If An Hour Doesn’t Get Us One to Two Classes…

…we’re doing something wrong.

If we spend an hour preparing to teach, that hour should at least result in an entire class’ worth of content, activities, etc., and bonus if it gets us a couple more. In other words, the fruit of an hour’s labor should not result in a single activity lasting just 10-15 minutes, or a quiz that lasts the same time but adds another hour for us to check/enter in gradebook/follow up with. Even spending an hour on something that lasts half as much time in the classroom—physical, virtual, live, or asynchronous—isn’t enough juice for the squeeze, and we got alotta lemons this year…

Unsustainable
The teachers who plan the most tend to burnout the fastest. I wish there were stats on this, but maybe it’s inherent. Of course, new teachers spend waaaaaaay too much time reinventing the wheel, and we know that many of them leave within those first few years. I’m not saying that’s the only reason, but c’mon. Teaching all day only to plan later that night (or an entire Sunday) is an unreasonable and unnecessary extension of the job. Clearly, teachers who do this don’t have much experience with hourly pay. All of that work is unpaid hours, an no worker in their right mind would spend a considerable amount of their free time on the job yet not getting paid. For some teachers, their unpaid work time is as much as 25% more (i.e. after school time + evening time + weekend time is easily an extra 2hrs/day). That’s like a typical hourly wage worker coming in an extra day to work for zero dollars. This is unsustainable.

It’s also unsustainable to spend days learning new tech tools we’ll forget about (or kids will get bored with) anyway, or scouring the internet for perfect media to add to a resource that doesn’t have much effect on learning. Just like the PowerPointerz (i.e. teachers who make a new Pinterest-worthy slideshow for every class), most of this work yields products with very little actual content. In terms of language teaching, providing input is most effective through the simplest of mediums (e.g. listening, viewing, reading). Those other bells and whistles are really just siren calls.

Separating the Milk
In 2012, I took part in a 2-day tech workshop offered by my M.A.T. grad program at Kent State. The presenter, Andreas Johansson warned us to be careful with new tech tools, not to get too distracted by the best parts only to find out the tool wouldn’t be relevant or used beyond a year or so. In an excellent Swedish metaphor, he said something about lattes, milk, cream, and froth, although I can’t quite remember how that all came together. His point, though, was that the tastiest parts of a yummy coffee drink aren’t necessarily what lasts the longest. If we happen to find engaging tech tools with little to no prep (see below), and high input yields, great! If, however, we spend an hour putting together something that ends up providing like 10 sentences of input, that should be proof of ill-used time, and a low-yield product for our students.

1 to 1 Challenge
Strive to spend an equal amount of time (or less) preparing for how long that content will last in the classroom. Here are examples:

  • Spend 15 minutes writing a text that will take 15 minutes to read.
  • Spend 10 minutes creating an assignment that will take 10 minutes for students to complete, and you to check.
  • Spend 5 minutes planning out a 5 minute quiz.

Here are some upgrades:

  • Spend 20 minutes typing up student responses/stories and selecting a couple activities that would take 1 hour to get through.
  • Spend 15 minutes creating an assignment that yields the responses/stories used above.
  • Spend 10 minutes thinking about and getting ready Discipulus Illustris that lasts 40 minutes (1/2 interview, 1/2 Write & Discuss).
  • Spend 5 minutes writing out questions that could last 15 minutes.

Here’s a list of specific activities if you’re totally stuck. For virtual teaching (live or asynchronous), some of them need no adjusting whatsoever.

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