Updated: Nov 16, 2021
Some balls are plastic and some balls are glass. Some balls will bounce and some will smash. Before you click off this blog, thinking I’ve lost the plot. Hear me out!
This is one of the biggest mindset shifts I made last year. The concept of varying ball materials stems from a work-life balance/ teacher wellbeing concept. The obvious doesn’t need to be stated but will be for clarity. If you drop a plastic ball, it bounces. If you drop a glass one, game over; it smashes!
As teachers, our biggest problem is that we have too many balls. Yes, I did reread that sentence and I’m keeping it. On a Sunday (working day here in the UAE) in particular, I have about 20 minutes to myself to chow down some food. That isn’t enough time to ensure I can juggle all of the balls that we have in teaching. I won’t bore you by listing them. With glass balls, you CANNOT afford to drop them. These are your most essential duties throughout the day which are the easiest to identify. ‘What happens if I don’t do x?’ In most cases, the ‘glass ball’ answer to this is catastrophic. Some glass balls are bigger than others too.
A massive glass ball:
Not getting on top of a safeguarding issue
Smaller glass balls include:
Having nothing prepared for the day ahead
Not sorting a bullying issue
Not getting parent slips for a trip the next day- very specific but I dropped this once.
Forgetting to reply to emails within 24 hours
Forgetting to send homework home: This is more specific to me and my school due to parental expectations but it has happened and it was a frustration
The resulting impact of dropping a glass ball is quite big and varies based on its size. Dropping a glass ball may happen and I have done it in the past but it takes a while to clean up. For example, I forgot to get parental permission for a trip once during my NQT year. While no one was really all that frustrated, I felt embarrassed and had two options: cancel the trip or, ring every single parent one by one to get verbal permission. This took ages and resulted in me missing a good chunk of my evening but you better believe I learned my lesson after this.
Plastic balls WILL be dropped. You may have days where you are able to juggle more balls or where you simply have more energy to juggle more balls or simply have less balls to juggle but the identification of plastic balls then allows you to know which ones to drop. If you drop a plastic ball, it doesn’t matter. You can always pick it up and start juggling it again. Some examples of plastic balls for me are:
Not planning massively ahead
Not having all the flip charts open for the day ahead in the morning- I can do it throughout if needed.
Children not having everything chopped out into personalised packs. They can practice using scissors.
I realise that some of my ‘plastic balls’ maybe some of your glass ones and that is fine. This is why well-being is a personal thing.
You can also sort your personal life into the ‘ball theory’. Not getting enough sleep for me is a massive glass ball and impacts my ability to do everything. Exercise would be up there too. Not getting enough stories out and not posting that second YouTube video would be strong examples of plastic balls for me.
At the end of the day, we’re all juggling too many things so dropping a ball (or multiple balls) is inevitable, just make sure it’s the right one. Check out some of my other blogs about burnout here Sign up to the mailing list below to avoid missing future content.