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Think Like an Essentialist: Why it’s Crucial for Teachers

Jessie Gebauer & Joel Carlovsky

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It is impossible to do it all. I’m starting with that statement because it is a brand-spankin’ new school year. And I know I tend to approach the end of August extremely, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. All of the fun, creative ideas that I’ve seen other teachers doing are dangling in front of me like a Reese’s peanut butter cup. As I’m about to put a zillion different things in action, I need to come back and remind myself that it is impossible to do at all.

This episode of the Marigold Force Podcast is all about thinking like an essentialist, and getting really clear on what essential things you want to be focusing your energy on. Letting go of everything else is also part of this spiel. Grab your notebooks because I’ll be going through this process with you, and I have a story that may help give you even more clarity. Let’s jump in!

Brainstorm what’s important to you

Start to think about what your most essential goals for the school year might be or where you want to focus your energy. As I started writing down my own list, I got really granular and specific. Here are just a few things on the original brain dump – giving feedback every day to students, weekly class emails, monthly family updates, read-aloud routines, greetings, morning messages, regular communication with my team, and the list goes on. 

Pull out common themes on your list

After that, I started noting common themes. Clear, consistent communication across the board was very evident. So that’s one thing I’m going big on this year. Another theme that popped up was sustainable routines. Which TOTALLY makes sense because I come back to this every single school year. I tend to put an insane amount of routines and systems in place, and it’s really unmanageable. As the year goes on students also start to take ownership of the classroom. They have their own ideas for routines, but with so much of my own stuff in place, there’s little room remaining for the students to take control.

The third and final thing I’m going big on is relationships – especially maintaining my relationship with myself and my loved ones outside of my teaching job. PSA! It’s okay for your job to come SECOND to your own life. 

Take a moment to think about what areas you want to go big on this year. I urge you to stick to 2 or 3! Remember, we’re thinking like an essentialist. The more cutthroat you can be, the better.

How this looks in practice

Sustainable routines mean freeing up my energy. By having simple, sustainable routines, I don’t have to be the one keeping everything going in the classroom. If I could be gone for an entire day, and everything could just run on its own – that would be the dream! With time and energy freed up, I am able to build more relationships with my students and with my colleagues.

Don’t let  small details get in the way of relationships

My mom threw a bridal shower for my sister. She is just brilliant when it comes to planning and executing parties. This trait I never got. Without Pinterest and specific directions – I’d be screwed.

As my mom was hosting, she had so many small details planned that she struggled to be present with my sister and the other guests. At one point I pulled her away from one of her tasks, and took over. The guests wanted some face time with the mom of the bride! I could be the one cutting the cake and passing out coffee, or we could forget the coffee altogether. What was truly important was the time spent getting to know one another.

This same scenario is very similar to all the systems and structures that you might have in your classroom. Above all else, your students want to know you. If that means you have to let go of some of the things you have planned, so be it! Delegating tasks to your students is also an excellent strategy. 

You have full permission to NOT do it all

I will never be great at planning beautiful centers. I will never be the teacher to write journal entries back and forth with students. I will never be the teacher who is creating a personalized dance greeting for every child. If you love creating dances and high fives, and that’s how you build relationships – GREAT! That’s just not me.

Take a moment now to make your list. What are the two, maybe three things you’re going to go big on this school year? Think like an essentialist!

5 Steps to Weekly Communication Bliss

If consistent communication does happen to be on your list, I’ve got something for you!  Overwhelming, inconsistent, unhelpful emails were my norm for many years – until I figured out a better system. Now I put a few things in place upfront, and then it takes me about 20 minutes to bang out a whole month of quality weekly updates. Click here, and I’ll send it to you!

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Jessie & Joel here, you're new #1 fans.

We are so much more than “just teachers.” Joel is a personal development mastermind, self-care guru, push up machine, skilled ballet dancer, and Kombucha connoisseur. I’m a systems-minded queen, Excel nerd, aspiring handstand professional, travel enthusiast, and a cat mama. 

“Teacher” is just one of our many hats, and I bet you have a few more hats too!

Joel and I want to show you how to get a solid grip on your teaching gig, so you can give your best energy to whatever matters most to you.

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