Monday, May 13, 2019

No One Cares How Busy You Are

That's a suitably provocative title, innit it? 

I think the first time I heard the axiom "Nobody cares how busy you are" was on a podcast. It wasn't in an educational space. That's something people would think but never say out loud. It was one of the music podcasts I listen to, said by some musician who just got out of a van after a six week run playing eleven shows every twelve days, traveling so much he wasn't even sure where the last place he had a hotel room was. When he described it the host started to make sympathetic noises he was cut off by the artist. "That's what we do. We're all busy, no one cares how busy you are. It's how you get work done."

Because I'm broken and can't help it, I immediately filtered this through my Teacher Lens. I'm constantly busy. I'm so busy I don't make To Do lists because I would run out of paper and patience. I am on so many committees and a part of so many training groups that if there's a week I don't have two extra meetings odds are I forgot to go to a meeting and there's a passive aggressive email waiting for me somewhere in my inbox (related: what's the opposite of Inbox Zero?). All this doesn't include my normal teaching work, and it really doesn't include all the Dadding and Husbanding that I would never call a job because I love my wife and my kids and I already have a job where the People In Charge think being paid in the love of children should be enough.

What I just described is basically what anyone else at my school would describe. Maybe a few less meetings, but they're doing more grading or planning or copying. It balances. We're all slammed. All year. Sometimes in meetings people like to say, "This is a real busy time of year." When is not a real busy time of year? The start, when we're getting geared up and our classes together? The next few months when we're getting early assessments done and really getting the ball rolling? The few months after that when holiday breaks are coming so we've got to prepare for all of that and make sure we're all caught up? After break when we're reminding everyone what happens in our classrooms and we're charging towards testing? As testing comes and everyone is Not Just Preparing For The Test but that's also right there. During testing? After testing when report cards and the rest of the end of the year is tumbling like an avalanche towards us? When exactly is a good time? Never. Which is why I never wait to do something in my class, it'll never be a good time. But if this is a boat we're all in together, then does no one care how busy I am? They're just as busy.

So how do we talk about it?

There's a difference between venting and complaining. There's a difference between venting, complaining, and explaining. There's a difference between venting, complaining, explaining, and walking slowly away from the Google Invite while breathing and counting backwards from ten to one.

Let's add to the saying. Details matter. No one cares how busy you are if all you're doing is talking about how busy you are. No one cares how busy you are if it feels like you're trying to be a martyr, trying to impress us with how late you stay, how much you work, like Busy somehow equal Caring.

But we all understand how busy you are. We empathize. No one understands how busy a teacher is except another teacher. We know that glance you share with a teammate when the consultant tells you how easy it will be to add their fancy idea to your classroom. We know the silent sigh in the training, even if right after the sigh you get your head down and figure out how to implement the good from the training because it did have its good moments. You just need to break it a little to make it fit, like fitting a whole chicken into a motorcycle saddle bag.

Today I had a meeting with my principal after school because I'm the lead of the MakerFaire committee. As we were leaving she said, "Get some rest." I laughed, not because I don't respect her or appreciate the sentiment, but because in the next breath she was remembering that we have a meeting with a student tomorrow after school, on Wednesday I'm reviewing the MakerFaire plan with the staff in the morning (it's next Tuesday), and on Thursday we're got School Site Council after school. Friday though, nothing Friday. Except a Inside Baby Weirdling doctor's appointment. But that's not a school thing.

I don't think no one care how busy I am. I work with some very cool people who have open doors and open hearts and open ears. I still tell myself no one cares how busy I am when I'm feeling slammed, because I think that if I admit how busy I am it'll start the avalanche and all the plates I'm spinning will start to crash to the ground (how's that for a horribly mixed metaphor?). But, because balance, I also know how to move away from it. I'm school busy at school, and I'm home busy at home because I've decided it's important to me to leave stuff at school and not take it home. That's not for everyone. I recently had to do school work at home over a weekend and it bothered me to cross the line, but lines are meant to be crossed.

I don't think no one cares how busy you are. I think we do know how busy you are, and we aren't impressed. We aren't impressed, but we care. I care how busy you are. Because I care about you. You're a teacher, you're a human. We're in this together. Busily loves company.

If you like this post and the other posts on this blog you should know I’ve written three books about teaching- He’s the Weird Teacher, THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome), and A Classroom Of One. I’ve also written one novel- The Unforgiving Road. You should check them out, I’m even better in long form. I’m also on the tweets @TheWeirdTeacher.

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