Yesterday, on Labor Day, I experienced a powerful convergence when my passion for the Great British Baking Show combined with an impulse selection at the library, and one of the key insights I gained from the CTTL Academy on Teaching and Learning I attended this summer.
I have committed to implementing many of the most effective strategies for teaching and learning that I have been thinking about since the Academy this summer. I am going to do more low to no stakes quizzes, interleave and space the material, help students make meaning out of what might seem to them random information, and talk to students about how they study. Some of it will make perfect sense to them and some of it will seem counter-intuitive. I will ask them to trust me, even as they leave the comfort of their business as usual rereading and highlighting of texts and notes. I recognize that even when presented with robust research, they may resist when interleaving seems to lead to confusion while massed learning is clear, even though the long term effects of interleaving are definitely superior.
With these ideas buzzing around my head, and not much work piled up after three days of classes, I went to the public library on Saturday to get a book that a friend recommended. I brought home a pile of books, as I usually do (several will go unread or partially unread) and started one called The Weekend Effect. It is the story of how workers fought hard over the years to earn two days a week off from work, but we have been giving those back in our always on, ever connected world. I have seen this work culture up close where vacations are not completely honored as laptops and phones can connect anywhere. There is a lot of evidence that working too much decreases productivity. It is easily a vicious cycle where it takes longer to accomplish tasks, which eats into one’s time, which increases fatigue and decreases productivity, which leads to longer hours to accomplish the same amount of work. It is true for students and it is true for teachers. Many of us are conscious about the impact on students and try to moderate our homework expectations. Yet, we treat teaching as some sort of nine-ten month gauntlet we have to run, until we get to rest over the summer. Every year I am exhausted in June, and every year I wonder if this will be the year I can no longer turn it back on in August. In other words, when will temporary burnout become permanent? Not this year, thank goodness.
What if we took the weekend back? What is we were truly rested on Monday and ready to tackle the week? What if we had more to talk about than housework and schoolwork and family schedules? We would be better teachers and we would be better role models. On Labor Day, I finished the book, jogged a few miles, ran a few errands with the kids, and baked bread for the first time (thanks to the Great British Baking Show for awakening a new passion for baking). In other words, I took care of myself and my family.
I woke up today refreshed and excited for the week. I was able to work enthusiastically and productively today. I am not sure how long I will be able to maintain my claim on my weekends, but it seems worth fighting for. I want to make this the year I give the counter-intuitive but well-supported conclusion that taking true breaks from work leads to more accomplishment in less time.