Here, There, and Everywhere: Good Ideas are Easy to Find

I recently attended a week-long professional development seminar where participants were introduced to a veritable smorgasbord of instructional techniques and approaches—each one shinier and newer than the one that came before. If you're anything like me, you get excited about effective instructional strategies. Really excited. Geeked-out-THIS-is-why-I-became-a-teacher excited. And then reality hits. So many ideas. So little time.

You see, I have bookshelves FILLED with ideas. Highlighted, tabbed, and sticky noted with ideas. Each year, more ideas pile on top of more ideas piled on top of—wait—I remember that one! Why didn't I ever use that one?!?

Oh yeah—because it was lost in the never-ending and ever-growing tower of amazing ideas.

How can I implement all of these amazing ideas and still prevent burnout of the kind that inevitably sets in when I attempt too much too quickly?

The Futility of Attempting Too Much

A few years ago, I went through some of my favorite books and created a categorized table of different types of strategies. Strategies for teaching reading. For teaching writing. For teaching oral communication. For teaching students to actually listen to their classmates during oral communication. 

Plus One Strategy Can Help Prevent Teacher Burnout Pin

I'm not sure where that list went . . .

One of my colleagues waxed poetic on this very topic a few years ago, declaring that after years and years of collecting strategies, she finally just gave up and started enjoying her summer. An enticing thought.

When a group of us were fantasizing about department-wide celebrations of learning to be initiated this coming fall—before we had even closed the books on last spring—another of y colleagues shared that she calls the euphoric end-of-year-so-ready-for-next-year-strategy-brain-dump the "dream board." At the end of each school year, she explained, while memories of the current year are still fresh in her mind, she creates a dream board of every amazing lesson she's going to create and deliver in the upcoming year. She then giggled and admitted that, by the Fourth of July, she has usually awakened from her dream, at which point she—well—enjoys her summer.

A common thread appears . . .

The takeaway? All good teachers reflect on their lessons: what worked, what didn't what they want to do differently. All good teachers regularly seek out ways to improve their instructional pedagogy. And, it appears, all good teachers often fall short of their goals.

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Give Yourself a Break with the Plus One Strategy

So this year, I'm going to employ a strategy that was shared with me at a recent professional development session—the Plus One strategy. It goes like this: rather than attempting to do ALL THE THINGS that we gather and find on our journey towards refinement or, worse, giving up on ALL THE THINGS, we give ourselves a break and apply the Plus One strategy.

As you review your stack of books, your categorized lists, your dream boards from the ghosts of years past, explore your ideal pedagogical techniques with this simple goal: extracting the best, most valuable strategy. Consider how and where you can employ that strategy meaningfully into your instruction. This becomes your "Plus One," allowing you to give yourself a much-needed break by simply adding one new approach into your lessons at a time.

And then . . . go enjoy your summer!

Suggested Timeline for Implementing Changes

Once Per Unit

New Activity

New Paired Reading

Once Per Month

New Tech Tool

New Reflection Task

Once Per Quarter

New Assessment Type

New Grading Approach or Rubric

Once Per Year

New Overall Approach to Instruction

About the Author

Andrea Yarbough is a National Board Certified Teacher and the author of Artfulness: Formula-Free Creative Writing Explorations for Secondary ELA Classes. Trusted by major organizations with curriculum design and professional workshops, she has extensive experience developing meaningful, effective instruction for students and teachers, resulting in better outcomes with less work. 

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