Here’s one thing I know for sure: there is no such thing as balance. What did I say? There is no such thing as balance. I know, it is a strong statement, but I truly believe it and I am not alone.
Rachel Hollis, one of my favorite motivational speakers, explains this lack of balance using our home lives and personal lives. There is truly never a complete balance where all of the math lines up perfectly on any given day to divide the distinct areas of our life equally. It just doesn’t. Instead, the balance comes over time and in waves. Some days we work too much, some days we play too much (although that is not nearly as often!). Some weeks, we feel like we have it together at work, but feel we are lacking at home. And other times, we feel like we are rocking our personal life at the expense of our professional one. And each of those statements are true. Alain de Botton says it best: There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.

That is why I like to shift the thinking from balance to beats, something I read about on a blog a while ago. If we think of teaching and learning as a melody played in our classroom, then we would naturally expect variation in the beats over the course of the song. The rhythm might shift from fast to slow, gain intensity and then dissipate and even have a repeating chorus. The point is that the variation is what makes the song a song and the varied practices in our teaching are what make a classroom a classroom.

I find that teachers often struggle with the idea of balance, both at home and in the classroom. That is why I like to introduce teachers to the idea of creating melodies in their classrooms, rather than perfect balance. Rather than lament how we are going to ‘fit it all in’, let’s acknowledge that no one can do it all. Yes, we can mindfully plan, tighten transitions and integrate instruction, but the bottom line is that things that matter can unbalance everything else. And that is alright as long as the melody keeps playing in response to the classroom and the students over time.

Encourage teachers to reflect on how a shift in mindset can help support their teaching and learning. You might pose the following questions when coaching teachers:
  • What are the beats in your classroom?
  • Which beats matter most?
  • What melody or rhythm do they create?
  • How does that melody change over time?
If you’d like, go multi-modal here and provide teachers with paper, musical note cut-outs, colorful markers and more to represent their classroom melodies on paper and launch discussion. And then, use their responses to inform your coaching. You’ll gain a great deal of insight into what matters most in their classrooms and how this connects to their own goals. And in the process, perhaps you can alleviate some of their stress to consistently strive for perfect balance in the classroom and strive for a beautiful melody instead.

And one last thing: We can use this ‘balance to beats’ analogy in our own lives, too. How can you make sure that your melody is not only productive, but takes care of you too?

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