Thursday, January 17, 2019

The (In)Ability to Say "No"

Confession #1:
I love the National Basketball Association (NBA).  Those who know me well know that I love just about anything related to basketball.

Confession #2:
I have a hard time saying "No" to things related to my job and career.  Allow me to elaborate.

As many of you know, teaching is much more than an 8:00 to 4:00 job.  Planning, grading, emailing parents, etc. all require time.  Moreover, keeping up to speed on the latest topics and innovations takes time.  Most evenings [after my four kids are in bed, the dishes are clean, and the laundry is folded] I spend 1-2 hours skimming through blog posts, my Twitter feed, the Desmos Slack, etc., keeping my eyes open for ideas and resources that I can use in my classroom.

Over the past five years, I've added a number of leadership roles at the district and state level to my plate.  I'm humbled and honored to be viewed as a leader in the mathematics education field, and I love serving in leadership roles.  Of course, each of these roles and commitments requires time and energy.  Because time is a finite resource, the time committed to these roles equates to time sacrificed from other areas of life.  For me, that often meant sacrificing time with my family.

Back to the NBA for a minute...

Last week while chauffeuring my kids around, I was listening to an NBA podcast hosted by Zach Lowe.  Zach works for ESPN and is widely known as one of the best NBA writers / analysts in the world.  His guest was his good friend and former boss, Bill Simmons.  As Zach and Bill were wrapping up the podcast, this conversation took place:

BS: How old is your daughter now?
ZL: Almost four.
BS: This is right when your job performance is going to get affected.
ZL: Really?
BS: It's gonna be great.  I can't wait to watch.
ZL: Why?
BS: When they [children] hit four, now all of the sudden you've got recitals. They hit six and they start playing sports a little bit more and now on the weekends you're at a soccer game instead of watching Orlando / Philly.  [FYI - Bill has a 14-year old and an 11-year old.]
ZL: You know what?  At a certain point you have to make an internal resolution where like, "That's good.  That's okay.  If your job performance slips a little bit because you have actual human being things to do, and they involve little children that you helped produce into the world, that's what it should be.  That should happen."
BS: You're preaching to the choir, my friend.

Zach's analysis really struck home with me.  This past year, I've learned to say "No" every now and then.  In the past, I would felt as though I was not doing my best or I was letting people down.  I've now made the internal resolution that Zach was referring to. 

Fear not -- my plate is still plenty full.  Between serving on the SDCTM board, presenting at conferences, mentoring a student teacher, applying for the PAEMST award, getting ready to begin the NBCT process, serving as a virtual mathematics coach, and participating in a state leadership cohort, I've got plenty to do.

So this blog post goes to all of educators out there who have filled their plates full.  It's okay to say "No" once in a while.  Don't lose sight of the most important things in life.


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