Let’s Get Focused!

In his video Single -tasking is the New Multitasking, James Hamblin talks about how we as a society are:

“developing an inability to focus because [we] never focus on things” – Hamblin

Perhaps Hamblin is onto something here with #tablessthursday but the idea of a whole day without having multiple “tabs” opening and running at one time is more than just a little bit overwhelming for me! In part I feel like I need to have multiple “tabs” open to be doing my job well.

I am going to try to paint a little bit of a picture here for you to explain why I feel that way!

As a grade 2 teacher I will tell you that my days are never boring and I wouldn’t have it any other way! I don’t think it matters what grade you teach but for the point of my story today, we are going to spend the day in grade 2!

One of my favorite things about my job is standing at my door in the morning welcoming the students to a new day. I think a smile and someone saying, “good morning” is a great way to start the day! There are always exciting stories from the night before about someone who lost a tooth, had a dance class, a soccer practice, went for supper with their family or who got to hang out and play games with their moms and dads. Hearing their stories and the excitement in their voices makes my day! I try to make sure that I am present in that moment listening to their stories, making eye contact and sharing a comment back to let them know that I heard them and I appreciate their stories. I have to make a conscious effort each day to ensure that I am present in that moment.

For some it’s a struggle to say good morning back because they’ve got many other things on their mind but I feel by trying to reach out first thing in the morning, I am making an attempt to start their day with me on the right track! I am showing them that at that very moment, I am focused on them and only them. I feel guilty on the days that a colleague comes to chat as the kids are coming in. I want to give my students that undivided moment.

Once I step into the door of the classroom behind the last student who is drying their tears because something happened on the playground that upset them, I am hit with 20+ questions about what’s happening today. Yes, their schedule is up on the SmartBoard for them to see but there must be something special about hearing it from me!

As I step from the hallway into my classroom there is a long list of things that can run through my head on any given day:
8:57- Oops I forgot to change the date on the whiteboard, someone is going to tell
me and I will need to change it promptly so they can start their day
8:58 – I need to remind the students to put their take home folders in the basket at
the door so that I can take out the permission slips for our field trip next week
8:59 – I need to get a student list so I can keep track of who has been given
permission to go
9:00- I can’t forget to do attendance!
9:01 – I am thinking we need to hurry because O’Canada is going to start soon
9:02 – Help Jack get the not out of his shoe so that he can tie them
9:03 – Need to remember to write an email to Sam’s parents to help him practice
tying his shoes as home.
9:04 – Help defuse a situation at the lockers where someone is upset because their
locker buddy moved their backpack
9:05 – Grab some paper towel to clean up the water from a spilled water bottle in a
9:06 – Shoot O’Canada has started and we aren’t even in our seats year
9:07 – Remind everyone to stand respectfully for O’Canada, make sure to model this
and be in the moment.
9:08 – Sing along to O’Canada while going through a checklist in my head of who ran our morning routine yesterday and who is up for today. Is it someone who I am going to have to help guide through or will they be able to guide the class on their own? Which day of the cycle it is and which Daily 5 schedule I need to put up on the SmartBoard so we can start our day?

This is just the beginning of the day and the constant decision-making, reorganizing and re-planning that happens throughout my day doesn’t stop and that is just the way that it is!

I think I do alright making on the fly decisions when it comes to face to face conversations but start throwing in checking my class twitter account, my professional twitter account, Seesaw, my work emails and personal emails and that’s where I get a little lost and distracted. I think the suggestions that the internet has created an inability for us to focus on one thing at a time definitely has some validity. I also think as Hamblin suggests, that we can make a choice to change that or at the very least be mindful of the fact that we are off track and need to change our path! The internet isn’t going anywhere which means neither are the distractions. We need to make a choice to follow one path, stick with it and then check Facebook!                   29520458783_64f0b9fa64
Photo Credit: Tadie88 Flickr via Compfight cc

In the post  New Research Says Mindful-Multitasking Leads to More Focus and Calm author Elisha Goldstein suggests that:

“When we practice and repeat a procedure, it programs the auto-pilot. So if you practice becoming more present, focused, flexible and self-compassionate in the face of difficulty, then the auto-pilot is going to make more skillful decisions in the face of stress.

There’s nothing mystical about this, it’s just the way our brain works.”

I think as long as we are aware that we are multitasking and are making a point to maybe organize some of that multitasking then we are working towards being more mindful in the moment. We can’t blame the internet for our lack of focus!



  1. Great point Nicole. I think making smart decisions on a moment by moment by moment basis is a skill that our students desperately need. Not to mention teachers as well.

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