Keeping Focus Amidst Distractions

keeping focused

One thing about being a teacher hasn’t changed over time, the teacher still has autonomy over her classroom. What has changed is the connectedness between school to school, school to board, and I think school to community. This has undoubtedly increased the “workload” for teachers, but it has also increased the opportunity for more wide-scale impact. A double-edged sword some may assume. But I think the increased role ultimately benefits the school system, which will inevitably benefit the children who come through it. But the question still remains, how are we keeping focus amidst distractions?


As we have become a far more litigious state than in the past, the burden on the teacher for maintaining accountability comes with a caveat. Although there is greater coherence between system and school, the day-to-day and yearly bureaucratic duties that teachers must comply with are burdensome. So how do you as the teacher keep focused when there are so many distractions?

Four words – understanding purpose and delegation.

Placing a hierarchy on what is vital and what is not completely objective. But, besides the safety of students (regardless of circumstance), legislative matters must take priority in your role as a teacher. Attendance, report cards, supervision and things of this sort must be prioritized, but besides that your classroom is yours.  How you choose to deliver content and impart theory is completely up to you as a teacher. Again, when one glances at the overall picture of education today, this too is a double-edged sword. Throughout the teacher’s preparation program, we develop our philosophy of education. But once we are in the role of teacher, how often do we revisit and refine exactly what our philosophy is? To me, this simple task is an easy way to keep focus amidst distractions. What is important to you as an “educator”? What does effective teaching and learning look like in your classroom? Simply considering these questions on a monthly basis is a way to alleviate some of the stresses that this job entails.


I put the trope educator in quotations in the previous paragraph above not in an effort to trivialize the term. It is my firm belief that the mere move from new teacher to veteran does not dictate a stripping of the ideals of the educator. Principals are still educators. Perhaps not in the same capacity as the teacher mulling over lesson plans and imparting wisdom to students on a daily basis, but principals too have a valuable role in ensuring that learning, progressive and transformative learning, takes place day in and day out in their building. The bureaucracies of contemporary education may come with impediments that might impact my attitude towards education (and indirectly my sanity at times!), but distractors come with the role. This is a given. Understanding this is vital.


Lastly, I equate entering the role of teacher in this “new era” of education to me entering the education profession as a new teacher during the years where a roll out of new curriculum, three-part lessons, collaborative learning, and a bevy of new instructional and board wide changes occurred. As a new teacher, I did not know “teaching/what it was to be a teacher” in the past. Essentially, I started with a blank slate. Thus, in my role as teacher in today’s age and times, I would not be privy to “what it was like”. So, I would argue that the amendments to the role of teacher do not affect me as much as they would affect a teacher in the role for the last 10-15 years. Regardless, distractors happen in any role in education. As a teacher, the plate will inevitably continue to fill up, but it is my opinion that you must come into the role with that understanding first and foremost. Then, you can go from there.



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Matthew R. Morris

Educator, Speaker, Writer

Matthew R. Morris is a writer, speaker, and elementary educator in Toronto. He has an M.A. in Social Justice Education from OISE at the University of Toronto and is the author of the forthcoming book, Black Boys Like Me. 

Matthew R. Morris

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