Hedreich Nichols

October 2023

Be a Better Teacher in <45 Hours Weekly

Wellness in educational spaces has become a trend that, while important, often falls flat in practice.That may be because teachers and administrators tend to forget that they have to actually make use of the time and tools given. Refilling your proverbial cup is the only way to ensure personal success and success for those in your charge. Less really is more and you CAN be a better teacher in less than a 45 hour work week.

Good quality teaching is dependent on you being consistently rested and regulated for the classroom day; and good quality teaching is foundational to providing equitable learning experiences for all your students. Similarly for administrators who balance many different types of duties daily, being well-rested and well-regulated is key to building a campus culture conducive to academic, emotional, and social success.

Consider using the ⁠8-8-8 rule ⁠and an ⁠Eisenhower matrix⁠ to prioritize tasks. The 8-8-8 rule divides your day into 8 hours of work, 8 hours of sleep and 8 hours of personal time spent on self-care, friends, family, hobbies, etc. An Eisenhower matrix can help you decide whether a task has to be done now, can be scheduled for later or delegated. With practice, these tools will become a natural part of your daily planning.

Rules to Live By

Once you have a general idea of how you will prioritize your tasks, do these 5 things to ensure that you get the most out of your day without constantly working over a healthy capacity:

1. Decide how many hours you will work in a week. And then keep to it. My magic number was 45.

2. Delegate. Empower students. Have them manage the objective board, attendance, station timers and anything else that will give them a sense of ownership and responsibility.

3. Co-create with your students. For example, using student created review and test prep materials on Edpuzzle or Quizlet can build student confidence, skill, and capacity; and save you teacher time.

4. Stop using paper. Using an LMS like Google Classroom (or Canvas or Schoology if your district is so inclined) saves time and resources. Copier broken? Out of paper? No name papers? Make-up work? Put it all online. ⁠Create digital worksheets⁠. Better yet, pay a niece, nephew or other older tech savvy student in your circle to do it for you. The time you take to do this ONCE will save you time all year so you can use you planning time to plan–and maybe even go to the restroom.

5. Go outside. This seems like a waste of time BUT ⁠⁠research⁠⁠ tells us that natural light boosts concentration, mood, energy and helps alleviate eye fatigue and headaches that come with florescent and computer screen lighting. 

Putting in long hours can feel rewarding, but if you aren’t being smart about balancing that work time with other activities, you’ll suffer and so will the students and staff you serve. If you love what you do and love who you are doing it for, love them enough to practice work-life balance in earnest. Yes, some ‘important’ things may go undone, they sometimes do. But rest and recharging do not belong on the “do it tomorrow” list. Ever.

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Nostalgic Narratives vs. Native American History

As we approach November when the country highlights the histories of Indigenous Peoples of North America, it’s fitting that Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, based on the book by David Grann, calls our attention to the heinous crimes committed against the Native American community. In contrast to the narratives many of us have grown up with that cast the “Injuns” and “Red Man” as savages and bad guys, this movie highlights the deception and murder, as well as the racial jealousy that we’ve begun to see in Black historical films, but that are still new themes in films featuring Native American Narratives.

The fact is, if you grew up learning “…Columbus sailed the ocean blue…” or singing the famed Disney line, “Why does he ask you ‘how’?” then there are probably a lot of nostalgic moments involving beloved relatives that are hard to let go of. And thinking of heroic leaders as the same people who forcibly removed and killed millions of people to get their land is difficult to process. But if we want to grow and be better as a nation, process it we must. Doing the next right thing starts with acknowledging and teaching truth to the next generations.

Here are resources to help you further explore narratives that should have been amplified long ago:

  1. Watch The Osage Murders from the 2022 PBS Short Film Festival⁠⁠ ⁠to hear the story of the Osage murders told from the Osage perspective.
  2. ⁠Explore and support cultural endeavors⁠ in Native American Communities by listening, watching reading or donating.
  3. ⁠Watch movies and clips ⁠written and produced by indigenous voices.
  4. Find out what Nation originally lived on the land you live on at ⁠https://native-land.ca/⁠.
  5. ⁠Join the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and Teaching for Change⁠ for a day of online conversation, curriculum highlights, and ideas exchange. If you can’t, explore the other links and resources on Smithsonian’s NMAI site.

It’s never easy seeing the dark side of someone we esteem. But if we are truly to love our nation, it has to include loving all of her. In November, take the chance to get to know America’s origin story. As usual, all the resources are filled with resources, so you have more than enough to discover with your team, your students or even your family. Finally, here’s a short read from Edutopia that you can share in a newsletter or morning email.

I wish you a great month of discovery and learning.

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Wars and Rumors of Wars

Listen to SmallBites wherever great podcasts are heard.

The emotional work of teaching can be heavy on a good day, when all is generally right with the world. But on a day when students have had a weekend filled with real time clips of children in war-torn countries and friends running from bullets at state fairs, your upbeat Monday morning “How was everybody’s weekend?!” might devolve into a discussion that quickly takes you out of your depth.

Students are much more aware these days and with so many information outlets, older children with 24 hour access to phones can be confronted with more than just the latest dance videos on their “for you” pages. With the Ukrainian-Russian war, and now the Palestinian-Israeli war in heavy rotation in every media outlet, even the sunniest student may be feeling a bit overwhelmed.

Handling Bad News

Nothing sells like bad news and today’s youth are consumers of information they have very little context for. The same can be true for adults. How do we explain wars, murders, tragedies, especially those tragedies in which our inhumanity towards one another is on full display? And how do we convince young people that we are safe and the world is a great place when all the messages and media images say otherwise?

As a teacher, it can be almost impossible to know what to say to students struggling with the hard realities of life, when we can barely understand and process them ourselves. Still, when our students come to us, bothered by things beyond the classroom, we have to respond. Here are 5 small bites to support you this week and any time bad news lands on your classroom’s proverbial doorstep:

Five Small Bites

1.  If you’re upset by events, don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t always understand why things happen the way they do and that you are bothered by them too.

2. Don’t support laws (or politicians) that keep children from trying to make sense of the world through current event conversations in the classroom. Civic education includes civil discourse.

3. Support teachers with neutral, unbiased talking points and ⁠conflict resolution strategies ⁠for when conversations get heated.

4. Make time in class and in pacing guides for journaling or reflection. With older kids, talk about the messages from young people around the world telling their truths on social media about the war.

5. Teach media literacy. Use ⁠All Sides Media⁠ or look at ⁠headlines from different countries⁠ to get a broad perspective and corroborate stories from popular news outlets.

Finally, you don’t have to have all the answers. Listen, show empathy and above all, take care of your own mental health so that you can respond with equanimity. Trade late-night doom scrolling for other pastimes and be kind to yourself and others around you. We may not be able to change world events, but we can brighten our own corner of the world.

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Equity Is More Than an Initiative

Equity is about academic outcomes not box checker initiatives.

As the opposition to educational change grows, especially when talking about issues like learning gaps, teacher retention and inclusive environments, it’s left to teachers in the trenches to help shape our future. That burden is immense, as seen in the droves of teachers experiencing burn-out and leaving the profession in years 1-5. The sector’s lack of healthy, well supported and experienced teachers especially impacts our most vulnerable students, who often lack access to tenured, experienced teachers in the classroom.

Equity initiatives have pushed the thinking on what it means to create safe, inclusive spaces in schools. However, the impact of these initiatives has not yet shown up in the form of academic gains. My answer to this is to use SmallBites to provide more support for the classroom, which is where equitable access has never really been equitable.

Follow the podcast, connect with me on social media or host me for professional development on your campus. But mostly, listen and reflect on what ‘equity in education’ means. It’s not another PD or training module. It’s in how we show up for the students who need us most; and that starts with equitable access to good teaching.

Here are 5 learning links so you can dive deeper into today’s topic.

1. ⁠Teacher Choice Boards⁠⁠ from Edthena (They are a competitor, but the article is great, as is the template.)

2. ⁠More Support, Less Gotcha⁠, learn more in my interview with Kevin Leichtman.

3. ⁠Mentors Can Be Hired⁠ from companies like Edifying Teachers

4. ⁠Provide Real Mental Health Support⁠, this EdWeek article can help.

5. ⁠Restorative Practice Is Not Just “Keep ‘Em In School Regardless”. ⁠ Learn more in part one of this 3 part SmallBites Series on restorative practice.

⁠Find Links and Additional Resources on Hedreich.com⁠

Equitable Educational Access Instead of Box Checker Initiatives

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