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Posts Tagged ‘state standards’

Like never before, the pressure on teachers is ever increasing. With PL221, No Child Left Behind, Standardized Testing scores, and a myriad of other “indicators,” you will increasingly feel like there are never enough hours in the day. While it is possible to work eighteen hours a day on teaching—I have done it—it is not, in fact, healthy. It took me ten years of teaching to realize that there were limits on my physical body, and that it is not wise to push those.

So listen up! This is important. Are you listening? You have permission to go to sleep—even if you haven’t finished all of your grading. I know, I know. It just means that much more for you to do tomorrow. I understand, and I’ve been there. I was one of those non-worksheet English teachers with plenty of essays and many hours logged in at the Barnes and Noble café, which incidentally is a great place to grade. My goal is always to hand things back the next day, usually because I know I will be getting more things to grade that night. But, somewhere along the line, I realized that my students would much rather wait a day or even a week to get a paper back and have a pleasant, well-rested teacher, than get papers back immediately from a teacher who was up to all hours of the night grading and now has no patience. Let’s face it, most of us are grouchy when we operate on little to no sleep.  Now that I teach history, I explain to my students that at 1 minute a page, with 180 students, that is 3 hours of my life.  The average test takes at least 10 minutes to grade, so that’s 30 hours outside of school.  I now tell my students (and their parents) if they get tests back before two weeks, to consider that a blessing.  When I explain the timing, they understand.

In addition to grading, you also can’t possibly teach everything your state expects you to. If your state is anything like Indiana, your state standards were written by people who have either never been in a classroom, or certainly didn’t work with the kind of kids I see every day. If they did, there is no way they would expect what they do. So, knowing that, my advice is this: Prioritize! Look at the skills covered on your state tests. Make sure you cover these. Once you’ve done that, critically examine your subject matter. What are the skills they will need in the next grade to be successful? If possible, talk to the teacher they will have the following year. Ask him or her for their “dream list” of skills they would like their incoming students to possess. Cover those. Then, what will help them in life, even if they never take a course like yours again? Look for opportunities to teach life lessons, and you will find tons. Be honest. How much do you really remember from high school? What you remember is the impact of the person and the WAY to study, not the material itself. My 11th grade history teacher Mr. Jackson gave me the powerful advice that students remember the things with which they emotionally connect (usually the teacher, not the subject).

Finally, teach what you’re passionate about. Remember what you loved about your subject. It really is your passion which ignites a student’s imagination. As Danny Silk says, “I’m going to have fun because there’s nothing worse than me being bored while you watch.”  If you love your material, they will pay attention. I didn’t like Science and it wasn’t easy for me, but I loved Chemistry and Physics because Mr. Minor was so passionate about it. His excitement made it impossible for me to not care. Your passion will encourage them to care.  So remember what you love, and care for yourself so it’s still enjoyable!

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