Inside: A review of the book Fewer things, better: The courage to focus on what matters most from Angela Watson. How doing fewer things better will set you up for the best school year yet.
If you read my post on my summer reading list, you would know that I have the goal to read 52 books this year. During the school year, they were almost all for fun and in English. Over the summer now that I have had almost 3 weeks to relax and recuperate from the school year, I have started mixing in some books in Spanish, as well as books about education.
Fewer things, better book
My first summer professional development book is one that I knew I just had to blog about, Fewer things, better from Angela Watson. There are a few ways to can access it, the Fewer things better Book, you can listen to it for free using the 1 month free Audible trial, or read it for free using the 1 month free Kindle trial. My first place to go for books is my public library, but since they did not have this book, I am trying out the one month of free Audible, which is how I listened to this book, narrated by Angela herself. I listened to it while walking, working out & getting stuff done, which was awesome!
Fewer things, better synopsis
Here is the synopsis from the official website (which also has lots of resources and even a course to go with the book):
You can’t do it all. And you don’t have to try. There are too many things competing for your attention, especially as a teacher. The solution is NOT to manage your time better or work more efficiently. Or at least — that’s not the place to start.
The most important step is getting clarity, and figuring out how to use your life to make an impact in ways that really matter. This book will help you strengthen the courage to do fewer things, so what remains can be done even better.
In this book Angela said so many things that had me nodding along and even agreeing to out loud. I think we have a similar personality style and I LOVED the unapologetic way of basically just saying no to any school commitment or extra thing that is thrown at you that does not have a direct positive impact on the kids. The idea that our TIME is our most valuable asset is key. Being on the extra school committee, spending six hours on Sunday grading, or being told there is extra supervision duty are all things that we can rightfully say no to. If it is not in the contract, do not feel the guilt trip to “do it for the school family.” Your time is too valuable to waste it doing something you do not love. (By the way, since having kids, I do not take school work home).
Fewer things, better takaway
A big takeaway for me was not trying to squeeze one more thing in. The title is FEWER THINGS, better. This means you have to take an inventory of what you spend your time on, and get rid of something. For a few years, I literally said yes to everything I was offered. I directed the school musical, I advised student council, I became an executive board member of my state language association, I covered the class for the coworker, and I volunteered for the committee. Then I had kids and kept saying yes until there was nothing left to give. Just last year I finally started saying no. I recently heard the quote somewhere “If it does not lift your spirit or your bank account, then it is a no.”
As women, we have the givers mentality. We will do anything to meet the needs of our children and students. In the book, Angela gives an example of a school that needed whiteboards. The female teacher was ready to pay for them or DIY them, because she would make it happen for the students’ sake. Yet, the male teacher’s first instinct was to just ask the school to pay for them. Summer teacher social media is full of female teachers’ and their hauls of materials they purchase for their classrooms with their own hard earned money! This summer for the sake of fewer things period, I am trying to not buy anything for my classroom.
Fewer things, better applied to my classroom
This book is great for any teacher who needs the courage boost to do less, but make it mean more. I recently posted about how I plan for Spanish 1-4, and you will see I have really tried to streamline everything to help me focus on what really matters, providing engaging, comprehensible input while building positive relationships with students. It made me think about how Moving to Standards Based Grading has also really helped me to grade fewer things, better. Formative practice in class gets feedback, usually verbal, and only summative assessments are truly graded and entered in the grade book. Unless you are mandated to have a certain number of grades entered, this is a huge way that secondary teachers can cut back to make time for the good stuff, like relationships.
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