I’m in the middle of my 5th year of teaching special education in the Bronx. Each year I’ve taught, I take on increasing responsibilities, which leaves me little time nor space to devote to extracurricular hobbies or pursuits, such as writing blog posts, either here or on my other one, or on any other site I’ve posted on.
On my run today, I was thinking about how I explain this to people when I apologize for not having written anything recently. I typically say something like, I haven’t the time this year to write, as I am engaged in two different leadership programs. Yet this excuse is not wholly accurate, for I DO sometimes have time, such as when I’ve completed my curriculum planning for my classes, and finished completing any other professional demands. So it isn’t a lack of time, precisely. I seem to have time to scan my newsfeeds and tweet out links, for example.
Another way I sometimes I explain this is as a lack of “cognitive capacity” for pursuing additional tasks, suggesting that at the end of a long day or week, I lack some mental capacity for engaging in complex thinking outside the immediate realm of my professional tasks. This explanation gets somewhat closer at the truth, I think.
I thought today of a better way of explaining this, with a term I call “mindspaces.” For any given life pursuit, there’s a certain dedication of mindspace to it, in which I have to be able to switch off other areas of my mind and thus devote my full attention to that pursuit.
In my professional life, the mindspaces I shuttle between have expanded. This year, one mindspace that occupies much of my life is a curricular one, as I process and plan an entirely new and complex ELA curriculum, for 3 different classes–my 6th grade ICT (co-taught) class, my 8th grade ICT class, and my 8th grade 12:1 class. I then have to shift each day into my special education coordinator mind space, in which I schedule IEP meetings, conduct short-term or long-term visioning and planning for improving the implementation of services, or engage with parents, teachers, staff, and students around the process of implementation of services. Those are two of the biggest mindspaces for me, but I also have the mindspace dedicated to planning with my 8th grade team around an end of year performance assessment for students, which is a complex and difficult undertaking for us. I have the two different mind spaces of leadership programs I’m undertaking, and how they apply to my work life and beyond.
Those are just a few examples. My engagement in multiple mindspaces can delimit my ability to engage beyond those realms in additional pursuits, such as continuing my expositions here on The Federalist Papers, exploring the concept of schools as ecosystems on my other blog, or even simply pushing myself to go back down the stairs to go on a run at the end of the day.
I’ve gotten better at shifting between these spaces, such as by seeking and chunking connections between spaces, learning to sit back and await opportunities to arise rather than constantly pursuing them, and being OK with not being able to read or engage with every single newsletter or tweet that comes my way.
But for now, I’m learning to negotiate and transition between multiple mindspaces such that I increase my effectiveness, productivity, and wellbeing, rather than the reverse.