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On Downsizing...

A popular theme in life, often tossed about when we are complaining or agitated, is that less is more.

There are so many ways to downsize. Three weeks ago our family took on a big one: we moved from a large, beautiful home on a lovely park to a two bedroom apartment. We had many reasons for this choice and the truth is I welcomed the move for months in advance. I suspected that despite the challenges of having our 16 month old and 5 year old share a bedroom for the first time, the overall quality of life would greatly improve. It’s only been a month but so far the answer is yes indeed, less is more.

Less cleaning? Check.

Less stuff? Check.

More time? Check. (Less cleaning and less stuff to keep track of has led to more open time. It is splendid!).

At my school in the Bronx several colleagues have noticed a lightness to my coaching this year. More than one person has observed, ‘you are so calm for September.’ You see in the life of a literacy coach and consultant September is historically a frantic time. Assess every reader, launch reading, writing and other components of balanced literacy in every classroom, build stamina and get books into hands. It is a very busy time. And yet my downsizing mindset has crossed over and I am lighter. Calmer. Happier.

I made the choice this year to ask three things of my teachers in September: assess every reader, read aloud a book that you adore and remember that writing matters. I’m not pressing them to have every part and piece in perfect shape and it shows. Don’t get me wrong- you can’t only do three things as a literacy teacher. But you can choose to do three things well and give a lot of space for other parts to happen as they will. You can downsize your priorities.

Several years ago I read an article in the New York Times, “I Refuse to Be Busy” by K J Dell’Antonia. The author made the point that often (not always) parents choose what makes us busy. Dell’Antonia was writing specifically about the rushed chaos that defines much of parenting today, but the parallels to classroom teaching are striking. In downsizing my priorities as a teacher this year (and in downsizing my home) I’m making a choice. It’s a different choice than I’ve made in previous years. I’ve downsized all I want to accomplish in September and committed to doing the critical parts well.

Less stress? Check.

Less multi-tasking? Check.

More joy? Check.

If you want to read Dell’Antonia’s piece, head to:

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