Today is Presidents Day and I am home from work. I did some laundry, played piano for a while, watched last night’s season finale of Downton Abbey, and spent the balance of the day breaking myself in to Geogebra and reading math ed blogs. In the early evening I came across this post by Dan Meyer, What is Thirty Minutes Worth?, and I have an addendum to offer.
Meyer argues that personal time spent on planning lessons pays off in increased student engagement and teacher satisfaction. But as someone who tends toward anxiety, I can’t freely agree. Take today, for example. My online math ed research was highly educational, but the first fruits of my labor are a headache, a tense body, and an irrational certainty that I am irreparably damaging my students. This is not satisfying. The educational bit will benefit my students, but not the bit where I return from the break even more frazzled than when I left. Meyer spent thirty minutes shopping for glassware; in my current mindset I may have spent all evening shopping, re-shopping, and second-guessing the whole plan.
While I cannot freely agree with Meyer, I can agree with the caveat that personal time should be spent on work only in moderation and with care. I am a first-year teacher and no amount of eager planning or online research can turn me into a sixth-year teacher overnight. If I expect that it will, I will fail and my satisfaction will plummet. But if I expect that thirty minutes here and there can turn me into a better first-year teacher, I’m on track for success.