As a teacher, I consistently feel a tension between being present and getting things done. Articles with titles such as The Multitasker’s Guide to Being More Present suggests that I am not alone in feeling this tension.
By nature, I’m inclined to make lists and check things off of them. In fact, one of the things that I find reassuring about teaching is that it’s typically pretty easy to divide my work into discreet tasks to be done (lessons to plan, student work to give feedback on, parent contacts to make, schedules to adjust).
The difficulty of this “get it done” mentality is that if I’m not careful, it can suck the life out of the reasons I enjoy working in a school (and the reasons I turned down a big lawyer job to do so)- connecting with students and thinking about the big picture questions that present themselves every day. If I’m too deep into my to-do list, these things can feel more like distractions rather than being the work/motivation that informs the checklist(y) work.
The two mentalities don’t have to be completely discreet, however. Spending time giving informal feedback to students can cut the time I need to spend giving formal feedback at the completion of an assignment, when the feedback to students is less useful, in any case. Time spent working to insure that a new initiative is designed in the best and clearest way it can be saves implementation hassles later. Focusing my attention and being present while I’m observing a colleague can help me gain insights into my own teaching that may make me more effective or efficient.