How much do you love the title of the book featured in this month’s review/giveaway? It’s called The Well-Balanced Teacher: How to Work Smarter and Stay Sane Inside the Classroom and Out, and is a very practical book for this time of year when sanity seems to be in short supply. It’s written by Mike Anderson, whose fifteen years of experience as a classroom teacher really shines through in his writing. Anderson gets it.
He begins the book by talking about the importance of stress management and segues into how we have to make sure our basic needs are met. We all know we need to eat right, exercise, get lots of sleep, and nourish our spirits, but many times, we use school as an excuse not to take care of ourselves. He speaks of a needed shift in mindset: “Instead of insisting that a bad day warrants a bowl of ice cream, we might tell ourselves, ‘I’ve had a tough day; I deserve to be healthy.’ Another shift might be instead of saying, ‘I just don’t have time to get healthy food. My students’ needs have to come first,’ we can just as simply say, ‘I can’t afford to be low on energy. My students need me at my best’.” Anderson then provides tips for packing quick healthy lunches, working exercise into your schedule, making time to pee (no more excuses for not staying hydrated!), and protecting ourselves from the dangerous physical conditions of some of our schools.
Anderson then addresses the issue of belonging, and how a sense of community is so critical in feeling well-balanced as a teacher. Once again, his tips are very practical and address a range of issues from handling toxic co-workers to finding mentors and support groups when your school doesn’t offer any.
In the middle sections of the book, Anderson asserts that teachers also need significance (the ability to teach with a sense of purpose) and a feeling of competence (speaking to the importance of self-efficacy). He gives advice on training yourself to notice the little things that are going right in your day, and setting yourself up for significant work in your school. That’s incredibly important, especially for teachers who feel that all they do is test their students and prepare their students for tests. The support of online communities is reiterated, and honestly, it can’t be over-emphasized considering how many teachers struggle on their own, not realizing there are countless free support resources available to them on the internet. Additionally, Anderson delves into ways teachers can create space in their lives and their classrooms for creativity and advises teachers to set their own goals (instead of just striving to meet the ones the district sets for you.)
I love that Anderson includes an entire chapter on fun and positive engagement. He gives advice on integrating your interest and passions (as well as students’), carving out time for deep engagement, and letting go of the assumption that you can’t play at school. Even high school teachers can be playful with curriculum: Anderson tells of a physics teacher who had students watch “a couple of Roadrunner and Coyote cartoons and had to determine which laws of physics were being broken through the course of the shows.” Activities like that require more preparation from the teacher, but make the school day so much more enjoyable for everyone involved!
The book concludes with a chapter on balance, and addresses the importance of planning our time and energy. According to Anderson’s personal research, all the interuptions to teaching often left him with 3 hours and 40 minutes a day to teach what he supposedly had 5 hours and 5 minutes a day to cover. The time crunch, he argues, is real, and we don’t have to try to teach everything when we know it’s not possible. Instead, Anderson gives practical suggestions for carving out time for non-negotiables, figuring out what to elimiate, learning to say no, working more efficiently, leveraging the strictness of a schedule, relaxing a little, and ignoring your schedule every now and then.
In The Well-Balanced Teacher, Anderson gives compelling reasons why teachers need to feel positive connections with other people, both in school and outside of school, and why it’s important to strive for significance (knowing that we’re making a positive difference through our work), while giving tips to help teachers reach those goals. I love that he stresses the importance of positive engagement (when teachers enjoy their work, they have great energy and passion for their teaching) as well as balance (setting boundaries). The book is a really enjoyable read that will leave you with practical ideas for keeping yourself in shape to care for your students.
You can win a free copy of this book courtesy of ASCD! I’m trying out Rafflecopter in hopes of simplifying the process of picking a winner. You’re welcome to comment on this post, but this time, that WON’T enter you into the contest. Instead, choose between the options below to enter: you can pick more than one if you like, and enter again each day the contest runs. The give-away closes at midnight EST on Thursday, September 20th.