Paul's Place of Musings and Insights

the reflections of a techno-meddling teacher


How sibling bickering helped me realise what’s been weighing me down.

This year I have before me a greater load of responsibilities than I have had in my whole career. In addition to being a Year 6 classroom teacher, I am also

  • a new dad;
  • undertaking a 1:1 rollout;
  • the Upper Primary Coordinator at my school;
  • tackling a Master’s Thesis; and
  • helping organise the ACEC 2014 conference here in Adelaide.

Each of these is a welcome addition to my life and I am full of passion and enthusiasm for them. But, I know that I cannot carry on as I have and hope to achieve my goals in all these pursuits. I don’t know where, but I recall an analogy that helps explain how folks can manage their lives fully.

Imagine you are a juggler. You are very good a juggling and you only ever use five balls. These balls represent different aspects of your life – family, friends, work, health and religion (I like to think of this as a general existential ball). The analogy goes that if every ball has the same weighting in your life, things will be a-OK. But, when one of the balls gets heavier or lighter, things can go haywire. Bigger balls come from extra responsibilities (promotions, new babies etc) and lighter balls come from neglect (working late, missing school pickups etc). Over the years I have pondered additional variables such as what the balls are made of, their size v weight etc and whether there is wind, but lets keep it simple….

So what I am saying here is that my juggling setup needs to change. Organically, this has manifested itself in me cutting out almost entirely my online professional networking practices. This is a loose term that I use in my head to explain all the extra ‘21st Century Professional Learning’ that I do outside of my job – twitter chats and sharing, blog reading etc. This aspect of my life is certainly an ‘addition’ and is perhaps one of those extra variables I pondered earlier.

So what’s weighing me down? I am giving all the time I need to my five balls, but I’m unsettled. I don’t feel in control. I am always thinking that I’m missing something. This is certainly true, as my experiences in these forums are made up in a very large way by making personal connections with others. I found myself really wondering what I was actually missing – I mean surely my relationships and interactions with my professional learning network should take a back seat to the five big balls? Then I saw this exchange between brothers online and something became quite clear: Some of our behaviours can satisfy multiple balls.

Sibling bickering

I need to point out straight up that I’ve met both these gents and I am familiar with their tongue and cheek ribbing of each other in public. These two gentlemen showed me that the five balls analogy is much more complex than I thought. My reading of this exchange is that life is not neatly split up into segments. It is certainly possible to engage in legitimate discussion about educational trends whilst also publicly ribbing your brother about his communication habits. Successful management of my life and obligations while achieving fulfilling experiences is going to be achieved by melding the balls together into one, and I perhaps bounce it rather than juggle it…(??) I mean, juggling takes concentration! If I am holding a ball made up of all my things, I have the opportunity to really appreciate what it is that makes up my life. If I can mix the different aspects of my life together there is no need to leave anything out.

I am my own proof when I make this point, now that I know what I am thinking about – as I write this I am letting my wife sleep in with the baby while I facilitate the recreation of Peter Pan. By this I mean that my eldest is swanning about happily in her Peter Pan costume, while Bernard (our tolerant spaniel) plays concurrently the part of Cpt Hook, Smee and the three Darling children. Good Times. I could not however be managing the marking of an essay with this Sunday morning bliss – my attention would need to be fully on the student work, and not half with me and half supervising Neverland.


What I need and I suspect we all need, is a reminder that some parts of our lives are compatible. What the Couros boys and I realise is that awareness of all aspects of our lives will allow us to instinctively manage everything adequately. I am now off to engage fully with the pancakes that my daughter and I mixed up towards the bottom of paragraph 4.

What strategies do you use to manage your busy life?

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