Finding a balance – mentoring an online life?

This evening I was spending time do other things besides being online – parent things like going to hockey practice, reading stories, playing mini-sticks and yucking it up with my teenage daughters. It was one of those evenings of which I’ve spent plenty just being “home”. I didn’t have to rush off to a meeting or feel the need to check in with the online world.

Later on, once children were in bed and studying, I sat down to check in and see what was happening. Now dropping in on Twitter can be a bit of a shock as you may have to search to see what the conversations are all about. Because there are so many different things happening on mine, it sometimes takes me a little bit to familiarize myself with what is happening. As I was looking at the conversations, this one from jepcke jumped out at me:

How do you balance an insanely busy day/week & keeping up with Twitter?

I’m not sure. I know that there is part of me that wants to stay “up-to-date” with what is happening in the Twitterverse. Just like when I first began with my RSS reader. I was reading and reading, trying to stay caught up with all the things that were going on, trying to write on my blog and trying to do all the other things. I finally realized that keeping caught up wasn’t going to happen, not for a person like myself with children, community commitments, coaching commitments plus all the things that are related to be an administrator at a school.

The same thing started to happen with Twitter. I wanted to keep caught up with all that was happening, all the new ideas and tools that people were using and the things that were going on. It was the whole RSS reader thing over again. Fortunately, it has taken me much less time this go around to realize that I’m can’t be one of those people who seems to be on twitter and the internet all the time. In fact, I’m not sure that is the kind of impression that I want to give. As kolson29 twitted:

have to come to terms with my addiction to online world vs not wanting my kids there.

This isn’t the first time I’ve run across this. Seems it happens to many of us who are trying to find a balance between online and inlife. This can be very difficult for many of us. As we build our networks and PLN’s, we are seeing how important such things are for us and our growth. We are dedicated to what the net and the networks have to offer and are seeking out new experiences and new ideas. (Sounds like StarTrek should be playing in the background!)

There comes a time, however, that we run into the problem of balance. Late nights tweeting with cross-continent colleagues, early mornings trying to get things together for a podcast, a quick check-in on twitter to see who’s on and what’s happening. Evenings are full of all kinds of happenings with some new tool being shared, tried and discussed. All this time eventually affects other parts of our lives. Well, it did my life. Like many new things, I became distracted with the one while not paying attention to the many.

For the first time in weeks, I went for a run today during my son’s hockey practice. It felt great. Sure, I listened to a podcast but I was just listening to it, allowing the information to be part of my run (treadmill of course! It’s like -38C with a wind here!) Like I mentioned earlier, I spent time doing different things with my children. When I’m done this, I’ll be doing a bit of reading and then off to an early bed – a habit that I would really like to continue! I find that it is good to have regular sleep.

For so many of us, the work we do each day is not just a job; it’s a passion. We believe what we do is important and we are dedicated professionals. That’s why so many of us eat lunch while catching up on email or twits, spend a great amount of time online and search within our network for ways to improve what is we are doing. Because things are changing at a break-neck speed, many are working at a break-neck speed. But is this good for us? Is this a good example? If we were mentoring someone, would this be good mentorship? I’m not sure. I do know that I’ve noticed that my children need to given an example regarding appropriate use of many things and I’m not sure that, in my overzealous pursuit of “keeping up” I haven’t really applied the “walk the walk”. Yes my online PLN is important and I really do enjoy the discussions with other educators. However, it needs to be in balance with the other areas of life. If it begins taking time that should be used to keep that balance, then it’s time to take stock, reflect and shift accordingly.

And maybe, by doing this, I can be better at discussing various tools with my colleagues. Because I know the time it takes to find and learn and incorporate, I can provide an example of balance for them. Now, I know that many people comment that we need to “work with the willing.” Well, I don’t always get the willing with which to work. In fact, as a middle years teacher, most of my students fell in the “un” category. I didn’t give up on them – couldn’t. As a teacher leader – administrator – my role is work with all. So, somehow, someway I need to find ways to draw all people in. The willing are always so nice with which to work – I liked them as a teacher too! It was the students with whom I spend recesses and after school that, eventually, I really got to know and whom developed in ways beyond what we were studying.

As I search for that balance, I realize that I am a mentor – to my children, my colleagues and the other administrators with whom I work – as well as the people in my PLN. I’d like to spend more time online but my RSS experience has taught me that it will come with a cost in many parts of my life. My wife may not need a WOW widow t-shirt but she was thinking of getting a RSS widow badge and I don’t want her to go looking for a Twitter widow hat.

These are times of enormous and rapid change for educators and students.  As a teacher, I still don’t want to give up on the ones who aren’t easy. While being an administrator in a Catholic school, one of the teachers I worked with commented about the number of students  we were receiving that needed extra help and adaptations. The teacher, jokingly, wanted to know if I had put an add in the paper asking for all students with problems to apply. If so, could I stop running the ad. I laughed. Then, somewhat seriously I said “The ad we have is the cross on our front entrance – it symbolizes what we stand for and who we are. So, no, I’m not going to take down the ad. And it should remind us of what we are called to do.” I often reflect on that conversation when I meet up with a difficult student or family or … If I had wanted to work with only the willing, I guess I wouldn’t have decided to become a teacher and, if I had wanted to work with only the willing staff, I definitely wouldn’t have become a principal. But they all deserve my best – which means that having balance and being a mentor is very important – especially during times of change.

Time for something else.

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7 responses

  1. I’ve been concerned about balance as well, wondering if I am neglecting aspects of my responsibilities as a teacher. Could I be spending more time with my lesson planning instead of discussing some new tool or educational theory. When does my learning begin impinging on my students?

  2. I can say outright that by my being online, I neglect the physical need to sleep.

    Being online, however, energizes me by giving me the opportunity to compare notes with those who’ve dealt with my issues.

    It gives me a breather, and that’s what’s important right now. I would be remiss in my responsibilities if I ignored the need to step back and reflect.

    Strictly speaking, though, I should be asleep an hour ago.

    http://awaitingtenure.wordpress.com

  3. Moving post, wonderfully composed. You definitely help me reflect on my own practice, both online and in regards to experiences with those non-willing. I have wrote about balance before and I think it is the most important component to managing an online learning environment. Get out, away and enjoy life. Besides balancing demands of life, one also needs to balance the # of tools they utilize to make their learning efficient. We have to be conscious of our practice and try to trim the fat to ensure optimal learning per minute. I think if teach patience and balance then we set our aim at successful long term societal transition into these online environments we enjoy.

  4. eyeingtenure – as someone who has walked those paths, I can honestly say that to be an effective teacher, sleep is more important than any online activity. In fact, good health should be one of the top priorities of all teachers. Being role models for our students, we need to realize that if we present an image to our students that is counter what we may say or what is the predominant good advice, then at what other times do we “say one thing but do another”. Walking the talk is very difficult and, for many people, not what they do but in order to have a profound effect on our students and children, we must consider what image we are portraying because they will do what they see not what they hear.

    derrallg – something that I struggle with all the time, especially in the midst of a busy extra-curricular season or when there are deadlines. I’ve become better at not being tossed by the waves but maintaining my lifestyle despite all that is going on around me. Very hard to do at times!

    Kyle – very true. We really need to settle on the tools that we feel will help us. It’s nice to see what is happening and what people are doing but to maintain balance, we need to add only what will help us do our jobs and make us productive. Really, I could spend hours doing videos and making other online projects but there comes a time when there needs to be balance in order for my online presence to be in balance with my onlife. Thanks for the comments!

  5. It must be kismet, khobbes, because I was wondering the same thing myself. I was wondering how all of the edutech folks maintain a healthy and connected personal/family life while keeping so up-to-date with tech. Being a single, I know how much time I spend, and, even as a single, I have to put space between myself and the computer to allow for other things in my life.

  6. Over the last week or so, I’ve really seen this play out in different ways and, like you, wonder where it all is going to flat-line. Can we all continue the pace we are going while still maintaining balance in other areas of our lives.

  7. Time is definitely a hard thing to balance. I think technology just aids us in trying to fit more in less time so I think balance is key to attaining a healthy life.

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