This article was written by John Pierce. John is in his ninth year of teaching high school English in Central Texas. If not for the piles of essays sitting on his desk to grade, he would never get any writing done.
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Each year, as my students begin the slog of producing research papers, I warn them, “Don’t procrastinate. It will sink you.” But as always, the procrastination commences.
Eventually, the day comes when the staggering pile of essays pours in, all of which I am unreasonably summoned to grade. And that’s when I show my students what procrastination really looks like.
Teachers procrastinate just as much as our students. Of course we do, because it can be a good thing (although I'll never tell my students this). So, instead of feeling guilty about procrastinating, we should embrace it for the following paradoxical benefits it brings.
1. It lowers stress levels, and helps you hold on what's left of your sanity.
Angry parent emails. Cafeteria noise. Lesson prep. Paperwork to complete. Bulletin boards to decorate. Principal walk-throughs. Low pay. Parents. Last year, an entire pre-k class at my school decided to bolt during recess, and their teachers had to chase them down the street.
My point: teachers are stressed. Procrastination is just the brain’s way of saying, “Maybe you need a nap.”
2. It improves your social life... no seriously, think about it!
Friends? Family? Colleagues? Remember them? A teacher’s life can be pretty isolating. If you’re not procrastinating, that likely means that you’re alone in your classroom, walled-in behind stacks of books and papers. If you procrastinate, though, you can be in the workroom or at lunch, bonding with your colleagues as you gripe about administrators and students. We all need that.
3. It makes you more efficient.
Yes, really. Hear me out on this. Procrastination actually helps your brain to perform its optimum task for the moment. What I mean is that, when your brain is exhausted, you shouldn’t grade those forty-five essays. You’ll be slow and irritable, and then, you’ll spend the next week fielding angry parent emails and thinking up extra-credit assignments to save your students’ grades. Instead, procrastinate with less strenuous tasks: sort papers, record grades, sharpen pencils. In an hour, you’ll be more ready for the essays and will have gotten things done.
4. It gives you the time to make the right decisions.
The brain is always unconsciously working, even when you’ve just spent the last hour scrolling through teacher memes on Pinterest. Procrastinating may buy your brain some extra time to mull over a thorny problem, and that extra time may be decisive in helping you to make the right decision.
5. It brings out the creativity buried within.
We all know the stereotypical creative-type whose life is a mess but who can whip out some mean papier-mâché. There’s actually a reason for this. Creativity thrives when your mind exercises free association, and free association happens when your mind wanders--like when you take a shower or just do nothing. So, procrastinate, let your mind drift, and voila! You will soon present your curriculum director with the greatest inquiry-based project idea of all time.
6. It gives you the freedom to think on your feet and be flexible.
You probably know the teacher who on the first day of class already has every moment of the semester pre-planned. I’m sure those classes are orderly, but they’re probably also inflexible and dull. After all, if you’ve already spent the time to make copies for the next nine weeks, you’re probably not going to vary from the plan if a fun new idea pops up. If you’ve wisely put off planning, though, you’re free to improvise all you want.
7. It prepares you for working better under pressure.
Deadlines aren’t for everyone, but they can provide the adrenaline and urgency needed to give a task your full attention. Usually, no matter how long you’ve spent on a project, you still end up working down to the last minute anyway. Why start the project a month early when the last 24 hours are going to be just as frantic either way?
8. It helps you understand that work isn’t everything.
Teachers work too much. Even as important as teaching is, spending time with family and friends, resting, having fun, and taking care of spiritual and physical needs are more important. If the urge to procrastinate becomes overwhelming, that urge may be wisdom worth hearing.