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Channeling Creativity To Benefit Students In The Distance Education Environment

Saddleback Educational Publishing conducts a Webinar Series to spread information and resources for online learning programs. The following article is an enhanced summary based on our webinar Channeling Creativity To Benefit Students In The Distance Education Environment hosted by Liz Mangus and special guest speaker Evan Jacobs on July 2, 2020.

This is the first of our summer webinar series, so we decided we wanted to do something a little bit different to launch the summer series. We wanted to keep it light, and we wanted to address some things that we know might be on people’s minds. So, we wanted to talk about creativity. And the reason we chose this is because we know, as educators, you need to be endlessly creative and be able to adjust and pivot in the moment to address student needs.

And, we went through an unprecedented change with what happened in the spring with COVID-19. So, the past 10 weeks have been nothing but problem solving and creativity in the moment trying to address student needs. So, now, many of you are on summer break or will be very soon, and you’re probably feeling pretty tapped out. When it comes to your creativity, you need to relax, recharge, but you also are thinking about the fall, and how are we going to get the fall planned out and creatively problem solve around the fall when there are so many unknowns. And so we thought, Who’s the most creative person we know, who can help us channel our creativity? And that’s why we brought Evan in to talk to us today.

Evan is the perfect person to talk to us about this, because he not only is the most creative person we know, but he has one foot in the creative world, and one foot in the world of schools. So, Evan, I’m not going to read a biography or anything like that. It’s summer, we’re taking a lighter approach. What would you like our audience to know about you before we jump into your tips for the day?

Introducing Evan Jacobs – Behavior Interventionist and Author

My name is Evan Jacobs, I’m a writer, screenwriter, Independent filmmaker. I’m about to start in the fall by 13th year working as a behavior interventionist at the Tustin Unified School District. All my years that I’ve been with them, I worked in their Autism Department and I love it. More than anything, though, what I have found, is that my creative pursuits translated very nicely to being, at least, I think, being effective in the classroom. Whether it’s engaging with students and bringing across content to a student, or maybe getting someone that doesn’t like to read to, maybe read a little bit more. Or even in those moments where things can maybe get a little bit tense and potentially violent, I’ve found that it’s been those creative solutions, my ability to really strive to think outside of the box, that has very much been a light at the end of a temporary dark tunnel.

So Evan, you are not only an author, you’ve written over 80 books for Saddleback, you’re a screenwriter, you’re an independent filmmaker, but you also are behavior interventionist working with students with autism, you’ve worked with all age ranges.

You can see, this is why we asked him to talk to us about this topic of creativity, because he’s not just an author, but he works in schools every day. So he can help us make those connections between the creative process and the work that we need to do as educators. So, what we ask Evan to do for today’s webinar is just to compile some good tips and some good advice for us to kind of recharge and channel all the creativity we’re going to need to get back to school in the fall.

So, the tips that he has chosen from his personal experience, both working with students and obviously from his creative work, writing books and films and such, all of these tips are multi-purpose. They apply if you are just looking for how to get your mind in the right space for planning for the fall, they apply if you are working on your own personal creative pursuit this summer and they’re also just good guideposts for operating within a system where there are a lot of unknowns. And they are, of course, great lessons and bits of advice you can integrate into your practice to share with students as well. So, let’s jump into the first tip.

Best Practices in Distance Education

Tip #1: Give Yourself Downtime to Generate Creativity

Your first big takeaway, big tip when it comes to channeling creativity, is give yourself downtime.

Now, I got to ask, did you, before you start elaborating on this downtime bit, did you do distance learning with your students?

Oh. Yeah, I did it, I wanted to say for 10 weeks, we, it kind of dovetail. We went on spring break and two days before we got, kind of an email that just said you may be going on an extended spring break, and at that time, I thought, oh, it’ll be a week or two and then it became what it became. And so, yeah, I did distance learning for the whole time

OK. So you are living this, so you understand this notion of downtime both from the education perspective and also from the perspective of being an author. So tell us why this one is first on the list, and what downtime means to your ability to channel creativity and to ultimately be productive.

Shift Focus Away from Work to Innovate New Ideas and Stimulate Energy

Well, you know, what I find when I have downtime is shifting focus away from work for a while often results in new ideas and new energy.

At the same time, though, downtime is very, very difficult for me. It’s sort of almost gives me anxiety, like, oh, wait for it to come, almost like something that I’ve earned. And then once I have that downtime, I’m going to get nervous and I know that it’s going to end eventually. So, I get worried that I’m going to enjoy the downtime too much, and then I’m not going to be able to come out of it at the same time, as much as I like downtime, as much as I love watching movies, much as I love reading, much as I love playing video games, hate not feeling productive. And so, what I often do is, I’ll start to structure my downtime, you know, or if I’m going to watch a movie, or make a list of movies to watch. So, I feel like, OK, I’ll watch my Netflix queue, I’m going to be reading books and magazines, I kinda make a list of anime. That’s all I can check things off.

Schedule and Structure Downtime to Recharge Yourself

And, what I find, though, is that, as I’m doing that, I will start to get new ideas, and I don’t wanna lose all the ideas. I’ll start writing those ideas down, and then I’ll start kind of working during the downtime, but if I give myself downtime, or at least in my mind, think, that I was taking downtime. I don’t know that I would see it as having a break from the work, that I’m trying to take problems, so that I can recharge myself.

I think this is, everybody knows, we need downtime. Teachers, more than anybody else, know and understand that you need, rationally speaking, that you need downtime. But I also think teachers and educators are probably among a group of people that, like you, may have trouble with downtime.

Tip #2: Continue Planning and Creating During Downtime

Because there’s always more thinking, and more planning and more you, you feel like you could be doing. So, I, a lot of people who are on summer break right now and tuning into this webinar, probably like you, they structure their downtime because they’re looking for inspiration and for ideas to, to get them in the right frame of mind, to continue to plan. There are those of us, however, like me, who, in my mind downtime is couch potato time. And, and that is what works for me.

So I just want to give you a second to re-iterate that like, Evan, it helps you to structure your downtime, but that’s not obviously the way for everybody, right?

Oh, no, Of course, not. I mean, it’s your time, so you can have it be totally unstructured. You know, that’s the point of this whole thing, more than anything, take downtime. However and whenever you can. For me, I like to be moving, I like to be creating things. So that sort of helps me have downtime while at the same time, recharging. And, you know, I had to apply this to distance learning, especially because as a behavior interventionist, I was used to being with students for 6 to 7 hours a day, so, you know, with the students, and you know you’re used to that. And I’m sure a lot of people on this webinar are, you probably felt this.

But then, all of a sudden, you go from that to, well, maybe you’re already seeing a few students, or, however many students saw, maybe you’re seeing them 10 minutes today, 15 minutes today, 30 minutes a day, an hour a day, depending on how much you can fit into your day. So suddenly, you’re having to structure, or at least I did, I have to structure this new downtime between students. But what that ultimately did, was it led me to a lot of creative solutions for working with this or that child.

Tip #3: Don’t give up on Initial Failures to Arrive at Creative Solutions

Yeah, I can definitely identify with that.

So the next tip, or bit of advice is no creativity is ever wasted. What does this mean? What do you mean by that?

Creativity is a Muscle that can Build Creative Solutions

Creativity is a muscle. You have to exercise it. You know, whether you’re writing a song, whether you’re working on a lesson plan for next year, whether you’re writing a book, no matter what happens with it, ultimately you’re developing a strength that’s going to come in handy at some point even if in the moment, you don’t know where it’s going or you don’t know if you’re even going to finish it. You know, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve brought in a book for a specific student, that I just thought that they were gonna love or like, I’ll come up with a system where I’m working with a student for you know, working on math and I just think it’s going to totally work and they have no interest in what I’m trying to bring across, or, it just doesn’t work. However, maybe, another student in the room, likes the book that I brought in, and maybe there’s another student in the room, where the system that didn’t work actually was useful later on, or maybe just some aspect of it was employing.

Now, oftentimes when you create things, even if they don’t initially work, they lead to other ideas that you ultimately never would have discovered, if you haven’t gotten started, and really kind of fan those initial flames of creativity.

I really like that perspective.

I like the way you started by, using the lens on the teaching and learning piece of what you do.

Because, teachers spend so much time creating things, and feeling like they’re always re-inventing the wheel.

And after a while, when you spend all that time creating, and things don’t kind of go according to plan.

I felt this myself. I, after awhile, I became kind of averse to creating things like, oh, what I do. doesn’t work. But that’s not always the case. That’s why I like this tip. And I like the way you explained it.

Utilize Trial and Error Methods in the Remote Learning Environment

Because, especially with everything we’ve been through, over the past 10 weeks, you’ve probably tried and created a million things, and a lot of them probably didn’t work, because we’re operating in this brand new environment.

But taking the perspective of, not, hey, I tried this, and it didn’t work, I’m gonna throw it in the trash, but I tried this, and it didn’t work in this situation. Let me put it to the side in my toolbox for later because it might come in handy later. Or maybe whatever it is I created, maybe I can disassemble it into its components and then keep the components over here and use it to build something. Something new, not just to completely throw it away.

No Creativity is Ever Wasted

Generate Innovative Ideas with Old Ideas

I think that’s a positive way to look at the work that we do as educators, especially the more tired we get. And for me, anyway, speaking for myself, the more tired I get, the more negative I can start to get. And so this is a nice way to refocus on being productive and being positive with the work that we do. With so many questions and so many unknowns I want to hear how this applies to your writing career.

Talk to us about how that applies with your writing, or the other work that you do.

Use Rejected Ideas

Well, I’m always thinking of ideas. I’m always writing things down. I’m always searching for ideas, I’ll come home from work, and I’ll put my hands in my pockets, and draw little pieces of paper with ideas on the table. And, you know, I’m getting rejected on a lot of these ideas. If not, every day, at least every week, and what either happens is I’ll either keep pursuing the idea, because I believe in it or it gets changed along the way, or that rejection is a blessing and I walk away from the idea. At the same time, though, you know, like we say, no creativity is ever wasted. I know that that idea isn’t gone, and I can always go back to it. And I think that this has actually helped me in the classroom, especially working with the population of students that I have worked with. Because oftentimes, you know, when you’re in a rough moment with a student.

What I find is by just, kind of stepping back, or switching out with another co-worker, suddenly, the student has a different person that they’re working with. I have a different student that I’m working with and not expending the emotional energy that I’m going to need throughout the entire day. The student isn’t isn’t expending their energy. And I think the energy in the room once things de-escalate, everybody’s happy, because you know that tense moment is gone.

It’s just so interesting to me to hear how these lessons from your writing and filmmaking apply to your work with students. It’s, it’s very inspiring.

Tip #4: The 15 to 30 Minute Time Management Strategy

How to Manage Time Wisely

And it provides a good way and a fresh lens to look at work with students, So thank you for that. It’s a very positive outlook, which is, I think, what we all need at the beginning of summer, when we’re trying to to relax and recharge. So let’s move on to tip number three. Now, this is more of a concrete tip that you can take away and apply immediately, as opposed to the first two things we talked about, which are really like gentle reminders that you need to take a break, and the work that you’ve done has has value and, even if things haven’t worked out in the way that you wanted to over the past 10 weeks that the work you’ve done shouldn’t be thrown away. So this 15 to 30 minute rule. This is more of something I can start doing tomorrow. What is it and why is it important?

Structure Manageable Amounts of Time to Effectively Tackle a Plan

Start with 15 minutes a day, sit down and do something Or, you know, it can be 30 minutes but I just find that for a lot of people, 30 minutes is daunting, so I’ll just start with 15. And, you know, it doesn’t have to be writing, it can be, you know, tackling, you know, a lesson plan that you want to get to for next year. Or, you know, whatever is a manageable amount of time that I think you can ask of someone, hey, you just take 15 minutes out of your day, because projects are daunting.

Breakdown Scheduled Work to Recharge and Build Productivity

And I honestly believe that they need to be broken down. That’s how it works for me. And I also find that if you work in that 15, 30 minutes a day time time frame, you’re not going to beat yourself up too much about it. If you start to doubt yourself, you can just kinda tell yourself, I’ll rework it later, or maybe the 15 minutes is up, and so you’re going to come back to it the next day, anyway. Or maybe you’ll just move on from that and use those 15 to 30 minutes to make something else. That’s totally fine. There’s no right or wrong way. It’s just the point of doing it for at least 15 minutes a day. I write generally for about 2 to 3 hours a day but that’s spread out in about 30 minute increments over a multitude of projects. So I’m touching all these different things throughout the day and that makes me feel great. That recharges me. That energizes me and it really helps me and allows me to be super productive across a list of projects.

It’s such a simple piece of advice for being so powerful and that this is something that allows you to be as productive as you are with your writing.

This leads us to the next tip, and you sort of mentioned this a little bit, which is to break down your project. All of these little pieces of advice that we’re giving are going to start to thread together you’ll notice. So Evan, talk to us about breaking down your projects, how you do it, and why it’s important.

Use a Work Breakdown Structure to Multitask Across a Spectrum of Projects

Well, honestly, without breaking down a project, I don’t think I could get anything done or be able to multitask across a spectrum of projects. I take a very mathematical approach. Let’s say that I have to write a 25,000 word book, and it has to be done by a certain date. Just the thought of that, just like a lot of people that you mentioned are thinking about the upcoming school year. That can be daunting. Especially now because like you said we don’t know what that’s really going to look like. So what I will do is I’ll just start breaking it down. I’ll say OK. I’m gonna give myself seven days to write that outline. I could write a draft and I could do three rewrites of it during seven days. So, once I do that once, I’m just gonna keep doing that, and then depending on how many words it is, in this case, it’s 25,000.

I broke it down by writing 500 words a day. I’m almost always going to write more than that, sometimes even double that. Psychologically, maybe I need to do that, because what I often find is, once I start, I end up writing more than that. So, this is all psychological. And then, once I get the draft done, I often give myself about 2 or 3 weeks to rewrite it just so I know I’m gonna get it done within the deadline. And I find you can do this with any project, if you’re painting, if you’re writing a song. If you’re doing a lesson plan, break it down. And I know we don’t know what next year is going to look like. But, most of the people I’m assuming on this webinar did distance learning in some capacity in these past 10 weeks and I just think that you have an idea, now, so you take your knowledge and use it to start formulating a plan and break it down for the upcoming year.

That’s exactly what I was just going to ask you. As you were talking, I was thinking about the idea of breaking down a project. This is not a foreign concept to most teachers. This is what they do. All day long, every day, you have a set of learning goals for your students and objectives, and you backwards plan and break it into smaller tasks and you have measurable benchmarks along the way.

Set Learning Goals and Measurable Objectives into Tasks

So, I feel like teachers naturally approach things in this way. It’s part of the art and science of teaching. The trick with applying this to fall planning though, Evan, is, in order to really feel like you can do this, you need to know the end goals, and you need to know the parameters, and, a lot of us, we just don’t know the parameters right now. So how do we break it down and how do we start planning it when we don’t know the parameters? You touched on this a little bit, which is to think about what we’ve done over the past 10 weeks. So, did you want to speak to that a little bit more?

Utilizing a Work Breakdown Structure in Distance learning

One of the best ways to stay on top of things and to get something done is to have, like you said, some system for completing it, especially in the realm of distance learning, We don’t know what next year is going to look like. I think one thing everyone on this webinar can agree about, is it’s going to look way different than fall has looked in maybe any time that we’ve been in the educational system. However, without having that information about how things are gonna look next next year, I think it is beneficial to at least try to create a plan or create a system based on what we kind of experienced before. And I think that, educators are endlessly inventive people and we’re going to be able to kind of make a pretty good guess. Even if it’s off the mark, you know, this is not an exact science.

But I think that by taking that prior knowledge, they’ll be able to craft something that comes pretty darn close and like we’ve said this whole thing sort of threads back together. No creativity is ever wasted. I honestly don’t think that when you’re ready to think about it, I’m not saying to do it now, but when you’re ready to start kind of confronting what is next year going to look like, I think you’ll find that you’re going to be pretty right on and you’ll be happy that you tried to formulate a plan for the fall. You’ll be at least part of the way there. That’s for sure. And then maybe a little bit off the mark, but at least you’ll have something in place where you can then adjust a little bit. That’s the idea of trying to get some thoughts and some ideas down on paper based on our recent experiences to try to propel us forward.

But to do all of this, it’s pretty daunting, and we’re all pretty tired. So we’re going to need some inspiration. You say Inspiration is everywhere. Tell us what you mean by that.

Tip #5: Inspiration is the Fuel to Achieve Quality Education

We need fuel for the work that we do, and inspiration is fuel. The more places that we can find it, the more places that we can draw from, the further we’re gonna get when working on these lesson plans. I, as a behavior interventionist in the classroom, have so much respect for teachers because they’re constantly in a conundrum. Constantly have to be endlessly inspired while at the same time they have a million different things pulling at that inspiration, and whether it’s the students, whether it’s the administration, parents, Me as an aide in that room, wanting direction. It can really, I’m assuming, be very, but you know, more than anything, as tough as it seems, I think we need to be even more open to the fact that inspiration can really come from anywhere. And, you know, how ever we come back in the fall, it’s going to take that thoughtfulness and that ingenuity the teachers naturally bring to their job. Part of that is going to be bringing the instruction. And then the other part is going to be providing, you know, a level of stability. Maybe just knowing that, right there, perhaps that’s the inspiration.

Where Does Your Inspiration Come From?

I agree with you there, that I think for all teachers, the inspiration comes from wanting to do right by the students. But I will say it’s a little early in the summer to talk about meeting the challenges of next year as being an inspiration in and of themselves. I think you’re right. But I think a lot of people are really tired right now, and you are not ready to think about all the unknowns as being inspiration in and of themselves, you’re back there, tip number one, and you gotta be in downtime mode until you’re ready to think about the challenge of a new and very different school year being a source of inspiration on its own.

Talk to us specifically about how you get inspired for your writing. You’ve written over 80 books for us. Where does all that come from?

I’m always reading books. I’m always watching movies and I can’t tell you how many times whatever magazine I happened to be combing through…Maybe I’ll come across an article on Fortnight and spark an idea for a book and at the same time, it’ll allow me to connect with a student who I know likes fortnight and I’m always looking for new ideas. I listen to the way that people talk. I’ve come up with whole books literally based on one line of a conversation. The book that I wrote for you guys, The Underdogs, I read a tiny story about a girl’s football team in Arizona. Boom. I saw the whole story in my head. For Skinhead Birdie, I was working in a class with a student who was known for being very, very violent and it was just one of those situations where your antenna is really up. He and I were walking around the track. I saw this girl. She wasn’t exercising and she stood there, arms folded to really, really mad and I remember thinking, OK, that person, probably not older than 15 or 16, why are they so angry? Why? And then suddenly just a whole story about this person started l percolating in my head. So I ultimately ended up writing the book, but I’m always just looking for it and it’s just sometimes it finds me. Sometimes I find it. But I think that I just am interested in people.

That’s it. You’re curious and you’re always looking and observing, and it sounds like it definitely helps get you those ideas. OK, let’s go on to the next one, which is explore, what scares you. I think we’ve all been pushed out of our comfort zones a little bit lately, and we’re all feeling a little bit tired. So now you’re telling me that this is a good thing?

Tip #6: Boost Creativity in Education and Learning from Experience Outside of Comfort Zones

I go to the filmmaker John Keisler who said, why should I be afraid of what I don’t understand?

I just find that if you can approach the things that scare you and use them as a tool for creating something new, you simultaneously confront fear and exercise your creative muscle. I feel that I’ve been confronting my fears ever since I started writing and making movies and in effect, creatively, that’s kinda forced me to push myself. You know, it’s how I learn how to make animated movies. Feature length, animated movies. I had no training as an animator. Never went to school for it, but I wanted to learn how to do it. I bought a program and I worked on it for a year and figured it out and I’m not saying that I’m Pixar yet, but I keep making movies. And one of those movies was a horror film called Insect that I primarily made because I was super afraid of bugs. I’m not saying that now I want to see bugs crawling all over my room and my clothes, but when I see bugs now, I kinda know about it and I just know that, hey, they’re doing what they’re doing, because that’s how they are. That’s that is basically what that means. I got comfortable being uncomfortable. But I also don’t think you can do that all the time, nor should you, because, like we’re talking about being inspired. If you’re constantly uncomfortable it’s just too much.

Benefit from Discomfort in Creative Processes for Education

So because you’ve been doing this with your creative process and it’s just in your nature to gravitate towards the things that kinda scare you a little bit. I’m interested to hear how that helped you, when you moved to distance learning. I think everybody wants to hear that because it is not fair and it is not cool that we had to move to this model. Ultimately, we feel, until we get it right, it shortchanges students. And, so, I’m kind of curious to hear how your natural tendency to gravitate toward the things that scare you. How did it translate into your practice with kids?

Stability is Key in Carrying Out Successful Distance Learning

Well, I’m not gonna lie. At first the thought of suddenly my classroom, that I’ve been driving to, was now an office in my home every day, that was scary. But then I kind of thought about it and I started thinking and I said I’m going to try to use my creativity to really confront this fear about distance learning because I know many of us didn’t have a choice. This is what we do and we’re not going to go out during a pandemic and get another job, nor did I want to. So suddenly, I had to use that creativity to find stuff for student’s IEP goals. Or, I was creating videos related to IEP goals or that I just thought might be comforting to the students and their families. Now going into the fall, the idea of distance learning doesn’t seem as daunting, but there’s another fear, and I’m sure there’s people out there that may or may not share this. You know, we’ve been out of the classroom a long time and it’s been years for me, and I’m sure a lot of people on this webinar, since I’ve been out of a classroom this long and what’s returning going to look like?I mean, I work with all different kinds of students that would be classified as intellectually disabled, students with autism.

Distance Learning Tips for Students with Special Needs

The thing about that is, in this group of people, stability is key. How are they going to handle all the changes in pumps and is scheduled for one day. They may be at school one day, the learning from home. It might be half a day at school and a half a day at home, and it’s these very real fears that we’re all facing, that already has me trying to try to think of strategies about what’s gonna make me as effective as I can possibly be, once August comes. At the same time, since I know that I’m scared, I’m really trying to embrace that fear. So that, when I work with my students, when I work with their families, when I work in the classroom, hopefully, that fear doesn’t show. Maybe by embracing it, it’ll really show that it’s just confidence.

So spending the time thinking about it. And I admire that about you because I know for me my perspective would be, I don’t want to think about it, because it just feels very unfair and I’m worried. And I’m a little bit angry that we’re here right now. But if you’re anything like me. the more tired I get, the more angry I would feel that somehow this is falling to me to figure this all out, and the perspective that you’re bringing here is, Well, if you look at it as, Hey, this is exploring what scares you. And this is exploring something that is kind of an obstacle. And eventually, if you apply the right lens to it, it’s going to generate some ideas and some solutions. Even if it just gets your brain going to start thinking about, maybe I’ll try this. Maybe I’ll try that. You’re going to be further ahead in the game than you would be if you just ignored it until day one of school in the fall. So, I think that’s a really interesting way to look at this situation.

So, the next piece is simply doing something is important and actually even this ties in nicely to what I was just saying about exploring what scares you because it’s easy for people to just hone in on the fact that they’re tired. They’re frustrated.

They feel the weight of the world on their shoulders for wanting to get things right for their kids and all of that can be enough to to paralyze you and make you go whatever. I don’t know, I’m just gonna wait to be told what to do.

So this piece of advice, simply doing something is important, I think, is it’s really cool that you put it right next to explore what scares you. I’m sorry I keep talking, it’s your turn to talk, Evan tell us about this particular tip.

Tip #7: Do not Fear Failure in Creative Pursuits for Learning

Well, one thing that I think stops people from doing any kind of creative pursuit is that fear of being bad, and it’s a fear that we all have, I have it constantly, and it’s always with me, no matter what. And you know, very rarely do I think that’s something that I’m doing is going to be deemed this amazing thing. And sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. It’s more often than not that it isn’t, or it’s just, hey, some people like it, and some people don’t. But I think that we, especially with this distance learning thing. I think that when you start, be careful to not be too critical about what you’re thinking and about what you’re doing, And just know that simply doing something is really the thing that will give you confidence. And if you do 15, 30 minutes a day, eventually, you’ll see, hey, I’ve got some stuff here, and that’s going to be kind of your tools to help you navigate whatever it is we started off with this fall.

That’s perfect. I was just going to tie it back to the 15 to 30 minute Rule. Because those two tips are very closely related. Just a little bit of something, thinking, writing, jotting things down, It’s going to get you a lot further than it sounds on paper. So I think that is a really good piece of advice.

Embrace Imperfection in Developing Creative Ideas

We’re going to go on to allow yourself to be imperfect, and again, this follows the 15 to 30 minute rule. Simply doing something is important. Allowing yourself to be imperfect.

We are in a situation right now where we are all all in the midst of creating something new, so we’ve got to let go of perfection, wouldn’t you agree with that, Evan?

Oh, yeah, yeah. I think it was the filmmakers Joan Renoir who said, Perfection is in the mind. And I write, and I make movies, and do all that stuff, knowing that I’m going to rewrite, or re shoot, or re-edit for perfection. It really isn’t an immediate goal, or even something that’s really on my mind, You know, We’re gonna have many imperfect days, especially with so many unknowns that face educators now. And I think the trick is to recognize that. What was kind of talked about earlier. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. And I think this applies to any creative pursuit, any kind of planning that you’re going to do for next year, and going into the fall. I think the trick is really going to be remembering that, and also accepting that school in August is not gonna look like, what, we’re used to looking. Like. It may not look like that for awhile. But once again, you know I talked about exploring what scares you and kind of embracing that.

If you’re able to embrace the imperfections of your situation, a lot of times you can use them to your advantage.

I really want to ask you to elaborate on that. But for the sake of time, I’m going to thread that into the next tip. And the next piece which is viewing everything you just said, as an opportunity and seizing opportunities, no matter how they may come. Can you talk about the fall as a means of seizing an opportunity, and then I also want to hear how you do this in your creative pursuits as well with writing.

Opportunities to Connect with Students During Remote Learning

Well, once again, I’m going to paraphrase a filmmaker. …said, a setback was simply an opportunity in work clothes, and there were many times during distance learning that I felt, alone, I’m sure a lot of people felt that way. I felt like I’m blowing in the wind. As you’re creating all these things for the students, I was wondering, is this going to matter, and then, after, you know, working with the students? I really started to understand, and this was touched on in another Saddleback webinar, how simply being there for those students and their families, that was the most important thing. But, at the same time, there wasn’t enough, I really, kinda work hard to see this as an opportunity. There was going to be an opportunity to connect with students.

Then I was working in a different way, if you have an opportunity to learn about their families and see inside their home, something that, for me also on the side, would be invaluable in the stories that I write. You know, it would be another opportunity for me to take the creative skills that I’ve been working with, And you use those to create content for the class. And it’s not easy to look for opportunities everyday. You know, teachers once again, constantly pushed for time, in every capacity, and we want our lives and our jobs to be simple, and I want them to maintain a certain flow. Distance learning threw that off and did all of that. And suddenly our jobs were now part of our life in a way that was completely different from before. Yet, within this, it was an opportunity and it still is.

Recharge During Downtime to Improve Remote Education

It’s an opportunity to figure things out and, you know, how can we still be a factor in, in a remote capacity and it takes a lot of work. That’s why Downtime this summer is so important. And, you know, for me, it’s a chance to kind of recharge, creatively take what I’m already thinking, and I’ve already kinda pitched some stories to you guys about the situation. I’m just going to keep going. Because as the situation continues to evolve, hopefully my pictures will become more relevant, and more and more fluid. I may not be working with students every day, but it’s these kinds of creative projects that are thinking about that, all working on that, that’s going to ultimately be keep me sharp, and keep thinking about different ways to bring instruction to, that, whether we’re in a hybrid model, whether we’re in an old distance model, or whether real, eventually, because we’re going to be all back in the class.

Eventually, we will all be back in the classroom and hopefully that is sooner than later,

Learn from Mistakes to Advance in Remote Educational Work

Because you realize that, if you, or you feel at least, but if you’re making a lot of mistakes, and your students are not reaping the benefits of what you do. And I think we need to change the perspective on that. We’re all learning in this together, and, in a sense, it’s a really authentic opportunity and a real-world opportunity to address a problem in real time alongside with your students and come up with some solutions as best as you possibly can.

I want to thank you so much, Evan. We’re going to move on to questions, but if you have any specific questions for Evan, go ahead and put them in the question area. I have a few that people typed in or sent in with their registration so we’re going to take those questions in just a moment.

In terms of questions, Evan, there were a couple of good ones that we received from participants.

And I actually think we’ve probably answered these questions already just through the conversation we’ve been having today.

Planning for Next Year’s Education Strategy

But the first one is, how do I plan for next year? I’m hearing all these kinds of different scenarios, like, I’m going to have Cohort A and Cohort B, And they’re gonna come on different days of the week, and then some of, it’s going to be remote. And how am I supposed to plan for this? Do I need to just develop a skeleton? And based on what we talked about today, I am assuming you’re gonna say, yes, that developing a skeleton is the way to go, but I wanted to, to get your thoughts on that.

Yeah, I mean, I think the teachers will naturally develop skeletons. I think, you know, they’re gonna remember what happened in these past 10 weeks and they’re going to take that knowledge and we’re going to tweak it. Just like the teachers are really artists, you know, they are constantly tweaking the work constantly, and so, and, you know, and the beauty for them is they can continue working on it year after year. That, that, to me is definitely how that’s going to happen. Start with a skeleton. Take the prior knowledge, kinda like what we were talking about, take some downtime first, if you can, put in 15, 30 minutes a day, and then as it gets closer, I’m sure you’ll start to see it.

Incorporate New and Old Ideas for Engaging Lessons

And I think, letting go of this idea of, hey, I’m not going to start this, because I don’t know anything, It’s a waste of time for me to start thinking about this until I have all the information. that, because I can tell you that’s probably what I would have done. But that’s because I want to be perfect at everything I do. But we can actually end up being more creative and more productive if we let go of this idea of being perfect and coming up with skeletons and applying what we’ve done before, just to get some sort of a roadmap and to get our thoughts going. The second question had to do with burnout and virtual instructor burnout, in particular, this is a real thing, as we’re all learning. Just because we are working from home doesn’t mean that it’s like sweatpants and slippers, and relaxation all day long.

How do we think about staying recharged and refreshed in having so much screen time? I think this goes back back to downtime, but I just wanted to get your thoughts on that.

Well, you know, what you just said, they’re going back to downtime that can be a double edged sword, because for a lot of people, a break from the screen, you know, the screen of their work, they suddenly start going on Netflix for watching another screen.

Limit Screentime during Downtime and Explore New Interests

And honestly, I think to really work with a burnout, I think, limiting, screen, time, as much as you can, and I know that’s hard, That’s hard for me, because, you know, I’m the distance learning, and then I’ll go downstairs and I work on my iPad, and then I’ll go work on backup stairs and work on my computer. And we’re going to move your screen screen, but I think downtime. And count and breaks away from the computer.

And maybe reading or, or maybe just exploring things that are, just have nothing to do with, you, know, Creating lesson plans right now. Because eventually you’re going to unmute teachers, just do that. You can just, you can just see it. It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s this, it’s this process and they know it. And it really really amazes me, just because I honestly like, I don’t know how to create a lesson plan without having to create a lesson plan and bringing across two.

30, 40 students. Is it, and then this doesn’t even factor in, You know, if you’re dealing with students with special needs to, know, or, or, you know, other students that are maybe learning the English language, It’s, it’s, it’s a lot to take in.

So I think, honestly, for me, the way that I deal with not burning out is finding interests that are completely unrelated to what I may be working on at the time. I would actually go a step further, and I would take that 15 to 30 minute rule, and I would use that as an overlay to downtime, as well. So if I’m in the midst of working on something, and I need to find a way to get downtime from it, and that can be hard in and of itself, when the school year is going to find downtime, just taking 5, 10, 15 minutes to turn your attention away to something that refreshes you, might be a good way to work that in there, as well. So I just wanted to throw that out there before we sign off.

One of the big pieces of advice that is standing out to me is, simply doing something is important.

So, before we sign off, if you could go into the question area, and let me know. Oh, wait, we have some more questions.

Write and Record Creative Ideas to Organize Your Brain

Um, how do you shut off your brain from creating and planning? Somebody finds himself planning in the middle of the night.

I think, I don’t know if you ever shut off, really. Honestly, if you’re, if you’re wondering what I would do to turn that off, I would write it down immediately. Because what I would be the most worried about is that I would lose that inspiration. And then I would lose that chance to have a plan or creative idea.

And so, honestly, if I’m doing that at night, I would I would write it down, and that will generally let me forget about it, because that does happen and I actually get upset with myself when I don’t write it down and when I don’t save, that’s really a very, I never thought of that. It’s so practical.

Getting up and writing it down. And knowing that it’s out of your brain in a safe place, and you can, that you can come back to it during the waking hours. That might actually help, if that’s the situation you’re in. It seems so obvious, but I didn’t even think of that, you know, now. Now, I know when I’m up in the middle of the night, thinking about things, just jot them down. That tells my brain, Hey, these thoughts are in a safe place I can come back to them when the sun is up. Very, very helpful, and very practical.

Um, Stephanie wants to know, How do you organize all of your ideas, you just write them down, you have random scraps of paper everywhere, is there a system for that to?

Organizing Ideas in Lists for Well-Being and Time Management

Well, I wish I had it in front of me. I make a list every day before I, before I go to bed, and it lists out the projects that I’m going to work on for the next day. And I mean, I wish I could turn this computer, but you would see that there’s five whiteboards over here with various ideas at various stages. And I, I just, I needed out of my brain. I need to, kind of just, I feel that I get very, very cluttered that way, so, you know, organizing, organizing ideas. I decide what I’m gonna work on. And then I make that, be what I work on, for a specific day, for a certain amount of time. Like I spoke about in the webinar, it’s a mathematical approach. And I’m just, I’m hitting it every day, because I know that after a certain amount of time, it’s going to be done, to move on to something else, and all that kind of inspires me and excites me.

So thank you very much for that.