Should Teachers Attend Student Performances Outside of School?

“Why didn’t you attend our daughter’s musical?” the parents asked.

Photo Credit: Kristijan Arsov on

Teaching is an amazing and rewarding space to work in.

It can also be utterly exhausting. As Washington teacher Tyler Rablin reminded us, it’s emotionally, mentally, and physically demanding work.

In the third term of last year, I was asked to attend three different performances involving my students. These were personal events completely unrelated to school. They included gymnastics, a choir performance, and a musical. They were scheduled on evenings and weekends.

I declined all of them.

You know these students mean well. In fact, it’s touching — humbling, even — that they wanted me there at those events, in the seats, cheering them on and bearing witness to the product of their dedicated preparation.

So I don’t blame them or their parents for wanting me there.

But as a part-time vice-principal, I get a little feisty when teacher wellness is put at risk unnecessarily. School-sanctioned evening events are already a big ask and take a big toll on teachers: I’m thinking here of Meet the Teacher Night, parent conferences, band concerts, and the like.

Keep in mind that many teachers are also parents, meaning they’re pulling double or triple duty for these evening events.

One night they’re supervising a band concert at their own school, the next night they’re wearing their parent hat and attending their child’s concert at another school. One night they’re hosting parent conferences, the next night they’re attending them.

Been there.

This on top of all the other countless demands that teachers must stay on top of outside of class time: lesson planning, feedback, IEP communication, email, and endless administrivia.

The parent and partner guilt that most teachers live under

Speaking of family life, many teachers operate under a continuous cloud of guilt. They may not admit it on the surface, but talk to them for any length of time and you’ll get a sense of what I’m talking about.

They wish they could be more emotionally available for their partners.

They wish they could have more energy for their own children.

They wish they could have more time to cultivate real relationships outside of work.

Now take the weight of this guilt and imagine them sitting through a 2-hour musical on a Wednesday night. It’s not good.

They’re tired. Their partner or children are at home. Lessons are waiting to be planned. Assignments are waiting for feedback.

It would be a touching gesture on the part of a generous teacher to show such support, but in my mind it just doesn’t add up.

The problem of precedent that parents must keep in mind

There’s another important reason why teachers are wise to decline these kinds of out-of-school student performances, and well-meaning parents may not recognize it at first.

If Miss Robinson says yes and attends Jackie’s figure skating championship, that only raises the pressure on her to also attend Jenny’s violin recital, Eddie’s swim meet, and Twila’s musical.

Even worse, it raises the pressure on her colleagues to do the same. It becomes a lot harder for teachers to decline all student performances when a colleague is somehow out in the community attending one of these performances after another.

Why didn’t you attend our daughter’s performance?

Last year I sat (in my role as part-time vice-principal) with a teacher while her parents asked her point blank: “Can we just ask why you didn’t attend our daughter’s performance?”

The implication was clear. You should have been there.

I didn’t like the question at all, but I was silent and allowed my colleague to respond.

It was a difficult moment. In my 22 years as an educator, I don’t think I’ve ever heard that question before.

If put in that situation again, I’d like to jump in. “Because we encourage our teachers and colleagues to say no to student performances happening outside of school,” I’d say flatly.

Teacher health and wellness requires a recognition that our time and energy are limited. Limitations require careful budgeting, and budgeting requires discrimination based on priorities.

None of us are wealthy enough to distribute money indiscriminately. That’s just common sense.

The same goes for time and energy. These are finite resources. And in the teacher life, they’re incredibly valuable.

Photo by Daniel Thomas on Unsplash

In defense of teachers: parents, please don’t ask this of them

Parents, we love you dearly. It is such an honor and a privilege — truly, it is an incredible joy — to serve your beautiful children each day.

Help us be our best selves.

Help us keep the joy in our work and the fire in our eyes.

Help us protect the emotional bandwidth we need for the dozens of little people we interact with each day.

When it comes to your child’s performances, you’re welcome to send teachers a YouTube link to their wonderful work. If we have time, we just may watch a minute or two and leave a comment.

But please don’t ask a teacher to attend your child’s performance in person.

What is assessment?

When it comes to K-12 education, it’s pretty much everything.

Photo Source: Barrett Ward on

The closer you look at assessment philosophies and practices, the more you realize that assessment shapes instruction, learning, language, calendars, culture, and virtually every aspect of life in K-12 schools.

Assessment is everything.

For decades, schools and educators clung to old paradigms of assessment.

They treated grades as wages: students do the work, and teachers pay them for that work.

They treated assessment as a means of ranking and sorting: winners at the top, losers at the bottom.

They treated assessments as leverage to ensure compliance: follow the rules, and you’ll be rewarded. Color outside the lines or show up late to class, and we’ll use grades to punish you.

These old systems of assessment inspired courage and fear. They dealt honor and shame. But they often had little to do with the learning itself.

No more. Assessment in our K-12 schools is turning a corner. And the future is bright.

“Write, in one sentence, your definition of assessment.”

That was the request I put out to my professional learning network on Twitter this fall. I thought that if a few of my colleagues engaged with this question, some rich dialogue was sure to follow.

And engage they did. Thank you, PLN.

What a rich conversation. Every tweet you’re about to read gives me pause.

This thread is so rich that I had to memorialize it. Enjoy, and may this thread spark further thought on your own journey of assessment.

What IS assessment?

And implied: What is the purpose of assessment?

  1. “A tool to evaluate and improve learning.” — Audrey McGregor @AudreyMcGregor1
  2. “Assessment is doing whatever I need to do with you in order to get inside of your head to understand what you need to know, understand, and do to take your next step on your learning journey.” — BeckyFisher73 @BeckyFisher73
  3. “Assessment = checking in.” — Conklin Educational Perspectives @ConkEdPerspect
  4. “Show me what you got!” — Nick Covington @CovingtonEDU
  5. “Identifying where students are in skill and understanding, and offering suggestions for their next steps of learning and refinement.” — Craig Voskamp @CraigVoskamp
  6. “A dialogue to learn about your learning.” — Chris Smith @cssmithteach
  7. “Assessment is any informed process engaged by teachers and/or learners that illuminates where a learner is at in the learning process, how they got there, the learner’s and teacher’s next steps, and how to get learners to their goals.” — Shannon Schinkel @DramaQueenBRC
  8. “Assessment is the ongoing process of gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence (State Government of Victoria, Australia © 2019).” — Dr. David Gentile @drdgentile
  9. “Assessment is any means by which we gauge our own or someone else’s current understanding of a selected subject.” — J. Nicholas Philmon @DrNikPhilmon
  10. “A snapshot in time measurement of student understanding and ability to demonstrate mastery of taught curriculum.” — ProwlMom34 @DRoss625
  11. “Checking in with the learner to see if what they’re understanding about a subject is what you’re trying to teach.” — Eileen McDaniel @EileenM02086562
  12. “Three types of assessments are critical to good teaching and should be helpful to both the teacher and the learner — diagnostic, formative, and summative.” — Elliott Seif @elliottseif
  13. “When learning to ride a bike, three questions show three critical assessments: Can the learner get on the bike? (diagnostic); What feedback will help the rider as she learns? (formative); Can the rider ride on his own? (summative). From Teaching for Lifelong Learning, chapter 3.” — Elliott Seif @elliottseif 
  14. “One way I figure out what to do next.” — Erin Earnshaw @erin_earnshaw
  15. “Helping students find their next steps.” — James Abela @eslweb
  16. “Assessment is the act and process of seeing or noticing the relationship between the learning target and the actual learning. It allows a knowing with which to make sound decisions about what happens next.” — Andrew Maxey @ezigbo_
  17. “Assessment is reflection’s GPS.” — Heidi Graci @formermingo
  18. “Where do I start my teaching from?” — Francis Joseph @Francis_Joseph
  19. “There are practice days and there are game days.” — Glenn Morgan @glennirvinem
  20. “Assessment: (noun) A tool or process that provides data on progress (or lack thereof) towards a goal.” — Monica Agudelo @good_elo
  21. “Assessment captures a snapshot of what a student could demonstrate in that moment. A collection of assessments taken over time provides a more accurate picture of how a child is growing in their learning.” — Kimberly Church @HolaMrsChurch
  22. “Assessment is the provision of explicit feedback on any artifact of learning with the goal of furthering that learning.” — Jeff Hopkins @hopkinsjeff
  23. “A way to see if they know what I need them to know.” — Toby Price @jedipadmaster
  24. “Measurement of student growth to provide feedback and generate more growth.” — Jen Smielewski @JenSmielewski
  25. “The collection of evidence of student achievement on desired learning outcomes.” — Josh Kunnath @JoshKunnath
  26. “Determination of current state in relation to future state and the responses we take to move toward goals. Assessment informs response.” — Katie White @KatieWhite426
  27. “Assessment discerns ‘the known’ and the ‘what next’ for individuals.” — Charlotte P @lifeoflottie
  28. “To assess: to seek information (via conversations, observations or students’ work) in order to learn more about our students (e.g., attitude, understanding, thinking processes, knowledge, habits of mind) for the purposes of improving student learning. While related to evaluation (the process of assigning a value/grade/percentage), assessment and evaluation are very different processes with different goals and outcomes.” — Mark Chubb @MarkChubb3 [two tweets]
  29. “A moment of reflection and celebration on a learning journey where (with another learner) you look back to appreciate how far you came, think about where you now stand, and plan for your next steps in your learning travels.” — Mark Sonnemann @MarkSonnemann
  30. “A method to determine current knowledge/skills to assist in the determination of the next steps for growth.” — Mike Szczepanik @MikeSzczepanik
  31. “One moment in time for a student and teacher, not the end all of anything.” — Mindy Swanson @mindykswanson
  32. “Assessment is showing what you know, receiving feedback on that (from someone else like a peer or teacher, or from deep independent reflection), applying the feedback, and showing what you know again — so it is a continual process.” — Brenda Ball @misssball
  33. “Assessment is one measure of the effectiveness of instruction.” — Michael Bissell @mrbissell
  34. “To sit beside. It’s a visible image of learning. Collaboration, relationships, growing, mutual feedback, responses, respect, and HOPE!” — Jim Smith @MrDataGuy
  35. “Show me what you know.” — Adrian Neibauer @MrNeibauer
  36. “How you know they know.” — Rebekah Shaw @MrsShaw_TCC
  37. “The tool to see individual progress and point out the next steps.” — Nathalie Magel @nathalie_magel
  38. “Informal or informal way to check learner progression. Specific feedback for growth must be given by the teacher.” — Misty Kirby @OneLove_mk
  39. “How both teachers and learners know learning is happening and why and how it’s happening.” — Pam Moran @pammoran
  40. “Informing strengths and next steps in learning.” — Ms. Pope @PopeSD36
  41. “To collect the necessary information to understand a learner’s instructional needs.” — Practice Readers Books @PracticeReaders
  42. “What the heck did my students learn and how do I know they learned it?” — Daniel Katz @Prof_Katz
  43. “Assessments are educational health checks, so we know what to prescribe to each individual.” — Lozetta Hayden @Quencessh
  44. “From the Latin assidere: to assess means to sit beside the learner; So what does it mean and what does it look like to sit beside a learner?” — Randy Swift @RandySwift9
  45. “A set of tools used by teachers to gauge, clarify, and report the preparedness, progression, skill development, and needs of their students.” — Shandeemay @shandeemay1
  46. “A snapshot into the understanding of a student and the quality of the teaching.” — Chris Summers @summers_llm
  47. “The evaluation of what a person knows and can do at point of administration.” — Jeffery E. Frieden @SurthrivEDU
  48. “Learners show what they know.” — Julia Joy @TheHealstorian
  49. “Feedback in multiple ways to glean understanding on how to improve.” — MmePapa @tlwestridge
  50. “Assessment is a chance to showcase your application of knowledge to practical situations.” — Traci Johnson @tsuejohnson
  51. “Assessment: the process of generating information for educators and learners in order to understand achievements with regard to the (previously agreed upon) learning objectives.” — Vahid Masrour @vahidm

For further reflection and discussion

Which definition of assessment resonated with you the most?

Which thought provoked your thinking?

Which line inspired your practice?

As long as we’re talking about assessment, we’re engaging in conversations about the shape of our schools and the nature of learning itself.

And that gives me hope for the future.

Let’s Save Space for Messy Teaching

Sometimes, our very best teaching and learning ideas are born out of chaos.

I was at a professional learning event in Winnipeg last week, and my middle school colleague and I were tasked with building a learning progression for teachers around assessment.

The end goal for our learning community was this statement:

“Students help design rubrics to measure growth, identify where they are in relation to the target, and set goals for reaching it. They do multiple revisions of work to reach mastery.”

Isn’t that just the dream right there?

So our task was to map out a learning progression for teachers: a set of steps that we and our professional teammates might follow to reach that goal.

From 0 to 60.

Here’s what we came up with:

  • Step 1 (baseline): Learning activities are assigned to students with no criteria, rubrics, or learning targets. Students complete one edition of the activity in isolation (no follow-up).
  • Step 2: Teacher discusses and explains the assessment criteria to students before the learning activity begins. There may be opportunities given for revision and reiteration (or a self-reflection by students).
  • Step 3: The teacher invites input after discussing the assessment criteria with the class. The learning target is clearly identified. Students are given opportunity to reflect on their growth from start to finish of an activity. Second iterations are required.
  • Step 4: Students co-create rubrics and assessment criteria to measure growth, identify where they are in their learning, and set goals for reaching the learning target. They use peer feedback to complete multiple revisions of work in order to demonstrate mastery. They reflect on their learning throughout the creative process and identify goals for further growth.

The arrows in the progression are hard to see, but if you look closely you can track the growth in the middle row from left to right.

The post-its are bits of warm and cold feedback offered by other educators from around the country.

It’s a thing of beauty.

But, wait a second.

The dream lesson plan

Yes, the ideal lesson plans come with learning targets, success criteria, and assessment rubrics (co-created with students) in place.

They activate prior knowledge, help students acquire and apply concepts, include adaptations that include all learners, provide means of formative assessment to inform teacher instructional decisions, and use anticipatory activities to set the stage for the next steps of learning.

Wouldn’t that be wonderful if we could do that every class?

Unfortunately, we can’t. Not every single time.

And when we burden teachers with this list of ideals at every turn, I think we actually run the risk of limiting student learning.

Sometimes, transformative learning appears in unexpected places.

If you’ve been in the classroom for long, you know that some of your best ideas were born out of sheer impulse.

That day that you slept in and walked into a class completely unprepared? Turns out you had an incredible epiphany that led to one of the best student-led learning activities that you ever came up with.

Aiming for ideals but saving room for messy beginnings

No, we don’t want last minute planning to be our standard operating procedure. But I believe we have to save space and give grace for messy beginnings.

Because sometimes, that’s where our very best teaching and learning is born.

It’s Time to Rethink Formal Teacher Evaluations

When it comes to our current observation processes, is anyone winning?

On November 29, 2019, a teacher from Ontario posted a heartfelt, transparent update about his experience with a formal observation, something he calls a teacher performance appraisal (2:50). It’s worth a watch.

What strikes me most about his story is the sheer relief he expresses. It’s visceral. The observations are over, the report has been written, and he was given a stamp of professional approval.

There’s some pride and satisfaction there, for sure. But what I sense most strongly is the relief. He celebrates the fact that he won’t have to endure this process again for another four years.

Sadly, most educators can relate to that feeling.

Similar processes of formal teacher evaluation have been in place in most North American school districts for decades. They usually involve administrators sitting in classrooms for a series of classes in order to observe the teacher’s every move: their instruction, their feedback, their classroom management, the ways they interact with students, and much more.

Checklists and clipboards are present, and long reports follow.

And despite vigorous efforts to spin it otherwise, formal observations of this nature feel like a giant magnifying glass has been focused squarely on the teacher. It’s gotcha at its worst, and most teachers dislike the whole ordeal immensely.

It brings out all the insecurities and imposter syndrome like few other experiences in education. And it creates a lot of sleepless nights.

Yes, the teacher receives written feedback on their performance in the form of formal reports once the observations are said and done.

But aren’t there better ways to support teacher growth?

The instructional coaching model packs powerful potential

Enter the instructional coaching model, which has been making incremental gains in schools across North America over the last decade. More and more districts are recognizing the fact that instructional coaching is far and away the most effective tool for professional development.

Conferences are great. Workshops can be transformative. Books, podcasts, online courses, and YouTube content can all be inspiring and helpful.

But nothing can touch the power of another education professional in a teacher’s classroom who shows up, encourages, asks questions, and offers constructive feedback day after day for a planned series or season of classes.

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And the very best part for many teachers: an instructional coach is usually not a part of the school’s administrative team. Their records and observations aren’t included in professional evaluations and files, and they don’t report their experiences to the principal or board.

This is a game-changer. With time — and as trust accumulates — the teacher starts to see the instructional coach as an ally, a professional friend, and someone who is safe. The coach is in the room to help, back up, promote strengths, ask thoughtful questions, and even join in the instruction.

That’s all wins and no losses. It’s the professional learning dream.

The challenge schools face without instructional coaches

Unfortunately, the reality for many schools and districts is that no such person exists on staff. Perhaps the school isn’t large enough to support the added salary, or the district hasn’t made it a priority.

Whatever the story, an instructional coach isn’t always available. Which brings us back to administrators and their formidable formal assessments, or as the teacher from Ontario calls them, teacher performance appraisals.

Man, that just sounds terrifying.

More formative, less summative = more teacher growth

It’s been well-established that students don’t learn a lot from summative assessments, especially those which allow no opportunity for review, revision, or reflection. Perhaps the worst offender in this category is the standardized test, which is typically administered as an isolated event and offers little connection with learning that came before it.

It’s a snapshot, and it gives the evaluator some information. But left by itself, it doesn’t move student learning forward a single inch.

On the other hand, we know that students learn a whole lot from ongoing, conversational feedback. Like learning to ride a bike or play basketball with the help of a coach, it’s real-time feedback for real-time learning. Growth can be instantaneous and sustained.

As Dylan Wiliam and Siobhan Leahy write in Embedding Formative Assessment, “The biggest impact happens with ‘short-cycle’ formative assessment, which takes place not every six to ten weeks but every six to ten minutes, or even every six to ten seconds.”

No, principals and vice-principals don’t typically have the time to sit beside teachers with the kind of sustained frequency that full-time instructional coaches can. And the fact that principals are involved in the hiring and firing of teachers works against the kind of safety and trust that can be found in a coach.

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But there’s still plenty of opportunity for administrators to move away from an evaluative mindset and into one of coaching:

Fewer checkboxes, more encouragement.

Fewer reports, more learning conversations.

Less written analysis, more curious questions.

Less critique of weaknesses, more identification of strengths.

Less catching the teacher in non-compliance, more celebrations of growth.

It’s a paradigm shift.

Can formal evaluations be scrapped altogether?

As I close, we have to acknowledge an uncomfortable fact: as things stand in K-12 today, formal evaluation processes are difficult to eliminate completely.

Formal observation reports can actually be quite valuable for teachers when they decide to apply to other schools and districts. Few things say “This teacher is a an exceptional educator and competent professional” with more authority than the kind of in-depth analysis and commentary that these reports provide.

By the same token, formal documentation is quite important when principals are faced with the unpleasant task of dismissing incompetent teachers. Teacher dismissal can be a formidable task at the best of times — so onerous that most public school teachers across North America are basically un-fireable short of egregious professional misconduct. But if and when dismissal or remediation is required, proper documentation is an essential part of the conversation.

That’s not to say that formal evaluations must stay.

Would teachers experience vastly better professional growth if all the time and energy spent on formal evaluation processes was spent on coaching in classrooms instead?


Would staff wellness, culture, and climate in most learning communities improve?

Yes. (For principals, too — formal evaluation reports eat up huge amounts of time and energy.)

Can formal observations and evaluations be scrapped completely?

I’m not sure.

But let’s keep moving in a coaching direction.

How I create digital seating plans quickly and easily

9 Survival Tips for New Teachers

How to survive and thrive in the toughest years of teaching.

Dear New Teacher,

Thank you for joining the teaching community. Thank you for your commitment to the learning and growth of our little people. Thank you for bringing your optimism, your ideas, your passions into our world.

We love you. We need you. We’re glad you’re here.

And it’s because we appreciate you that we want to help you make it.

We want to see you grow, not go.

We want this work to give you life, not take it from you.

So with that in mind, here are some tips and strategies that will help you survive and thrive in your toughest years of teaching.

9 Survival Tips for New Teachers

1. Your only professional learning goal is to survive.

The idealism that you bring into the profession is inspiring. You want to teach well, learn quickly, collaborate with colleagues, and be better every day. You’re ready to embrace the school’s latest initiative, improve your assessment practices, refine your instruction, and love your students well all at once.

Here’s the reality: you likely won’t master everything or anything in your first couple of years of teaching. And that’s more than all right, because your first professional goal isn’t mastery of anything at all.

Make no apologies: your only professional goal is survival. You do that, you end your first year or years with your dignity, sanity, and your sense of self-concept basically intact, and then we can talk about your next steps of professional growth.

2. It’s okay to say no.

Well-meaning teammates and colleagues from other departments will admire your energy. They’ll notice your creative spirit and that special passion you have for volleyball, graphic design, or photography. Coaches and members of your school’s stretched-thin athletic staff will notice the rapport that you quickly build with students. And the requests will inevitably come.

“What do you think about coaching in the spring?”

“How would you feel about a weekly after-school club?”

“We’re starting an entrepreneurship fair planning committee. Would you like to join us?”

It’s okay to say no. You do not owe anyone anything: not your time, your help, or an explanation.

As a new teacher, you’ve got a million things on your plate your hands are more than full.

“No” has sometimes been called the most freeing word in the English language.

Use it.

3. Play the new teacher card early and often — you will make mistakes and that’s okay.

The New Teacher Card is a powerful one. It will buy you grace and liberties and excuses all over the place from veterans who remember well the trauma of their own first years of teaching. Play it early and often.

4. Beware of Parkinson’s Law: set firm boundaries on work time.

This might be my single biggest tip of them all, so stay with me here. No, we’re not talking about a disease.

Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion. It’s a dangerous principle.

Here’s an honest admission. When I was a new seventh grade teacher, I would sometimes end the school day so mentally and physically exhausted that I would actually take a nap on a couch in my classroom before preparing for the next day.

After 20–30 minutes of snoozing, I would wake up, try to collect my thoughts, grab a bite to eat, and then begin the work of lesson planning.

“I’ll stay at school til I’m done,” I thought. That way, I could sleep well when I did go to bed, knowing that everything was set and ready for the next day.

One problem with that plan: Parkinson’s Law. By not putting a hard limit on my work time, my work would expand and expand and expand. Without the urgency of a deadline, my pace would slow to an inefficient crawl.

I could spend an hour designing a student handout that was of little consequence for learning, convincing myself that what I was working on was critical because my students deserved the best learning experience possible.

Watch this: some of your colleagues are married with young children. (You may be in the same situation, although that’s often not the case for new teachers.)

These teachers often leave the school building as fast as possible and spend the bare minimum of personal time on school work. They don’t have a choice, either: the demands of their personal lives require absolute efficiency.

You can learn from that efficiency. Set tough time limits on your work, and get comfortable saying “This is good enough for now.”

5. Take sick days without apology.

It can be tempting as a new teacher to make sure “I always show up.” To maintain a bulletproof attendance record and play the role of Miss Reliable.

“My students may not be successful without me there” can be a tempting thought.

But at some point over the 200 days of a typical school year, your body may disagree with your noble commitment to faithfulness. The throat will get sore, the chills will appear, or the headaches will persist from one day to the next.

Some frank advice: don’t wait til you’re vomiting over a toilet to call in sick. Say goodbye to the notions of “letting down” your colleagues or students.

When your body is screaming at you that it needs a break, take a sick day. You’ll actually be doing your colleagues and students a favour.

6. Mental health = health.

This point is closely related to the previous one, but it’s so big that it deserves its own place on the list.

Mental health is health.

As a new teacher, it’s quite likely that you’ll feel mentally or emotionally overwhelmed at some point.

It may be during the pressures of a reporting period.

It may be after yet another long and angry email from those parents that are convinced that you hate their child, even when you’re trying everything in your power to help them.

It may be during your sixth difficult IEP meeting when it becomes apparent that you “somehow missed” a key piece of information from the psychological profile of one of your learners.

Perhaps you notice that you dissolve in tears more often and more easily.

You feel like you have no time or emotional margin for friends and family.

The light has gone out of your eyes and you begin resenting everyone and everything around you.

If you’re there, take a break. Call in sick, because you really are sick. And don’t feel guilty doing it.

Mental health is health. It’s not safe for others if you’re in the building with flu symptoms. It’s also not safe for others when your sanity is hanging by a thread.

Take a sick day.

7. If you ever feel overwhelmed by work or life, speak to your principal or assistant principal.

If you ever do find yourself cracking — physically, emotionally, or mentally — don’t suffer in silence. Let your administrators know.

Your principal and assistant principal are charged in part with the health and wellness of the entire learning community. When they know how you’re doing, there may be things that they can do to help. Things that you haven’t thought of.

They may be able to take over one of your scheduled supervision duties.

They may be able to pitch in and cover a difficult class for you.

They may be able to quietly excuse you from an after-school event.

Think of it this way: your administrators win when you win. They’re on your side and they share your goals for success.

It may feel humbling or embarrassing to send that text or knock on your administrator’s door, but it shouldn’t. Trust me — they’ll be glad that you did.

Let your administrators know when you’re struggling.

8. Connect with other positive teachers on social media.

Social media can be a powerful source of energy, encouragement, and inspiration. Tap into it.

Personally, Twitter is always my first stop. I live there as @MisterCavey, and what I’ve found is that in a matter of 1–2 minutes on the app I can count on interesting, helpful, motivating content in my feed, guaranteed.

Twitter can also be an amazing resource when you’re looking for teaching solutions. I once reached out to my Twitter community for some middle school Math resources, and I was stunned by the number of helpful, practical responses.

Maybe you’re more of an Instagram person. Or maybe it’s Facebook or TikTok or YouTube. There are vibrant teacher communities on each one.

Not sure how or where to get started on one of these platforms? Find me on any of the above, and start by following who I’m following.

By tapping into the right people and building a positive professional learning network, you’re inviting more joy, optimism, and practical resources — even if it’s only for a few minutes each day.

9. Invest in activities of personal passion and joy.

About five years ago, I started leaning harder into personal passions outside of school. Things like hiking, paddleboarding, drone flying, writing, podcasting, and YouTubing.

And do you know what I noticed? I started to love teaching more.

You see, when we live and breathe teaching and nothing else, we’re actually not very interesting people. We’re living monochrome lives. We have little to offer others and less emotional bandwidth to do the work itself.

But when we invest in personal passions, when we give ourselves permission and space to engage in life-giving activities of personal joy, some really good things happen.

Our emotional health improves.

We model the learning life that we ask of our students.

We gain new knowledge and expertise that we can bring back into the learning community.

We need to change this idea that time spent on personal passions is somehow selfish. It’s absolutely not.

Wherever your personal passions lie, your colleagues and students need you to invest in them. You’ll be better for it. And so will they.

Final Thoughts

Welcome to the profession, colleague. You are in for an emotional ride like no other, and you will experience human rewards that few careers can match.

Between the tears of utter exhaustion and indescribable joy, remember this: you are more than your work. You are only as effective as you are well.

We’re in the learning business, but we’re also in the people business. You are more than your work, so take care of yourself first.

Wishing you an incredible year,

Tim Cavey

How to Record Your Computer Screen with Canva

Hi colleague. You already know that Canva is amazing. But did you know that Canva offers a POWERFUL picture-in-picture screen recorder?

Check out this tutorial to see where to find it and how to use it.