Wednesday, November 16, 2016

It's the Most Wonderful TIME of the Year

Time.  It’s every teacher’s worst enemy.

There is never enough time to do everything you WANT to do -- let alone everything you’re EXPECTED to do.

Feel free to add, but here seems to be a random to do list from a school social studies teacher

  • Plan lessons
  • Make copies
  • Put up Common Board
  • Collaborative planning with colleague
  • Check email
  • Answer email
  • Grade papers
  • Go to IEP meeting
  • Talk to AP about issue with kid
  • Write referral
  • Take referral to office
  • Call parents
  • Check email again
  • Delete 3 emails from Tracy Newman
  • Cover a class
  • Meeting of some sort
  • Chat with kids between class to build relationships
  • Check notebooks
  • Get activity form filled out
  • Uhhhh.... Actually teach, too

Time is a terrible enemy of teachers. Even if we take away all the administrative paperwork stuff, there is still not enough time in the instructional day to do everything -- and even LESS time if you want to actually have a life outside of teaching.  

I know that some of you feel like “the District” or “administration” is asking you to do more and more and more...

And you’re right.

Our profession is ever-changing -- like most other professions, I might add. We have more content, more strategies, more differentiation to do

But we still have the same ol’ 180 days we always have had.

So instead of giving you MORE to do.....
Let me give you less.

Here are four things to spend LESS time on in your classroom, so you can have more time for the “good stuff” -- engagement, collaboration, higher-order thinking ... You don’t have to QUIT these practices. But you might consider minimizing them so you can spend more time getting to the “big payoff” stuff....

  1. Spend less time ... writing the questions.  Writing the questions takes time. You don’t have a lot of instructional time. Why don’t you have the kids spend less time writing the question -- and more time digging into the question, breaking it down, and answering it.
    1. I know, I know ... you want them to study from it. If they actually do study from it, then that is a good time investment. If they don’t (I find that most kids don’t), then skip writing the question. They can use more brain power writing the answer in complete sentences or just writing the answer more completely.
  2. Spend less time ... making everybody wait for those three kids still working. Again, you only have so much time in a class period. Ten minutes of the rest of your class sleeping (high school) or going bananas (middle school) is ten minutes that learning could have occurred. There are a few options on this.
    1. You can give the rest of the class some review/remediation that is flexible to work on while they wait (Good idea: vocab illustrations or review activity. Not-as-good idea: word searches or crossword puzzles).
    2. You can modify the assignment for kids who work slower. Oftentimes, an ESE or ELL student can DO the work, but not as quickly as other kids. Let them skip #4 and 7  (or whatever) so they can really master the other five questions. It’s actually a decent modification for differentiation if you do it judiciously. Have them do more quality, less quantity.
    3. I know, I know ... you want every kids to have the time they need to learn. And you’re right. But if the rest of your class is consistently waiting for a few kids, then that isn’t a good use of everyone’s time -- and it sometimes results in the slower-workers feeling uncomfortable or pressured and rushed. Find a modification that will work for you to gain a little instructional time.
  3. Spend less time ... going over every answer. I know kids need good answers modelled. I also know that kids are smart. And they will learn that if you go over every answer -- that they won’t need to do the work. They can just wait until you tell them the answer and copy that down, without having to think. Go over a couple where you worry about misconceptions. And then, let them figure out some of the rest.
    1. I know, I know ... you want the kids to get the right answers. But those answers don’t mean anything if the kids didn’t do the thinking/reading to get the answers. Give them a couple of answers (particularly tough answers or common errors) to check and see if they’re on the right track. Then, let them be responsible for their work.
  4. Spend less time ... having kids copy stuff. Seriously, y’all. It takes forever. Whether notes or definitions or answers, it takes an eternity for kids to copy things -- and they SO RARELY think about what they’re copying, it’s seldom that it’s worth the time. If you want them to have the info so badly, give it to them. Print it out for them and have them highlight it, text-code it, make questions about it. Have them interact with it, instead of copying it from the board, the book, or the dictionary.
    1. I know, I know ... you want them to have the important information. And you want them quiet and on task. None of those are bad things! But the time it takes to copy isn’t equal to the learning that happens. How many of you have said, “what do you mean you don’t know the answer? It’s right there in front of you!”. This is because they don’t absorb or learn as much from copying as they do from making their own meanings.

I know you have too much to do in your work day. I can’t give you less paperwork or faster grading practices or perfectly behaved students. I wish!. But I can share what I see with many classrooms that are making the best use of the time -- and what drains our instructional time.  You don’t have to quit these practices entirely. Just be mindful of how much time they take VERSUS  how much benefit you get from them...

And please know how thankful I am for such awesome colleagues! Have a wonderful thanksgiving break!

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