This week on the podcast, Ali and JoDee are chatting with Annabelle Allen. Annabelle, affectionately known as La Maestra Loca, is a teacher in New Orleans who also runs a successful side business inspiring world language teachers with the joy of teaching and acquiring language through acquisition driven instruction. Together, we will talk about the power of saying no, setting effective boundaries and Annabelle’s secret weapon for staying on track with her boundaries!
Connect with Annabelle:
Want to buy La Maestra Loca a glass of vino tinto? https://www.buymeacoffee.com/lamaestraloca
Connect with Ali and JoDee:
Ali’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alisimon/
JoDee’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jodeescissors/
Teachers are natural innovators, entertainers and problem solvers. They dream of growing old into the profession, teaching their kids kids. But sometimes career goals shift or change, and that makes opportunities outside of the classroom seem intangible questioning who am I, if I'm not a teacher? I'm your host Alexandra Simon.
And I'm your co host, JoDee Scissors.
This is The Great Teacher Resignation.
Today, our guest is Annabelle Allen. Annabelle is a teacher in New Orleans with the successful side business inspiring world language teachers with the joy of teaching and acquiring language through acquisition driven instruction. She is known as La Maestra Loca on her website, blog, podcast and in her membership community, La Familia Loca, where she mentors teachers in a more intimate setting each month. Thanks for being here today, Annabelle.
Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here.
Annabelle is a language teacher. And I've had the pleasure of teaching with her at the last school I worked at in New Orleans, before I stepped out of the classroom. I love the methodology that she's inspired so many different teachers to do acquisition driven instruction. And today, I want to talk about something a little bit different than what you do maybe on the day to day with helping other teachers learn this methodology of teaching and just inspiring them. I want to talk about how teachers can say "no" at school to create a better school life balance? And how saying no, has changed the quality of your life?
First and foremost, I giggled a little bit when I got the email from y'all about like, hey, Annabelle, do you want to come and like talk about boundary setting and say no. Because I was like, Oh, my God, I've done it. I have done it enough to where people are noticing that I'm able to talk about this transformation because my entire life I've been a "yes" person. And I think teachers are inherently in some way yes people. Because we're like the yes people. Yes, how can I help you? Yes, I can take that on. Yes, I'll write that email. Yes, I'll greet those parents. Whatever it might be, to where we keep adding and adding and adding to our already way over full plate with 11 courses to follow, that then we become absolutely overwhelmed to the point that that's one of the things that's pushing us out of the profession, right? So how can we be really intentional about setting boundaries and saying no to other things to help ourselves? And so yes, as soon as I started saying no, and realizing that I'm allowed, that all these things that are being asked of me, are not part of my job description. And while yes, I may be good at what people are asking me to do, somebody else can do that. And it's okay for me to say no., I think it was about first giving myself permission. Does that make sense?
I think that makes a lot of sense. And I think that's the hardest part, though, is giving yourself that permission. And I think that's really why we wanted to talk to you someone who is such a go getter. You've worn probably every hat you could possibly wear to school. In fact, you have a ton of hats in your classroom, I'm sure right now that you throw on literally every day. Literally every day. So how do you slowly or maybe all at once, get that courage to start saying no? Because I feel like it's really hard. I know, when I was a teacher, it was really hard to say no. I'm just wondering, how did you come to that?
I think first it took realizing what I was missing out on, which is family time. And I think that there's also like this unspoken saying that that is also toxic is if you're single and you don't have a family that doesn't mean that you say yes. It doesn't mean that you are any less entitled to saying no. Whatever it is that you could be doing, instead of this thing that you are potentially saying yes to, writing down a list of like these are my favorite things in the world. And these are what I want to prioritize. And realizing like life is super short and it flies by. So if that's gym time, if it's time walking your dog, if it's going for a hike, if it's all of those things for me are none of those. I'm like, ugh ugh, like ew no. Hiking, what? But whatever it is for you. For me, it's like, no. If I say no to this, I can pick up my kid, who has already been in daycare longer than I'd like, and go home with him. I can even call Paul and tell him I'll pick up Isla, my stepdaughter, and we'll be home in time to play before I even have to think about cooking dinner. So no. So that I think is the first part is like, what are you prioritizing? What are you missing out on by saying yes to this thing that is related to your work life and not your personal life?
I think a lot of times we forget that teachers are people. Because the best example is like you go to the grocery store, you go to the mall, and you run into students or parents. They're so shocked to see you in those regular places. Like, oh, Senor Simone, what are you doing here? Well, I, I have to buy food thanks for asking.
Those are the best moments. My first year teaching. I had a student, he told me, it's my birthday this week, and I want you to come to my birthday. And I was like, of course. I mean, let me know the information. I'll be there. He's like, well, my mom, and I'll just.. and we'll swing by the school will pick you up. I was like, oh, baby. I was like, oh, thank you, I would love the ride. Actually, on the weekends, I live at home. You know, even though it felt like I lived at school because I was there at like 7 AM and I'd stay till nine o'clock at night. And it was just, it was the most genuine gesture. But also like the perspective of being so naive about a teacher's have life outside of the school. And it's a common perception, you know, that like, this is where we belong.
Unknown Speaker 6:52
Not just with kids. Not just with kids. It rubs off on their families. And what's bananas is when parents have no boundaries, because you're a teacher who should be at their beck and call. And like this is true for classroom teachers. But like specials teachers, I taught 282 kids last year. When I taught elementary, I had 400 and whatever. So the fact that like, I have that many families who think that I'm just at their disposal. And not everybody. Like I am so thankful for the families that were mine the past four years at my last school, like, so grateful and so thankful. But there is this pressure to be at people's beck and call when they need you. And so one of the things that I'll say for this, I know y'all didn't ask me this, but I'm just going to say it now because it is the the soapbox I will I will die on. And I will continue telling every teacher that I ever meet this in every workshop, in every presentation everywhere. If you have work email on your phone, take it off. Because I promise you the email that you read when you're on the couch by yourself, or with your partner, whoever, at 9:30pm, it will elicit the same reaction as it will at 8 AM the next day when you go to school. There is no need to open that parent's angry email. Or if you're a high school teacher, that student email about where their grade is at 9:30 PM on your Thursday night, when you can just get that same email at eight in the morning when you're in the headspace for it when you're in your classroom. You're not in your personal home safe space. All of those emotions, you don't need to sleep with that. You don't need to think of that. Take your work email off your phone. That is a huge important boundary you can set right now. You don't need to read that admin email. You can handle all of it during work hours. Some of us stay before and after school anyways. Handle your email at school. Take your work email off your phone. And no excuse you give me right now will be enough. I promise you I've done this with teachers. I will find a workaround every excuse you have.
I agree 100%. In fact, that's actually something I learned earlier on outside of school in my professional life. I don't have my work email on my phone either. And I'm not a teacher anymore. I think that's great advice. The other thing that goes hand in hand with that is don't answer an email outside of those hours. Because once you do, you're opening that Pandora's box. Once you've replied to one parent or even your administrator at nine o'clock at night, yhey expect it. They tell other people. I know.
Oh, you can email Maestra. She'll answer you. She's done... She's answered me before. No, no. No, no.
That's the best piece of advice. I think really in terms of boundaries.
Take that advice into another career if you choose to pivot or change. Like it's not just like, if you can practice that in teaching and in other areas. It is Good to have boundaries between your personal life and your work life.
Yep. And on top of that, and this is just important, let's say that you go that next step and you take your work email off your phone. When you have those really strong emotions to an email that you open in the morning, you don't need to respond right then. It's actually better that you walk away for a little bit so that you don't respond in the heat of that moment. Or going back to the people pleasing. I'm like, Oh, my gosh, I've done something wrong. And you're right, and I am terrible. And... and so I'll respond with the wrong emotion instead of like, standing firm. And no, the reason I gave that grade, or the reason I did this was XYZ. So taking time, you know, most employers, whether it's in education or outside, have like a response time. Taking that response time. Taking the time, that 24 hours or 48 hours to really think about your response before sending it is also really important. So first, take your work email off, and then two, allow yourself to think before you write.
So when you started setting all of those boundaries, and you started saying no, and you started prioritizing yourself, what happened? What change did you see in yourself? And what did you see in passions that you started to pursue or your family life like you mentioned? What did you notice?
I'll say at first, and this might not be the answer that people want to hear right away, is that people were hurt. But that's because I had set such a precedence for myself, of always being the person that does the extra stuff. That runs that extra club. That makes the extra copies. That stays the extra hour. That it was a big shift for my entire school and everybody within it to make, for my students to make, for the families to make. To realize like oh, wow, like she's not doing that this year. Oh, she's not doing that this year. Oh no, Maestro's not doing that this year. That people continue to push and push harder. And almost lay on the guilt. Right? And an adding another layer. Before I tell you how good it became. When that started happening, I realized I needed to find something else to hold me accountable to setting the boundaries and to saying no. Because it's very easy, when people started making adding that guilt. They knew that's what they needed to do to get me to say yes, again, right? Because they know that I don't want anybody hurt. I don't want to let anybody down. I don't want to disappoint anybody. So I needed an extra layer. And that's what I did this year. I implemented an accountability buddy. And it was somebody in my school. And you could do this in another profession, too. It's somebody you work with, who is a good friend, but not so good of a friend that they won't tell you hey, no, you said you would not say yes anymore. What I did with this person, and I literally wouldn't reveal who the person was, not even their pronouns, their gender, nothing. Because I didn't want anybody at work to know who they were to be able to go to them. So what I would do is I would say, thank you so much for asking. I wouldn't say no, right away. It made me feel better. Thank you so much for asking, I need to check in with my accountability buddy before I can say yes or no to you. And it allowed me that pause of I'm not saying no. I know I want to say no. And I know I will say no. But here I go. And I'm gonna put it on somebody else if I need to. Go to my accountability buddy. This is what was offered. I really want to say no. Get that permission from them as well. Yep, good idea. You're saying no. And then go back and say I'm sorry. I've got a lot going on this week. And I'm not going to be able to help with that. And having that additional piece for me was something I needed because I had spent literally my whole life, 33 years, saying yes. You know? So that was huge. And then when I went that extra mile, I found myself a home earlier than ever before. I took work home one time all year this past school year. One time. One single time. One single time. Way more time with my family. My husband noticed that the complaining about work was much less. Granted, I think this past school year was the hardest we've ever faced. I cried more than ever. But my like whining about having to do this XY and Z beyond my regular job was not there anymore. So even like my husband, my partner was noticing this about me. So I can't say enough about the importance of of setting these boundaries. But then also, if you need that extra thing to have that accountability buddy, who's going to push you. One time I said yes without asking this person because it was like a two second thing that I know I could go to this classroom and help this teacher with something. And she literally said, she said Annabelle even a two second thing. That's two seconds, you could have been setting up for your own classroom. And now you're running to get your students. You asked me for everything. I'm like, okay, yes, right. Right. Right. You know, so like, really being consistent for myself in setting those boundaries.
I love that advice. And I'm kind of curious, as someone who has worked in the same school as you, you're a teacher that a lot of teachers look up to. They really look up to you. You give great PD sessions. You do a lot of extras in the community, the foreign language community. And so did anybody notice this change? And I wonder if it inspired other teachers to reconsider? I'm wondering did you notice that at all?
Yeah. And that's the beauty of it, right? Because whether you feel like people look up to you or not, people are watching always, what we're doing. And what I realized is, I was a coach for eight teachers. I was like the Spanish teacher in my last school, but also a coach for a year for eight teachers. And in the same way that what admin is doing sets of precedence, your bestie in the building, or somebody who maybe is a younger teacher, who might be watching you and like admiring your every move, they are watching what boundaries you're setting. They are watching to see when you say yes and no. So starting to put yourself first and prioritize like, nope that's beyond my four o'clock. I learned from my colleague Libby, who was one of the eight teachers that I coached. She was like, oh, no, that's four o'clock. Nop, I'm out. I'm out. That four o'clock, bell rings, I'm out. One of the strongest teachers ever that has even stronger boundaries. Oh, no, that's a weekend event? No, I cannot. I will be with my dogs and my husband. Like, very clear, very vocal. Has no qualms. And something that I want to do better next year, because of Libby Minshaw, is like, being unapologetic about those boundaries with admin. Because I worked at a school where admin work around the clock. Great admin for a million reasons. But like, will send an email at four in the morning. Will send an email at two in the morning. And then you see that and then like, this mindset of oh my gosh, oh, my gosh. It puts so much pressure on those around you. And so you don't know who's watching. And the biggest piece that I'll say is, your kids are watching to. Your students are watching. If you're a teacher, your students are watching you, and watching how you work, and what boundaries you're setting. And you are modeling whether they become a teacher or go into another profession, you are modeling for them what work life looks like. And so the more you can say, like, oh, no, no, sweetheart, I definitely do not live here. Like, you go on the bus and I am in my car at 4:30 go into my family. The more you can set those boundaries for kids, because students are looking up to you, the healthier work life balance you are modeling for them and their future.
Yes, that's something we've talked about. We are modeling for these young people what healthy boundaries, what healthy lifestyle looks like. What all of these things can and hopefully should look like. So I think that's a great point. But you're also bringing a refreshed self when you have those boundaries. You know, how many days did I show up the teaching exhausted in the morning, because I had been there until seven o'clock at night. Or I had, I was coaching sports or I was coaching speech and debate. And then I wasn't my best Spanish teacher. I wasn't my best self. And that can go into the professional world, too. If you're doing too many extra things, you're not the best that you can be at that time. So I think, yes, you're saying no to certain things. But you're also saying yes to being 100% in that day job. And that is what our contract says as educators. We have to be here for the contract days. We have to be here usually on open house and graduation. And those are the main things. And the all the other stuff, guess what parents? It's extra. So if you have the time and energy and you want to stay for the extras, more power to you. But sometimes, we can't do all of that. And I'm giving you permission, and I think Annabelle is giving you permission, and I bet JoDee is giving you permission to say no.
Yeah, so we're all nodding our heads like vigorously like yes, it's okay to say yes to yourself. Which brings me to how that opens up opportunities for you. You are clearly a creative, you're an innovator you're, you're not afraid to like mix things up or create something new. And so as you made those decisions, do you think that part of your journey in saying no and standing up for yourself has opened up creative doors?
Absolutely. When you start saying no, it opens the door to allowing you to have more time to do what brings you joy. And for me, it allowed me to pour more of my time and my heart into my PLC, my familia loca. It allowed me to get creative on what resources I'm developing for my classroom or what content I'm developing for my PLC. But it also allowed me to set boundaries in my side hustle. Because let me tell you, and I talked about this last week, I went to a conference called IFLP. And I had a booth. And I had this person come up to me, and she was so excited. And she was so enthusiastic. And she said, I don't know if I'm ready to buy or purchase your membership to your PLC, but I want to ask you more about your TPT. I noticed you don't have a lot of resources. And I was able to right there with confidence, say, nope, I only have about maybe 10 things. Other things are free. And there probably won't be much else. Because I don't get joy from developing resources for TPT. In fact, sucks my joy, takes me a ton of time, like, no. So I'm able to confidently and unapologetically say no to the things that don't bring me joy in my side hustle. In the things that I'm doing professionally, outside of work. I can say no. And I think that, like you said, I love Instagram and I love imparting wisdom on Instagram. I love writing quick emails. I love my new podcast. I don't like creating pretty resources. I'm not good at it. It takes lots of time and it's a joy sucker. I want joy giving things in my life. And I think that whether again, if you're a teacher, or you've left the profession and your somewhere else, what can you do that brings you joy, day to day? And what can you offload?
We got some takeaways.
Yeah, all aspects of your life. We've heard it from entrepreneurs, what can you outsource in your business if it doesn't bring you joy? So absolutely do the things that bring you joy. Set clear boundaries. Trust yourself. And find an accountability partner if you're struggling to do that. Sounds like that is key. I wish we had hours to talk to you because we could just keep going. But we're so thankful to have you on the podcast Annabelle and for everyone listening if you would like to follow Annabelle you can find her at La Maestra Loca on Instagram. And we'll also drop a link in our socials so you can buy her a glass of Vino Tinto.
If you liked The Great Teacher Resignation, give us a five star rating and follow us on Instagram, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, and Audible. This episode was written and recorded by me Alexandra Simon, and my co-host JoDee Scissors. Produced by JoDee Scissors. Original Music Emoji by Tubebackr. Special thanks to our sponsor, Paper Planes Ed.