It's often said that we live in a throwaway culture, surrounded by products built cheaply for speed and convenience. "Things just aren’t built to last any more," we mutter as yet another toaster heads for the wheelie bin, or the latest alarm clock conks out after less than a year.
As a society, perhaps we have grown accustomed to products and packaging that serve one short purpose and then become refuse or obsolete clutter, regardless of how much effort or how many resources went into making them.
But that sort of mentality just in't good for teaching – and certainly not now.
Struggling to cope? 'Don't worry – you're doing fine'
Reopening schools: 'Impact of part-time school will be greater than that of lockdown'
The coronavirus pandemic has turned educators' world upside down and inside out. Rifling through your epic to-do list, trying to decide where to begin, is likely to cause a wave of panic because it feels like it all needs doing now.
Coronavirus: How teachers can protect their wellbeing
It doesn’t, of course. You can only do what you can and the first and most important thing you must do is keep yourself well so that you can help those who need you.
But you do need to prioritise. Your time, talents and energy are at a premium right now, maybe more so than ever. Think carefully about what you invest these finite resources in, so that you get the maximum bang for your buck – single-use tasks are not your friend.
In these times of stress and uncertainty, you must squeeze every last drop of usefulness from anything you do, make it work hard and justify the time you have spent on it. If it will only be used once for little or fleeting real gain, simply don’t do it.
Most of us are on an Everest-shaped learning curve, particularly with digital technology, and our synapses are firing all over the place as we race to get mastery of tools that will help us to reach families and promote home learning. It can be tempting to jump down the rabbit hole and explore all the whizz-bang features of new software or online learning platforms at once. This is a mistake.
Spending four days designing, learning, editing and re-editing something that families view for a few seconds then scroll past is not a good use of your time, regardless of how much colleagues tell you it will be good craic, or how viral it goes on social media. Setting up weeks’ worth of online learning before you have a good understanding of how learners are engaging could mean you have missed something vital and have to start again.
Before you embark on any new task, remember how important you are – how much your learners need you to stay well, conserve your resources and invest them in what matters. We are in this for the long haul, so commit only to tasks that are here for a long time, not a good time.
Think about how you can you use your new digital skills to build a bank of learning resources or key messages that families will come back to over and over again. These will always win out in the end over gimmicky showstoppers.
Susan Ward is depute headteacher at Kingsland Primary School in Peebles, in the Scottish Borders. She tweets @susanward30