Less Stress in 5 steps

Very often, and especially lately, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with my to do list. Though of course it helps that the rapidly approaching changes are positive and exciting, the resulting stress is…still stressful! Here’s my advice to myself (and you!)

Prioritize & Schedule

Looking at each week ahead, block off time for who and what you love. Figure out when you can work toward your goals, both personal and professional. Set up calendar reminders to keep on track. Also leave time for nothing. Let yourself do whatever you feel like doing when that time comes, even if it’s just for 20 minutes.  Stop feeling guilty about tasks that aren’t enriching your life, or helping you meet your goals. Hand them off to someone else or quit them altogether. Another tip: schedule time to worry. Tell yourself, I’m going to think about this when ________. If you’re hyper-time-aware like I am, these ideas may help.

Get silly

Being serious is my default mode, but I’d rather be light-hearted, so I try to be. Last night, I wore a colorful outfit to see the Carol King musical, Beautiful. I laughed in my pink pants, salmon-orange coat and red purse, hand in hand with my black and white clad fiance. Currently, I have that topped.


Not everything’s about the clothes though. I got a game called Little Alchemy on the recommendation of my friend Amy, and it’s awesome! Last weekend Igor and I had fun discussing what kind of dragon’s we’d have as pets. And hanging out with my nieces inevitably involves giggles. What makes you lol? Do more of that.


Exercise is proven as stress relief. I’m doing terrible at this one lately. I should definitely get off the couch when I’m done writing this post. At least I know I’m scheduled to go orienteering Sunday!


I’m meeting friends at orienteering. That’s a one-two punch! Getting together with your favs and family is the best. Talking, texting or video chats help when the physical distance is too great. Make an effort to connect with someone you care about within the next 24 hours.

Ask for Help & Give it too

You don’t have to do it all by yourself. When you’re feeling overly stressed, ask your friends and loved ones to help. My mom is great at party planning. I’m so thankful she’s organizing some of the wedding details for us! Surely you have people that would like to give you a hand. Or would enjoy spending a relaxing hour lending an ear. Giving your time and efforts to others, or to a cause near to your heart, is another great stress reliever. Go, do good.


Time: spend it well

Time. The lack, or mismanagement of it, is what holds us back from doing the things we really want to do. On technology and other surveys conducted in my district, time is always mentioned on the questions like, What’s the biggest obstacle to implementing X?  or What else do you need to do X? I don’t have time to check out every single tech tool that I’m interested in, because:

  1. I’m interested in so many, that it is literally impossible
  2. I am unwilling to upset the balance on time spent in other enjoyable pursuits

I’ve spent nearly 100 hours on this blog since last April, when I started it. (98 hours, according to the blog logs I keep in Google Sheets, so I can get credit from Lake Erie College). There’s one thing I do, that I get flack for doing, that gives me some extra hours to be able to write. If you want more time, and you can swing this thing, do it! Don’t worry about the naysayers, it’s your life.

Hire cleaners.

This morning, on my first day of Christmas break, instead of feeling obligated to clean my house (as I only would have time to truly scrub and tidy all rooms on days when I am off work, and at home instead of instead of in Cleveland with my fiance Igor), I was able to go into the woods, for over an hour of wandering and restoring my sense of peace.

A photo posted by Giovanna Orlando (@gorland2) on

On my way home, I stopped at the library and found a book that my sister recommended, and a new one in a series I started reading last year. I love reading, and have to put off reading anything too good before bed on school nights, or else I don’t go to sleep at a reasonable hour.


This afternoon, I started the 3 hour process of replicating my mom’s homemade sauce and meatballs, to share with my soon-to-be in-laws on Christmas Eve. It is simmering on the stove now. I’ve had to get up to stir it at least 3 times since starting this post.

All of these things, I was able to do guilt-free in part because the house is already clean. Yesterday when I mentioned the cleaners at our staff Christmas party, one lady was surprised and said, “But your house is so little!” and “I feel bad for Igor.” Yes, I have a small house, but to clean it well takes me over 3 hours. I don’t get a sense of accomplishment from it. I want it done, but I don’t want to do it myself. And as for the comment about Igor, well, he has all 4 limbs and a brain just like I do, so he’s perfectly capable of cleaning just as well as I am. Or paying for cleaning. He and I, we’re alike in that we like a clean space, and do fine with maintaining cleanliness, but we’d rather spend our time in ways other than doing deep cleaning.

Look at how you are spending your time, and evaluate if that aligns with what you truly value. (Like, I played Farmville when I was in college and that was a black hole that I realized I needed to escape after a few weeks. I avoid Pinterest for the same reason). If you find that you spend too much time doing things that aren’t making you happy or don’t make you feel productive, figure out what you can do to get yourself doing things you really love or want to be doing. Outsource the rest. Don’t feel bad about it. Think of it as a gift to yourself (and your family/colleagues/students/etc.) Merry Christmas!!

Failure, reconsidered

The following was published in NEOTIE’s first magazine this past weekend. There’s a lot of great content in there so read it! NEOTIE is having a conference on October 3, and registration is just $15. I attended (and was a presenter at) their February event, and I highly recommend it. High quality sessions, great food, not too far from home, and not expensive.

You failed. You’ll continue to fail, over and over. Same for me, same for our students. Feel terrible now? You shouldn’t! Let me explain. Failing is, has been, and will always be a sign of reaching for something that is simply out of reach at this point. Maybe only slightly, or maybe by a whole bunch.  I want to reframe failure as a necessary, and helpful step in achieving awesome goals. Failure is striving for better. You, me, and especially our students need to be told this explicitly, and be encouraged to keep failing, learning, and growing, throughout our lives.

In the first week of my quarter-long 7th and 8th grade tech classes last year, I wanted to empower students by helping them realize that failure will happen, and how they deal with it can make them better. One way I did this was by telling them about my grading system. Any assignment that they received less than 70% on, they were allowed to continue working on and resubmit. This way, students had the opportunity to view their “failing” D or F grade as a chance to improve, and truly learn the material. One student resubmitted an effort-intense assignment 3 or 4 times! I supported him with comments in the document, helping at lunch, and communicating the redo option to his parents. He showed great persistence in refining each draft until it was nearly perfect. He was so proud of himself; it made me get teary. There were always a few kids each quarter who took this option to heart, and they learned much more than they would have in the traditional mindset of failure equals done, grade-sunk, oh-well, moving-on.

Another first-week activity to make this point clear is an assignment all about failure. Please, use these resources to make your classroom a safer place for striving. The first part of the assignment is watching a video by Derek Sivers called “Why You Need to Fail”. 

I like to have them use vidoenot.es where they watch the video on the left and take time-stamped notes on the right. It helps them to be more personally engaged than just projecting the video to the whole class, and allows them to pause and rewind the video to adjust to their own learning needs. They share this with me so I can see what facts jumped out at them personally.

The second part of the assignment is a document asking them to reflect on what they learned in the video, apply it to a personal situation, and surmise what my opinion is on failure once they’ve been presented with all of this, including this screenshot of a tweet.

Failure Google Docs

I’ve found that this approach really helps students understand that failure doesn’t have to be viewed as an extremely awful event marking a sad end, but can be seen as a not-there-yet guidepost. Throughout our time together, I am sure to praise and thank students who continue trying to make adjustments after they do something poorly, and to remind students one-on-one, and as a class that they are allowed to redo their assignments.

An essential element of students being able to use their failures to learn is feeling and really knowing in their hearts that asking for help is a smart strategy. I know that I have not always felt that way personally, and I talk to them about it on the very first day they are in my class. Luckily, a great example of me realizing that I can’t always figure things out on my own was when I was in middle school, so they can easily relate. I tell them the story of how I was at a summer-program in a class about personal development. Our teacher took us all outside where there was a long rope strung at waist height around trees and poles, creating a circle-ish shape. We were instructed to close our eyes, put our left hand on the rope, and feel our way around the circle, until we could find a way into the middle. Also, we could ask for help any time we needed it.



So, I walked for a while, and heard kids in the middle after a few minutes. I cheated, and peeked, and saw that I had been the whole way around at least once, and that some classmates were inside. I felt frustrated, because I was always one of the top performers in school. I figured I must have missed something, but continued my slow walk around. After what felt like hours, it was just me and another boy left outside the circle.When the teacher told us we ran out of time and called us to come inside, I was embarrassed. He explained that the point of the activity was that sometimes, the only way to achieve your goals is to ask other people for help and guidance. You just can’t always do it on your own. To get into the circle, all I had to do was ask for help, and I’d be invited in. This lesson hit me hard that day and I use it to illustrate how even if you’re used to understanding everything right away, there will come a time when you just don’t know what to do. A brave and mature thing to do is to admit this to yourself, and ask for the help you need.

This year, let’s make it a point to reframe failure for ourselves and our students. Talk to them about your own failures and what you did to improve. Tell them about times you needed to ask for help. Encourage them to recognize failures, strategize ways to improve, and view these actions as strengths rather than weaknesses. Then, watch them grow as learners, and most importantly, people.