Have you become an excellent ‘plate-spinner’? Or do you find you’re struggling to keep all those roles and responsibilities ‘spinning’? Learn about finding the balance, with Toria Bono.

I don’t know about you but throughout my life, I have become an excellent plate-spinner (metaphorically), somewhat due to my work and somewhat due to my desire to always be busy. Let me expand…

When I started teaching many years ago, life as an Early Career Teacher was hectic. I was always busy and was slow at getting through the to-do list (imagine each to-do as a plate). As I progressed through my first year, I discovered that some plates could be combined, some were quick spinners and others could just be taken down. By the end of my second year, I had taken some more plates down and life was quite chilled, in all honesty.

However, I found more plates – responsibilities, roles, accreditations – just waiting to be spun. Life got busier. My chilled existence was less chilled. Now, you would think that I would have taken a plate down as soon as I put another one up, but no, I just spun more and more plates! You may be wondering why I am only spinning work plates – I’m not, the others are busy spinning too: daughter, husband, home, family, friends, exercise (if I am honest, this one got taken down a lot).

I suppose what I want to say is that there are only so many plates that it is possible to spin, and sometimes I have to stop and decide what is important to me – what I value – what sits with my values, and which plates need to come down.

What are my plates?

In work now, I am a Year 4 class teacher, a Primary Evidence Lead Educator (ELE) for a local research school and the Equity, Representation and Diversity lead for my school. I love each of these roles and they firmly sit within my values. Each role enables me to feel fulfilled in a different area of my work. Teaching, I love. In fact, you could say it is my greatest passion. In the years I have gone without having a class due to doing different roles, I missed the day-to-day interaction with the little people and helping them to learn and do. The ELE role means that
disseminate to others. I am there to support them to make strategic decisions about how best to use this in their school setting – I love thinking strategically. Being the Equity, Representation and Diversity lead in my school means that I am helping every person in our setting to truly be heard, seen, and supported in any way they may need. I also mentor and coach and I love doing that for so many reasons. I have got to the point where I have the right number of work plates spinning and all for the right reasons.

Do the plates you are spinning at work fulfil you or do you need to take some of them down?

I mentioned ‘being heard’ previously and that is so important to me, which is why the Tiny Voice Talks plates spin busily all the time. In case you aren’t sure what Tiny Voice Talks is, I will fill you in. #TinyVoiceTalks is a thread on Twitter every Tuesday (find my pinned tweet) for people to come together, find their voice and network. I subsequently started the Tiny Voice Talks podcast, which aims to have the quieter voices in education heard. I say education, but I have had authors, people in the business world and all manner of voices on the podcast with me. They have one thing in common – they want their voice to be heard and I am more than happy to give them the platform. If you want your voice heard, then just get in touch! I love spinning these plates, but I have got much better at spinning them. It just took a bit of practice.

Recently, I have put another plate up, which is the Tiny Voice Talks book. I am busy putting it together and trying hard to do justice to the wonderful words written by so many different voices. That has meant that some plates have had to come down to accommodate it and that wasn’t easy. I hate taking plates down – in fact, if I had my way, I would be skilled at spinning all plates, all the time and I would never have to remove any, but that just doesn’t work. I discovered that when I was spinning too many plates they dropped, and they caused others to wobble and smash too. Realistically, there are only so many plates that we can spin. Do you need to take any of yours down?

Non-work plates

I want to go back to the plates that I casually mentioned earlier – the ones outside of work. They are my important plates and I have to prioritise those. At times, they have wobbled when my focus has been on taking on more and more at work, but my non-work plates need my time and attention. One of the plates that I often neglected was health (which is why exercise often got removed) and yet, it is so important to look after our mind, bodies and spirits. As I get older, I realise that health isn’t a given and that we need to really look after it. (Okay, lecture over).

Your plates

So, if you have time, I would like you to do something for me. Get a piece of paper and draw your plates – all of them.

Then consider:

  • Is that much plate-spinning is manageable.
  • If it isn’t, which ones will you take down? Be brave.
  • Which ones need your attention? Be honest.
  • Which ones are your favourites? I love identifying those.

Let me know how you get on – I would love to know!

 

Plate-spinning is something we all do but I have discovered that when I evaluate my plates, I end up making my life more manageable and fulfilling.

Author

  • Toria Bono

    Toria Bono is a teacher who has worked in a variety of educational roles over the past 20 years and is a fellow of the Chartered College of Teaching. Toria is also the founder and owner of ‘Tiny Voice Talks’ which includes a podcast, a book and a Twitter space for educators to find their voice and connect with others.
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