How to Stop Procrastinating

I have, in my life, read hundreds of articles about procrastination; why it’s bad, how to stop, what your life would be like if you didn’t do it. I should note that I read many of these articles in lieu of working on a paper, project, or lesson plan.

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But recently I came across* a tip that worked. It’s not a long-term solution, it won’t break anyone of the habit, but in those moments where you just can’t get started, this works.

The tip: do nothing for a few minutes.

Yeah, that’s the big magic, stop doing anything. Literally sit somewhere, eyes open, and force yourself to stop; no tv, no phone, no nothing. Understand that this isn’t meditation, your thoughts are there and they’ll eat you alive while you’re forced to just sit there.

I tried this last night because it was 7 in the evening and I was still unable to get going on this state certification project that’s slowly draining my soul. Honestly, it seemed pretty stupid but I was desperate.

I sat on my couch and had to stop myself from planning things out in my head and picking up my phone, I even caught myself looking at my bookcases, deciding how I will pack the books when we move. But finally I put all of that aside and I felt…bored as hell. More importantly, the pressure to work on my project was unavoidable without distraction.

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I went for what I thought was ten minutes and finally decided to just get started on the damn project. When I picked up my phone it had been two minutes. Two minutes.

I think this was so effective because my entire being really did want to get going on this project and make headway, but my brain just kept finding activities that brought me more immediate joy. Without those things, or any other stimulus, I was left with that urgency to work and couldn’t ignore it.

Like I said before, this is not a cure to procrastination, but if you find yourself really stuck and unable to get going, give this a shot. And then come back and tell me about your experience in the comments: negative, positive, meh, I want to hear it all.

Best of luck

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*I wish I could remember my source but my overstressed brain can’t recall. Terrible historian alert, not citing her sources.

Francesca M. Healy

6 Things I Learned as a First Year Teacher

‘First Year Teacher’ has been a strange title to hold this year. While I mostly forgot about it at work, it was at grad school and district-wide events that it really shined as an exceptionally weird thing.

At grad school, surrounded by student teachers who I overwhelmingly liked but didn’t have a ton of time to connect with, I was sometimes ignored, something applauded, and sometimes confronted with hostility. To be honest I didn’t like any of those responses and regretted every time I brought up my teaching practice as a present avenue and not a future one.

When interacting with other teachers at professional developments and state exam grading I was mostly looked at with surprise and reminiscence, as though the very thought of it being my first year brought every teacher back to theirs.

It’s strange now that after this first year being such a big deal, none of my coming years will ever mean so much in name, to me or anyone else. Only a little over two weeks out from the end of the school year and I’m still trying to gain some perspective. Mostly I just feel a little bored, a little stressed (finishing my MA), and I really kind of miss my students.

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All that said, I did manage to learn a hand full of important lessons in as a first year teacher.

1. The People Around You Matter

I got insanely lucky with colleagues. I’ve heard the horror stories of apathetic and angry teachers, veterans who don’t care and newbies who think they run the world. I got so lucky with my school family – they are kind and smart and, above all, they care about the kids. Every time I was upset, I had emotional and practical support.

I also made my own support outside of school, leaning on friends and fellow teachers when times were tough. Having a support system, particularly one made up of other people in education is key to survival.

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2. Students are like Family.

You won’t always like them, sometimes you want to throw them out a window and, but you will still love them.

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Throughout the year, when I was unsure about an action I’d taken or something I’d said, I asked myself if the root of it was love. If the answer was no, I needed to apologize.

3. Apologies Hold Huge Power

No one apologizes to kids, especially not adults. Even when they’re wrong, terribly wrong, adults rarely apologize. Early in October I snapped at a kid, it was a passing moment in a bad day, but it wasn’t fair.

I thought about it a lot that night and the next day I pulled her aside when I saw her at lunch and said “hey, I’m really sorry I snapped at you yesterday, that wasn’t fair and you didn’t deserve that.” The look on her face was comically confused and unsure and then she broke into a smile, told me it was ok, and hugged me.

When you’re wrong, apologize.

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4. Self Care

All of the self care. In the beginning of the year, I constantly felt overwhelmed by the amount I needed to prepare and learn and grow and more then once I found myself at school way too late. I brought work home and I was killing my self to finish everything.

I was blessed with an amazing co-teacher  who really kept me honest about self care and cracked down on this. He told me to go home, he helped me finish things, he simplified my to do list, he reminded me that the first year is not about being the best it’s about survival.

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Sometimes it won’t get done but you’ll have taken a long bath and gotten some rest so that you can keep loving the kids and being a good teacher.

5. Take a Day Off

This goes with number four, but needed it’s own section. You get sick and personal days.  Use them. Not excessively, but use them.

Coming to school if you’re too sick, too distracted by something outside of school, or too wrecked to do a good job will only hurt the kids. Take a day, get your head and your body right and never feel bad about it.

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6. Nothing Will Ever be Fully Prepared

No, shut up, no it won’t, just stop. Just when you think you’ve created the perfect lesson and sink hours into making it just right, the whole plan will get thrown by a student question or a broken Smart Board (in May when the tech budget is gone for the year) or a fire drill.

I stopped putting hours into lessons because it only led to disappointment. Plan, absolutely plan and be creative and create cool lessons but don’t plan so long and so hard that you’ll be heartbroken when the plan inevitably gets derailed.

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Teachers, aspiring teachers, retired teachers, parents, students, and anyone else; I’d love to know your thoughts and any big lessons you’ve learned lately in the comments!

Best of luck.

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Learning to Take Care of My Damn Self

Growing up I watched my very motivated father work his fingers to the damn bone. If there was a retake needed by a football player, he’d stay until 6 to give it to them. If a parent meeting needed to happen at 5 am or 9 pm, he’d make it happen. If he needed to learn Spanish or trombone to get the information across, he’d do it.

Every evening I watched him get home late and fall asleep minutes after sitting down. And every single school break I watched him get horribly sick and spend his time off recovering.

When I started teaching I promised myself I would find a way to work for my kids, to give them every chance I can, without burning myself out.

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I have been blessed with a team of co-workers who are caring and understanding, who always look out for me. My co-teacher tells me often to take care of myself. The beginning of every department meeting is either a self care check-in (where we talk about our specific self care goals and what we are doing to reach them this week) or a self care practice (Tai Chi, guided meditation, etc.) My Assistant Principal meets with me once a week to lesson plan/unit plan/revise curriculum/talk about what’s not working and how to fix it. My in-school mentor meets with me once a week to talk about literally anything I need help with.

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I’m supported, much more so than a lot of teachers. I’m lucky and I know it. But still I got caught with a case of ignoring my own needs.

Last Monday I got up at 4 and laid on my couch sobbing because my head was pounding so hard I couldn’t move. I called in sick but by noon the fever, headache and general ick was so bad I couldn’t stop crying.

I went to the clinic in the afternoon (I’ll be honest I went mostly because I wanted to be at work the following day) and found out I had a high fever, a sinus infection, and an ear infection.

My point is: don’t do this. Don’t let it get this bad. I was sick, really obviously sick and tried to push too hard through it and for what?

Americans especially have this notion that if you are not absolutely killing yourself at work, you’re lazy. I can’t say this enough times: that’s bullsh*t.

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In Peru, we would work from about 7- or am until lunch, go get lunch and take a nap or spend time with family, and then go back to work from 3 until 5 or 6. Yeah, that’s a three hour lunch. We also took 20-30 minutes breaks throughout the day to sit and talk.

At first I was torn apart by the difference and went to the go-to argument so many others have used (or at least thought in their head): well maybe if they worked more, their country would be more advanced. This, my friends, is also bullsh*t.

The reasons that many countries struggle has more to do with internal structure and corruption than with amount of hours worked. Hard work may be important, but worker bees working their buzzers off with no break  will not improve a country or a city or a workplace or a person.

I suppose the moral of the story is: put in the work, do whatever it is you do the best that you possibly can, but remember that half of being your best is treating yourself well. Work hard, self care hard.

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Best of luck.

Learning to Take Care of My Damn Self

4 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Moving to NYC

1. The Subway is Hell

You know that movie scene where the quirky girl is riding the subway and writing in her journal about her quirky thoughts? She looks up and there’s a handsome stranger peering back at her. He smiles. She smiles.

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Riding the subway every day is exactly like that except replace “writing in her journal” with “struggling to stand while the car sways and the man behind her pushes his briefcase into her leg.” Oh and the handsome stranger is an old woman yelling at the ceiling that the A train used to run all the way to Jersey City. Oh and there are no smiles.

2. Renting an Apartment is Hell

No, I don’t mean it’s hard or time-consuming, I mean it’s actual hell.

Because I moved to New York with Boyfriend, the option of subletting or renting a room wasn’t really on the table for us. So, I started looking for studios about 3 months out from our move date. I was quickly informed that this was too early and listings are only up about 30 days before renting. Cool, cue anxiety spike.

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At about 6 weeks I found a listing on the Columbia Off Campus Housing site for students and met an awesome agent who took the time to explain the process. Here are some important pieces to renting basically any property in NYC:

– Your income must be 40x the rent annually – so if you want to rent a $1500 studio, you will need to make a minimum of 60k/year, for a $2000 place, you’ll need 80k/year. If you are really lucky, a rental company might accept 35x the rent, especially if you have good credit, but if not you’ll need a guarantor…

– A guarantor is a co-signer for the lease, this can be a family member or friend, but be warned, they must make 80x the rent ($1500 apartment = 120k/year). If you don’t have a loaded friend, there are many companies that will co-sign for you in exchange for a fee, which is typically one month’s rent.

– If a broker is showing you the apartment, that’ll be another fee which fluctuates between 1-2 months rent.

– If you meet all of these requirements and are approved before the apartment is rented to someone else, congratulations! Now quick pay a deposit, 1-2 months rent, renters insurance (in many buildings) and you’re in! Welcome to you 300 square foot apartment that costs 4x what it would have in the city you moved from

3. Taxes are Hell

I moved from a state where I could calculate the amount of money that would be taken out of my paycheck at about 10%. New York scoffs at that amount, New York giggles, New York promptly quadruples that amount and then asks how you’re going to make rent.

Granted I make more money than I used to, but my first paycheck was a bit of a surprise. Turns out, making 51k means I pay 38% of my income to the feds, state, and city. Cool.

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I know there is a system that involved brackets and varying percentages, but I don’t know exactly how it works. Best I can tell, New York just adds up the amount of joy it’s sucked from you that month and charges the same percentage in taxes.

4. Getting Out of the City is Hell

Ok, once you’re out of the city it’s awesome, but the actual act of leaving is a pain, especially during the holidays.

For Thanksgiving, Boyfriend and I went to Virginia to visit my family and looked at just about every possible way to get there. Flying was $800-$900, the train was $500-600, renting a car was a minimum of $600 plus gas. Finally we settled on a 12-hour overnight bus and it still ran us over $350.

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I won’t even talk about trying to fly back to the best coast for Christmas…cough $900 cough.

Granted these are long distance trips and we could get out a bit more locally, however then there’s the cost of travel, lodging and food. Day trips are rough if you don’t have a car and getting anywhere by subway/train/bus takes forever.

What I’m saying is, if you live here, you’ll want to get out once in a while and you will not succeed most of the time.

Alright so maybe it’s not that bad and NYC has some pretty beautiful and great bits too. But, be warned, it will try to get to you. Like a loud little brother, NYC will always be there yelling in your ear when you just want some space.

Anyway, I’d love to hear from you with any comments or questions!

Best of luck.

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Positive Charge

Today is going to be a good day.

This is what I tell myself everyday when I wake up, hoping that one day it won’t be followed by “I think, maybe, well at least it probably, hopefully won’t be the worst day ever. Unless it is. Oh no. I’m so behind on homework.”

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I would not consider myself a natural optimist. Nor would anyone who has ever met me. I am a sarcastic, hot headed and often negative individual. This is despite the fact that I know negativity gets me absolutely nowhere and positivity can push me to fascinating new places. I know this, I do. I also know that ice cream is bad for me and running is good for me but I wore my leggings this morning because of the utility of the stretch waistband, not for my afternoon run. Facts may be facts by my ability to ignore them is the real wonder.

I bring this up because this week was…weird.

On the negative side of things: I was stood up by my therapist, twice. I had to say goodbye to my students forever. The electricity in my apartment has stopped consistently working. I got hit (bumped really, but still) by a car, while crossing in a crosswalk.

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However, for the positive side: I passed my first teacher certification test, I presented my oral history project and it went swimmingly, and I taught a history lesson (all of WWII in 55 minutes, mind you) and it went so well the kids petitioned for me to keep teaching for the year.

While the bad was pretty bad, the good was pretty damn good. And yet I find myself bending to the negativity and focusing on that bad stuff.

Far too many times in my life, I have been the negative voice and it hasn’t done much for me. It’s just easier. It’s easy to decide that something is stupid and make fun of it and hate every moment involved with it; it’s much harder to decide it’s maybe not for you but still has value, or maybe it isn’t valuable but you have to deal with it. And if you have to do something, better to do it with a little bit of light than a whole lot of darkness.

So here’s to a shinier future for our outlook and our hair.

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Best of luck!

Holidays!