoughtful about the time that we are in the building and because, you know, sometimes there are those things that when you're planning things you need to go and get prepared and things like that, but when you actually can't be in the space it's almost a blessing, because then you're forced out and then you know you can't do the same things at home, so you just kind of have to let it go and realize that it will be there tomorrow. Fine, and it always is. You know, we try not to make anything like overly a big deal. If something's not quite right, it's fine.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's. I don't know if you struggle with this, but sometimes if I'm, you know, leaving and I feel like you know maybe I've hung around a little bit longer than usual, and then I go and see other teachers still in the building, you know I might give them a little like, hey, it's five, it's 530, let's go everyone. You know time to go, but I do feel like you know these are adults, they have they have their own. You know decision making faculties and you know, maybe, that they don't need me to come and scoot them out of the building. How do you fall with that sort of thing? Do you try and encourage people to go home or do you leave them to their own devices?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, most people are pretty good with with leaving soon and that was just from the beginning. Like you don't have to stay super long hours, like, try to just be here. You know 730 to three, those are the hours for teachers and there's planning time and, you know, during specials and things like that. So teachers are really good about using their time efficiently at school, which is great. There is one day where we've had to add a short after school meeting for like for a specific purpose, because, because we are a small school with a small staff, it was just not possible to have a full team meeting with everyone at the same time, and so we had to say, okay, we're going to do this on Wednesdays for 45 minutes after school for this specific reason, but if we don't need to have that meeting, we won't have it. So, like next week we don't need to have it because we finished everything last week. So we really wanted to you know, again, try to really stick within, like we're done at three. You can stay if you need to, but you don't have to. And so I do hear, like the appreciation for thank you for just saying that we don't have to do things all the time because you don't. So, yeah, and I think too, with this time of year in particular and we've earlier in our kind of North American school year we're right at the beginning of August. I know you guys start a little bit later, mid-september, with your students, but still this time of year, with we're moving into the fall season and people are starting to get the seasonal flu and bugs and things like that. And it just makes me think about how, like we've really been pushing ourselves, like the stamina has been like super high. It's like we're just going and going and going, and now people are like, ooh, I'm starting to not feel great, and so I always wonder, like, is it possible for us to slow down a little bit at the beginning of the year, which doesn't seem possible, even though, like I felt like we've been very intentional about the things that we've been bringing to teachers and like the timing of things, but it's still so much right Because everyone they're students and like we have lots of projects going on in field trips and things like that, and so people are starting to feel that breakdown, and so this is a time of year for sure, and I remember just in years past to where it's like, okay, how can we make sure we're still advocating for ourselves here, where we are starting to not feel well and we have the teacher guilt of but then I need to have some plans, or but though, because I'm okay, you know, but really your body's telling you to stop and but it's so hard, right, like I'm sure you guys have the same thing.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely. You've got people starting to get run down. But sometimes it feels like it's more work to take a day off and get a sub in and do all the plans and make all the provisions for that. And, oh my goodness, don't you feel the pressure when you are at home and it's the day off to just check your emails to make sure that you know if Johnny's going home with somebody else, that the subteacher knows who they're going home with? Like you're still partially dialed in to school. You're not really 100% resting. So it is really important to set yourself up with as many strategies and protocols and systems to make these things as easy as possible, if you can.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, and unfortunately we don't have like a guilt off button.

Speaker 2:

No.

Speaker 3:

What he is.

Speaker 2:

I don't think teachers about like that, no.

Speaker 3:

No, no, it is so apparent, though, when we don't feel well, it shows with our students, and even the kids know when something's not quite right and it isn't really, even though it's short and we're sick, you know. But it isn't really a sustainable practice long term either, and I know again speaking of sustainability, with schools like there's just not enough subs either. So there's that guilt on top of things, and but we're talking about teacher wellness here, and so if we don't have well teachers, then students aren't going to be well either, and so it's unfortunate that we have to have the guilt, but I don't know, there's like no, there's no like easy thing here.

Speaker 2:

There's not. No, there's not, and I think not just in your day to day, week to week, month to month wellness. I think if people are pushing themselves to these limits, we can only do that for so many years. So if we want to keep passionate, caring professionals around in the field, they can't, they can't do that endlessly for 30, 40 years. You've got to, you've got to find some sort of balance somewhere along the way, because you can't. You literally, your body literally can't push itself and remain sick that long without some pretty dire things happening to you. And sharing, sharing any tricks or tips or strategies you have to pare down and make things easier for yourself is going to be really helpful to the people around you, for sure.

Speaker 3:

I think one of the things that is really helpful and I saw it in action this week and heard about it and read about it actually with one of our teachers. She got some good structures in place for her students. Having some of those structures have really helped release some of the pressure off of her and some of the things that she was feeling. And you know, this is like one of the things that we talk about a lot, especially when we're talking about like learner agency and like when does the teacher let go of some of that control and we can take off some of the stress of like all of the things that we're doing for students when they can actually do them for themselves? Right, we want our students to do the doing and the thinking and then we can watch, observe and facilitate. That takes up a lot of stress from a teacher, right? So you're talking less and you get to listen more and observe more, and I think that's a huge, it's a huge lift off of the teacher when you can actually step back from that and just kind of enjoy the fruits of your labor. I feel like where you're just watching your students in action, you're like, yes, like we're getting to this point where I'm not putting in so much energy here. That is a huge step, and if we can get more teachers on board with that type of thing too, like that's a huge piece of sustainability in education, right? Sometimes we just like talk too much, we teach too much, we're giving too much to the students, so we need to step back, which is hard because, like a lot of us, are controlled people.

Speaker 2:

I don't know what you're talking about, but you said that's so, true though. We're so on the money with that, because if we see our roles as I have to be prepared for everything and I am the decision maker and I am controlling where this lesson, this learning, is going, and I am the transmitter of information as well as the giver of all feedback then, yeah, that's a lot to be doing. And what's the students role? Are they just passively receiving all of these things that we're doing to them? We want it to be an equal sharing of the education experience, really, don't we?

Speaker 3:

We do, yeah, and I feel like when teachers have success with handing over that baton kind of to their students, that's something we really have to celebrate and invite other teachers in to see, because it is really a hard process, it's a hard thing to let go of, but it's so amazing to watch students in action when you're like, oh yeah, that hard work that I did at the beginning is really paying off now and not just I, I mean, but, like you know, with them and that is I mean. Isn't that the point of school Right? We're preparing students for life.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. I hope so. I hope that's what we're doing. That's been my plan anyway.

Speaker 3:

Right, mine too. And yeah, I think you know the self advocacy piece for teachers is is a tough one because, like we were talking about before, you feel bad for taking a day when you're not well but no one else is going to tell you to do what's best for you. Or you might, someone might right, like you're not well, you stay home, but you're the one that has to take the action. Like it's one thing to think and feel even I don't feel great I should stay home or whatever it is. You know, I'm just kind of sticking with that same example, but also, like you have to do it.

Speaker 2:

Mm, hmm.

Speaker 3:

You know, and like we tell parents okay, it's sick, sick season, blues are happening, stuff's going on, keep your kids at home if their nose is dripping or they're coughing. But then if we come in with those things, what message are we sending?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and we strangely think we're showing some sort of like aspirational strength or something they're like look at me, I can power through this situation rather than modeling what we actually want to see from the family. So if, like, let's protect the community.

Speaker 3:

Yes, exactly, and we know that teachers are superheroes anyway, right? We know that we can power through these things, but it's not healthy and sustainable at all.

Speaker 2:

No, you know, I had a great reminder from one of my colleagues just recently. We were tackling this issue that really wasn't shouldn't have been on our shoulders really, but we were trying to tackle it anyway and at one point she emailed me and she's like look, here are some resources, but I'm out. Like this is, I've got to draw a line. This is the. I don't really have the bandwidth to deal with this right now. So over to you and I went. You know what. I'm going to pass this along as well. You've reminded me that I shouldn't be taking on things that are not in my remit and they're not in your remit. So thank you for the reminder. Good on you. I'm really endorsed your choices here and I'm going to do the same, and so I forwarded it along to the people that it should have been dealt with in the first place, and I think you know in that sort of way that we can remind ourselves and each other, remember what we need to be doing, what our priorities are, and if it's not one of your priorities in your role, then pass it on.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, yeah, no, that's great. Yeah, it's hard to do, hard to do.

Speaker 2:

It is hard to do, it is, but I think it is. It is helpful when we can, and you know, encourage each other when it does happen.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, yeah, exactly Well. Thank you for this conversation, christine. It's always enlightening to talk to you.

Speaker 2:

It is good, it is good to chat. Do you have any pay-down pointers for us today?

Speaker 3:

I do. I'd say that my pay-down pointer for today's episode is to actually more self-advocating. So, you know, really live up to not only being aware that you're doing a lot of things right and you know that, or like understand that you have to pare down some things in order to really focus on priorities. But it's one thing to think it and it's another thing to do it, taking action on, like just saying no or saying I'm sick at home or I'm going to handle that responsibility to my students because I know they have the capability and I'm going to step back. So you know you're taking actions on those pieces so that you can be better in your role, you can have clarity in your thinking because there's less in your own mind cluttering that space and just feeling that that bit of stress around carrying around things that you don't need to, because there are other people to support you in the process. Absolutely, I think. An additional pair down pointer.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think I've got a few things in my mind, but I think the one that I'm going to talk about is being mindful of what you're talking about with your colleagues. So when we're being mindful of what we're talking about with our colleagues, we really have an opportunity to keep that focus on that work life balance. So if all of our discussion with our colleagues when we're getting a cup of coffee or getting lunch is all about what's happening in our classroom, what's happening after school, before school, that email you got from that parent, yeah, when you got to school this morning, that sort of thing, where we're re inhabiting this world of like, this is everything. This is everything all the time. But if you make that conscious decision to say you got any plans this weekend, what did you do last weekend, got anything going on tonight? What show are you watching, what book are you reading, and keep the conversation around the rest of you, the rest of your life and what you've got going on, because that is so important in who you are as a person, I think you know you're really trying to inhabit that idea of this. This is your job and, yes, you're passionate, but this is your job and there is so much more to you and I value the rest of you as well. And it's also probably really healthy for us to have that mental break away from work because it's it's very hard when you're in a school campus to get a break from it because the constant reminders all around you all the time. So it's if we can do that for each other and and provide that little mini break for each other, I think that's going to be really helpful.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I love that, very true. Thank you, christine.

Speaker 2:

Thank you, Tammy, Till next time. Today's episode was brought to you by Plan Z Professional Learning Services Forward Thinking Educator Support. Find out more at Plan Z PL Servicescom.

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 Plan Z PLS on Twitter or Instagram. The music for the podcast has been written and performed by Gaia Moretti.

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