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Eye on the Prize: An Object Lesson in Action

After reading a friend and peer's blog post (read Brenda Jones' blog here) about inspiring her students to be passionate, it reminded me of an object lesson I did once when I worked with youth ministry that is very much relevant to the classroom. 

Using an extra large piece of construction paper, make a list of all of the things you must do in one day. (Don't forget to add "teach" to your ever-expanding list of duties and expectations!)

After you're done, roll up this piece of construction paper lengthwise (think wrapping paper)... and place a piece of tape to keep it rolled up nicely.

Next, in thinking about your job, school, duties, reasons you became an educator, etc. take a paper plate and write the one MOST important aspect of your job (hint: the KIDS!) onto this paper plate.

Finally, take the paper roll (the one with ALLL of the things you do and are responsible for) and balance it in the palm of one hand with the paper plate on top without dropping either. 
See illustration:

Ok, you get the idea.

If you actually do the activity, you quickly learn that your ability to balance solely depends on your focus. If you focus on the rolled up paper tubing or your hand, everything becomes unbalanced and topples over. You only have steady, balanced ease when you focus on the paper plate sitting on top.


(In case you missed that- it was my lightbulb moment.) This activity illustrates an all too familiar problem many teachers face. We get so caught up in the other "stuff." You know... all of the skills that we're expected to teach and students are supposed to absorb and apply, reports to fill out, meeting to attend, collaboration with our peers, planning stellar lessons, and don't forget about occasionally playing the role of: referee, conflict mediator, parent, nurse, encourager, ........ the list could go on. You know it well. When we focus on that "stuff" we begin to lose sight of the most important thing- the kids. Each one in our class this school year for a reason. However, when we shift the focus and don't worry so much about all of the stuff we are balancing, and instead shift our focus on the kids (a.k.a. balancing paper plate)- we are able to skillfully maintain balance and control. I wish I had a trick for making some of the to-do lists that never seem to go away to disappear, but I don't. Our work load may forever be full, but as long as we have our eyes on the prize- each unique in his or her own ways- we do better than just manage... we balance.  

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