When I present at conferences and give in-school PD on the topics of grading, assessment, and/or planning, I like to share this slide that includes all the jobs I’ve held prior to (and during!) teaching:
One use of this slide is to show how I approach teaching as a job just like any typical worker would do. That is, when the work day is over, the work day is over. I effectively “punch out” of teaching at the end of the school day, and return to work on the next “shift,” no questions asked. I share this because most teachers are anything but your typical worker, which has significant implications. A lot of them go from one classroom as students themselves straight to another classroom as teachers with little to no experience in any other profession, perhaps besides college work study or a part time job in high school. Some are so fortunate that they never had to work before they began teaching. That means teaching the only example of work to many (most?). There’s a big problem with that…
Nearly three years ago, I wrote about misunderstandings I kept observing with the term “CI.” Since then, CI has not changed at all, of course, but my own use of it has. I now tend to avoid the term because it’s been misrepresented at best, and corrupted at worst. Whenever I can, I refer simply to “input” because in a comprehension-based and communicative language teaching (CCLT) approach, comprehension (C) is not only implied, but step zero. However, I think there’s a need once again for a reminder of what CI is not, as I’ve found non-examples to be just as helpful when it comes to explaining pedagogy.
This post seems to address quite a bit, but stay with me. As experts, teachers can design a quiz or test that every student would fail, instantly. Aside from designing those individual assessments, teachers can also design and implement grading systems prone to student failures.
That’s a lot of power.
When teachers fail students, especially when they haven’t been careful with their grading system, they deny students experience. Not only are these students unable to continue with their peers—a major aspect of adolescent development—but they’ll miss out on any electives having to retake the failed course for credit.
On my school’s calendar, there are 10 vacation days, holidays, or 3-day weekends before the school week that lend themselves to a “what was X like?” no-prep discussion. That leaves roughly 25 other days back from the weekend. There’s the classic Calendar Talk, or Weekend Chat, but what else is there? For example, I have a poetry routine, which if started in January leaves only 10 remaining Mondays to actually plan for.
With classes meeting 5x/wk, the combination above just took care of all Mondays (i.e. 20% of planning)! This year, I plan to look at the school year more like this, especially as a department, seeing what events naturally lend themselves to providing content (e.g. big sports games, Superbowl, dances, election day, community parades, etc.). Also, that’s just everything we know about ahead of time, let alone any weekend events that get people buzzing (e.g. Notre Dame, community announcements, etc.).
So, how can you use the school calendar to gain even MORE planning and personal time?
Few teachers manage to have balance in their lives. The best teachers definitely do. Why? They make time for it.
Most teachers haven’t streamlined their grading, assessment, and planning practices enough to leave school at school, instead bringing school home with them, possibly forgoing other interests. There’s no time for anything else beyond necessary errands and family needs. That’s a sure path towards burnout. It’s good to balance teaching and, well, not teaching…anything other than teaching, in fact. For me, it’s drumming.
So, Magister P is taking a break today. Hi, my name is Lance, and I’m going to show you how I just put together a “quiet kit” apartment drumset. Why? Well, when your normal drumset looks like this, neighbors aren’t going to be happy…
I agree with Justin Slocum Bailey that something great can come from nothing. Most teachers fall into the habit of planning waaaay too much. Even if all that planning is enjoyable, somehow, it often results in insignificant gains in student happiness and/or proficiency. In the spirit of “no fail no burnout,” then, plan whatever you have to in order to sleep well at night, but begin class ready for any compelling diversion to take you away from those plans! Sometimes a sentence is all you need, and depending on the content, a single word (e.g. One Word Image, or One Word Drawing).