Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Balance You Can Do

I don't know about you, but I'm constantly hearing and thinking about balance. Work-life balance. Paper-digital balance. And so on ...

In my opinion, balance is a tricky word. Does it mean 50/50? Does it mean favoring one thing over another? Is it bad if you don't have balance?

As a working wife & mom, I struggle with balancing home & work. When I'm at work, I'm still a mom. When I'm home, I am still an employee. In either place - in BOTH places - I'm an individual and a learner. I don't try to separate out these all these pieces of my life ... I may focus on each at different times or in different ways, but altogether, they make me ... me.

Recently, I worked with two different groups of educators and as I drove home fairly late at night, the word "BALANCE" kept bouncing around in my head. Education was the topic for both groups, but in different ways. Reflecting on both discussions, I see the need for balance - or, striving for balance.

I get asked and think quite a bit about "How much screen time?" ... "Can I/Should I print?" ... "How young is too young on devices?" ... "When do you give kids devices?" ... "How do I keep my kids safe?" ... "How much should be print versus digital work?" ... and so on.

The questions above are all tough questions ... and ones that you can't really find "cut and dry" answers to. I always answer very honestly. Each child is different ... each home structure is different ... each classroom is different ... each game/app/website is different. There's no recipe to the perfect digital structure. So balance for each person, each home, each classroom, will be different. And that's okay!

When learning, keep learning the goal and use paper and/or digital resources as they fit the goal. The latest, or fanciest, or the "coolest" tool won't always give you the best results. And the "coolest" pen won't give you the best looking handwriting, either, right? It's all in how you use it. With fun, keep in mind boundaries. I am a firm believer that kids flourish within boundaries. 

To stretch you a little more ... sometimes balance will mean putting yourself out there. In order to achieve a better balance, you may have to change the scales a bit. I reflect back a handful of years when my district went 1:1 with Chromebooks. Want to upset the balance of a building/district? Introduce a take-home Chromebook program for your middle school & high schoolers! It very much upset our "balance" ... but NOW? Wow! The difference is astounding. Heaven forbid the wifi go out and we not be able to access the internet! These hunks of plastic roughly the size of a sheet of paper changed the way we "balance" education in our district. And every year, the balance looks a little different. 

I think balance is an elusive goal and I have no magical formula as to how to achieve it. And on that note, I'm not convinced balance is what I'm looking for. I think I'm looking to give each piece of my life it's proper due, and focus on each piece as needed.

If you are struggling with the "balance" in your life ... think of it this way: a cookie here and there most likely won't be detrimental to your health, and neither will using devices here and there. In fact, a cookie might provide the right "motivation" to finish the veggies on the dinner plate and so a device might just add that little bit of "sweetness" to a lesson to make it better. [On the flip side, if all you eat is cookies all day everyday, your health may not be so good - being on a device all day every day isn't a good situation either.]

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