Do you need an extra burst of encouragement and motivation this time of year? Each day from April 1-20, you can visit a different blogger who will be sharing actionable tips and strategies to help you enjoy teaching more. They’ll be writing about ideas from my new book Unshakeable: 20 Ways to Enjoy Teaching Every Day…No Matter What, plus additional ideas and reflections from their own teaching practice. 20 ways in 20 days: education bloggers share their best tips and ideas from "Unshakeable" for enjoying teaching every day, no matter what! I’m kicking off the 20 ways today with chapter 1 from Unshakeable, “Share your authentic self to bring passion and energy to your teaching.” It’s been said that the best teachers are also actors, and I believe that is true to a large extent. We have to act excited about teaching a lesson when we feel completely drained. We have to act enthusiastic about small measures of kids’ progress when we feel frustrated that they haven’t made larger gains. We have to act like we’re calm and in control when we feel like screaming. Sometimes we even have to act like we believe in what we’re doing when we feel like it’s a waste of time. All of that acting is done for the benefit of our students. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, it can leave you feeling very disconnected from your true self. You may feel relieved to “get off the stage” at the end of the day and be yourself again. One way you can combat this feeling is to bring as many elements of your true self into the classroom as possible. Let your personality shine through in the way you decorate and organize your classroom, the way you teach, and the way you interact with students. How to share your authentic self with students. One of 20 ways to enjoy teaching every day, no matter what! Here are 4 tips for sharing your authentic self with students:

1. Bring your unique personality into the classroom.

Who you are inside—your real and authentic self—is one of the most powerful tools you have to make your lessons stick with students and help them learn. You can be the determining factor in whether the content you teach is memorable simply by giving kids a glimpse of the person you are inside. Let them see the real you, and watch as they are drawn in and make connections in new ways.

2.  Be a storyteller: draw inspiration for teaching curriculum from real-life events.

One of the easiest ways to tap into students’ natural curiosity about you and incorporate a more personable, relatable side of yourself is by sharing connections between your life and your curriculum. And since our brains are wired for storytelling, you’ll discover that information sticks much better in kids’ minds when it’s in the form of a narrative. Experiment with tying your curriculum to interesting anecdotes about things you experience outside the classroom: When modeling how to respond to a writing prompt, use the movie you saw last weekend as your topic. Ask the kids during science if they saw the latest museum exhibit and show the photos you took. Talk about the incredible novel youʹre reading and how the author uses the best imagery or figurative language, or how you had to use context clues to figure out a word. Can you see all the possibilities here? Don’t try to turn off your “teacher brain” when you leave the school building. Be on the perpetual lookout for new stories to tell your students and consider how you can use your daily life experiences to make instruction more relatable and meaningful. Allow yourself to draw inspiration from your outside interests, and take those experiences back to the classroom to enhance your lessons.

3. Try to do something that is inspiring and energizing for you as a person on a daily basis.

It’s so important to let students into your life so they can relate to and bond with you, but thatʹs only possible if you actually have a life to talk about. Someone who works all the time and has no outside interests is boring. And who wants a boring teacher? Even though I’m busy, I consciously make the choice to take time to do things that re-energize me because I know that the way I choose to spend my evenings makes a tremendous difference in my creativity level, attitude, and productivity the following day. I might go for a walk, listen to an inspiring podcast while cooking, or relax and watch a movie with my husband. I know I can’t afford not to take care of myself, because everyone around me suffers if I don’t.

4. Forget being a passionate teacher–be a passionate person!

People who are passionate about teaching aren’t just passionate about teaching. They’re passionate people, period.  They bring energy and enthusiasm to everything they do. They make the most of every moment in life. They’re resilient and don’t allow setbacks to steal their joy or dissuade them from accomplishing what they set out to do. If you want to be a passionate teacher with unshakeable enthusiasm, you have to develop that trait in your whole self , not just the one compartment of your life that is devoted to work. You have to consciously make the choice to surround yourself with people and influences that inspire you to be a passionate person. You can read the entire chapter for free here. Or, get the complete book or eBook and follow along as we discuss 20 ways in 20 days!

20 ways in 20 days: bloggers share how to enjoy teaching, no matter what!

I’ll be sharing all future “20 ways in 20 days” posts from other bloggers on social media. Here are some ways you can find out about each post as it’s published:

You can view the complete schedule of posts here. Tomorrow’s strategy is called Allocate your time and energy wisely through productive routines. Join 3rd grade teacher Tessa McGuire as she shares productivity tips from the book and thoughts from her own practice! Allocate your time and energy wisely: tips on enjoying teaching every day, no matter what

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EP15: Do you feel constant guilt about not giving 110% to every aspect of your work? Do you worry that no matter how much you do, it’s never enough? Discover 3 strategies for breaking free from perfectionism, guilt, and obsession over minor details in your teaching practice. Learn how to identify an appropriate, healthy stopping place in your work and cultivate a sense of accomplishment in a job well done.

This post is based on the latest episode of my weekly podcast, Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers. A podcast is essentially a talk radio show that you can listen to online or download and take with you wherever you go. I release a new episode each Sunday and feature it here on the blog to help you get energized and motivated for the week ahead. Learn more about the podcast, view blog posts for all past episodes, or subscribe in iTunes to get new episodes right away.

So just a reminder that I’m going to try out a new episode format in episode 16!  If you have a question you’d like me to answer here on the podcast, let me know by filling out the Google form, or, even better, by leaving me a voice message that I can play on the show. It’s super easy – just hit the button below that says “Start Recording.” And then once a month or once every other month, depending on how many relevant questions I get, I’ll answer them in an episode of the podcast called Ask Angela Anything.

This week, I want to talk to you about how to figure out when something is good enough and just leave it alone and be satisfied with it. It’s very difficult to do this in a job that is incredibly important and your decisions impact dozens of students’ lives. We kind of convince ourselves that EVERYTHING is super critical and urgent and we have to give 110% to everything. But of course, that’s not possible, and if we keep trying to give 110% in every area of our jobs, our personal and family life is going to suffer. That creates guilt, and of course, there’s still guilt because even 110% doesn’t feel like enough sometimes, there’s always something more you could be doing.

I’m going to give you three things to consider when you’re trying to figure out what’s good enough.

how to figure out what's good enough

First of all, stop looking around at the super teachers and making yourself feel guilty about not doing everything they’re doing. If you have kids at home and they don’t, forget about it – you have a fraction of the free time they have available. If you’re new to teaching and they’ve been in the game for many years, forget about it – of course they’ve racked up more great teaching ideas and resources than you. Every person’s situation is different. Stop looking at everyone else and letting them make you feel inferior.

comparison quotes

You have to know your own triggers here – if there’s a certain teacher’s classroom that always makes you feel like crap, stop going in there. If logging onto Pinterest causes you to have a panic attack from seeing all the adorable classroom ideas you wish you were doing, stop pinning for awhile! There’s enough pressure teachers get from sources they can’t avoid, like their administrators and students’ parents, so don’t compound that and make things worse for yourself by going into situations that make you feel inferior.

I think the no-comparisons thing kinda goes without saying, but I had to get that out right up front.

comparison

Now, there are two more concepts I want to touch on here: understanding what your “yes” and “no” really mean, and figuring out how to create a minimum viable product. That’s not what you were expecting me to say, was it? Stick with me here.

Let’s say you’re spending hours on tasks like creating center materials, leveling your classroom library, color-coding your data sheets, writing your curriculum from scratch, making gift packets for your students’ birthdays…all very honorable tasks. These are all things that will probably improve your teaching or your relationship with kids. They’re good things. That’s why it’s so easy to get sucked into doing them for hours on end.

steve jobs saying no

Here’s what you have to remember: every time you are saying yes to one thing, you are in effect saying no to something else. If you say yes to staying after school to design a beautiful interactive bulletin board, you are saying no to the stack of papers that needs to be graded. You’re also saying no to your exercise routine, cooking a healthy meal for your family, and spending time with your spouse or kids. When you think of it that way, it becomes much easier to create boundaries on what you will or will not do with your time. It’s not a matter of just spending an hour here or 30 minutes there on something: every yes means a no to something else.

So, when you’re tempted to keep reworking something over and over again, or fix something that’s not really broken, or take on a non-essential task that doesn’t really HAVE to be done right now… ask yourself: What would I be doing right now if I weren’t doing that? Is it worth saying no to the other things in order to say yes to this?

first things first

Often you can put in a much smaller amount of time and energy that you thought, and still get a decent result. In the business and marketing world, people often talk about the MVP: Minimum Viable Product. That’s the third strategy.

You know how a lot of new websites and programs come out in a beta version first? It’s a little wonky and not perfect, but basically functional. Or how a company that makes cell phones releases new software and then three days later there are a bunch of updates you have to download?

That’s because they released the MVP. They sent something out in the world that was far from perfect, they announced that it’s far from perfect, and then they learned from what happened as real people used the product to figure out how it needs to be improved. In the meanwhile, they were able to start making money and keep moving forward instead of being stuck on trying to get every single detail of an item exactly right before showing it to anyone.

In our industry as teachers, the MVP principle works like this: you get a lesson plan or activity or bulletin board just to where the core features are in place, and you deploy it. Then you come back and add more features later, based on feedback from your students and the increased capacity you have after more experiences.

perfect vs good

Let’s say you’re creating a PowerPoint presentation for a lesson. Figure out how much time you can realistically allot to the task, and stick to it. An hour or two is probably plenty, but base the time on how many other obligations you have for work and home. If it’s a slower week, maybe you can dedicate a little more time to the presentation. If you’re super busy, set a timer for 45 minutes and discipline yourself to create an MVP in that time. Period.

Enter all the text into the PowerPoint first. You now have a minimum viable product! If – and only if – you have time left over, you can make it look cute and add the cool interactive features you envisioned. But do not stay up until 3 am playing with the fonts and looking for graphics. You have created a boundary around your time for this project, and you must stick to it.

Illustration by Henrik Kniberg: http://blog.crisp.se/author/henrikkniberg

Illustration by Henrik Kniberg: http://blog.crisp.se/author/henrikkniberg

Use the MVP with your students. Then make notes for yourself about how the lesson went. You’ll probably realize that you needed to switch things around, add more information, and so on, and that a lot of the awesome ideas you had for making the presentation incredible were either unnecessary or different from what your kids actually needed. These were things you never would have figured out if you hadn’t taken the leap and used the minimum viable product. So, congratulate yourself on not wasting hours trying to get everything perfect before you implemented it.

You see, a minimum viable product is not about sending crappy work out into the world. It’s not a minimal product. It’s recognizing that you’re going to have to iterate and revise later on, anyway, so there’s no point in trying to guess exactly what is needed ahead of time and make something perfect right up front. It’s not going to be “perfect” until you’ve tried it with your kids and learned from what works and what doesn’t!

Before you use that presentation again with another class, you can set aside another realistic time period for improving it. Over time, the presentation will become amazing. You’ll be able to copy existing text and design settings from that presentation to make more presentations, meaning that each PowerPoint you create will be better than the last AND you’ll be able to make them faster.

It all starts with a minimum viable product. Your work will not be perfect at first, and that has to be okay with you. Remember your takeaway truth for the week ahead:

Next week: Ask Angela Anything…your questions answered!

Truth for Teachers podcast: a weekly 10 minute talk radio show you can download and take with you wherever you go!  A new episode is released each Sunday to get you energized and motivated for the week ahead.

See blog posts/transcripts for all episodes

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes

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20 ways in 20 days: enjoy teaching…no matter what

March 26, 2015
20 education bloggers share their strategies for enjoying teaching every day, no matter what! Based on "Unshakeable," the new book by Angela Watson. #unshakeablebook

Has spring fever hit your school yet? If so, you’re not alone. April’s on its way, and it can be a tough month to stay motivated. There’s a long wait between spring break and Memorial Day, the testing crunch is often at its peak, and the promise of warmer weather is enough to make all of […]

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Big ideas and ed trends from the #ASCD15 conference

March 24, 2015
Big ideas and ed trends from the #ASCD15 conference

ASCD is one of the most important and influential conferences in the nation because it’s targeted toward school leaders and those who make big decisions in education. In addition to many, many teachers and teacher leaders in attendance, there are always huge numbers of superintendents, principals, assistant principals, instructional coaches, curriculum specialists, and district office members. […]

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Dave Burgess’ truth: Collaborating with colleagues who don’t support your creativity

March 22, 2015
dave burgess teach like a pirate

EP14: Have you ever shared a great teaching idea with a co-worker who immediately shot it down and discouraged you from thinking outside the box? Listen as Dave Burgess of “Teach Like a Pirate” fame shares how you can express your creativity even when co-planning with colleagues who are reluctant to innovate. Discover how collaboration […]

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The secrets of teaching we’re not supposed to admit

March 21, 2015
Unshakeable bonus materials

As I mentioned in a video earlier this week, there are a lot of things that classroom teachers face on a daily basis that it seems like no one is talking publicly about. These are challenges that feel insurmountable, and we’re not hearing solutions because no one is admitting there is a problem. Watch this […]

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20 ways to enjoy teaching every day…no matter what

March 19, 2015
FREE download: 20 ways to enjoy teaching every day no matter what

In yesterday’s video, I shared that I was inspired to write Unshakeable after talking to a group of teachers who really seemed to love teaching every single day. They had an incredible camaraderie and school morale was terrific.  But I couldn’t help wondering about the teachers like me—I rarely had the benefits of a positive, supportive […]

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Is it possible to enjoy teaching every day…no matter what?

March 18, 2015
Don’t wait for teaching to become fun again: plan for it! "Unshakeable" is the new book by Angela Watson.

Have you ever wondered why challenges are so much harder to face on certain days? Sometimes a criticism from a parent or principal put you in a bad mood for hours,  but other times, it rolls right off your back. Sometimes when kids are off-task and interrupting your lesson, it drives you absolutely bananas, but […]

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How to be unshakeable in your enthusiasm for teaching

March 15, 2015
How to be unshakeable in your enthusiasm for teaching

EP13: Passion cannot be faked. Students can tell when we’re just going through the motions. But how can you summon the energy to teach with passion when there are so many distractions from what really matters? And if you barely have time for taking care of yourself, how can you have anything left to give […]

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15 fun indoor recess games and activities

March 11, 2015
15 easy indoor recess ideas

If it’s not the bitter cold, ice, and snow keeping your class indoors for recess, it might be the rain that so many regions of the country get inundated with in the springtime. After a whole day trapped in the classroom, you and the kids desperately need some fresh air and unstructured break time. If you’re […]

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How to cope when a student’s parent just doesn’t like you

March 8, 2015
How to cope when a student

EP12: Are you feeling discouraged by a parent who seems impossible to please? You can develop a realistic, productive outlook on relationships with students’ parents. Learn how to maintain a professional and positive attitude and keep criticism from stealing your motivation. This post is based on the latest episode of my weekly podcast, Angela Watson’s […]

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A secret Facebook group for encouraging teachers

March 5, 2015
encouraging teachers facebook group

So obviously the group isn’t secret in the sense that no one knows about it. But there’s a setting for Facebook groups called “secret,” which means no one outside the group can read what’s posted there. And that means the Encouraging Teachers Facebook group is a private, closed space for sharing teaching ideas and collaborating. I […]

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6 reasons teachers should plan (now) for a summer vacation

March 3, 2015

Sure, you have a few unpaid weeks each summer in which you’re not technically required to work. But that doesn’t mean you’re actually using your summer break to relax. Between second jobs, professional development, lesson planning, and more…those summer weeks just fly by, and many of us return to work in the fall without feeling like […]

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How to keep teaching when your personal life is falling apart

March 1, 2015
keep teaching when your personal life is falling apart

EP11: When you’re experiencing deep personal loss or serious problems at home, it’s difficult to be the teacher you want to be. Learn how to minimize the negative impact of your stress on students and manage your energy levels so you can bounce back more quickly. This post is based on the latest episode of […]

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St. Patrick’s Day t-shirts for teachers

February 26, 2015
St Patricks Day shirts for teachers

March is right around the corner, and I wanted to share some teacher t-shirts I’ve created for St. Patrick’s Day. All the shirts in my store are under $20. The shirts above say: Who needs LUCK when your students are this smart? Lucky to be a teacher Haha, you can’t pinch me! I’m a lucky teacher because […]

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The teachers are heroes sale is here!

February 24, 2015
Get up to 28% off at TeachersPayTeachers with the promo code HEROES

If you’ve filled up your TeachersPayTeachers cart or wish list and have been waiting for a sale, now’s your chance! My entire store will be discounted both Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 25-26th. Use the promo code HEROES to save even more! Since the last sale, I’ve added several new products that you might want to check […]

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A.J. Juliani’s truth: overcoming frustration due to constant change

February 22, 2015
AJ Juliani

EP10: New standards, new assessments, new leadership, and more…just when you think you’ve mastered the game, there’s a brand new set of rules. Listen as Education & Tech Innovation Specialist A.J. Juiliani shares how constant changes are impacting teachers. You’ll learn 3 practical tips for managing change, and discover how to channel frustration into innovation. […]

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The 47 mental stages of writing a book (someone save me)

February 18, 2015
Unshakeable is the new book by Angela Watson, to be released this winter!

I am in the final stages of publishing Unshakeable: 20 Ways to Enjoy Teaching Every Day…No Matter What. Like, 98% done. The launch is about a month away. And I don’t have the brain cells right now to do much more than work on the book and talk about working on the book, so today’s post […]

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Avoiding discouragement when teaching can be a thankless job

February 15, 2015
How to avoid discouragement in teaching

EP09: Teaching involves a lot of hard work that is rarely acknowledged. Learn strategies for staying encouraged despite the lack of appreciation, and stay focused on your personal vision! This post is based on the latest episode of my weekly podcast, Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers. A podcast is essentially a talk radio show that you […]

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5 ways to empower teachers to build a positive, innovative school culture

February 11, 2015
Digital Learning Day

How can administrators, instructional coaches, and teacher leaders help build a culture of innovation in our schools? What can we do to support teachers in getting connected and pursuing meaningful professional development opportunities? These are issues I’ll be exploring next month in Washington, D.C., in a Future Ready Schools workshop. The Alliance for Excellent Education […]

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