We Have Less Control Over Things Than You Think We Do
The state adopts standards that we have to teach. The Board of Education approves programs that we’re required to use. The district’s administrators are under pressure to improve test scores, and that filters down to us. We may be “there for the kids,” but we’re also employees. So while we may want to teach your child other things and in other ways, we usually have less discretion than you suspect. When you complain about our math program, you put us in a difficult position. We might very well agree with you, but saying so would be unprofessional.
We Do It All Ourselves
We Forget Stuff
We’re Really Busy
We’re More Annoyed Than You About Buying School Supplies
We Don’t Really Want Your Kids’ Toys and Electronics
We Might Not Want Your Help
If We Meet With You Before or After School, We’re Working for Free (and We Might Resent It)
There’s Not Much I Can Do To Punish Your Kid
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“The reason teachers are so tired at the end of the school day is that they have been working. If I worked as hard as many teachers do, I’d be as tired too. But have you ever noticed what happens at 3 0‘clock when the students leave? “Yea, yea, yea!” Why are they so full of energy? Because they have been sitting in school all day doing nothing while the teacher does all the work. The person who does all the work is the only one doing any learning!”
Doing less benefits me. It also benefits my students.
I’m in a better mood at work because I’m less stressed. My better mood means I’m more patient with students. Being well-rested means I’m less likely to make bad decisions and more likely to be calm, use humor, and build positive relationships with students and colleagues. It makes for a more pleasant environment for everybody.
My well-being directly impacts my students.
While doing less work benefits me, which in turn benefits my students, it also makes me a more effective teacher.
Reduce Behavior Problems
But that’s now how anyone in the real world works. When I wrote my book Happy Teacher, no one gave me a stack of articles and books to read. No one provided links to the best web sites on happiness. I had to find them. I had to decide which ones best served my purposes. I had to select what information to use. I decided how much and what parts of each book to read. I had to evaluate the sources. This is the work students should be doing. When we do it for them, we miss powerful opportunities to teach authentic skills.
This year, for a unit on Native Americans, I did less work. Students did more. They collaborated to create a Google Slides presentation about three Native American groups that lived in Michigan. I provided the guidelines and different colored index cards to record notes. I modeled some of the skills outlined above. Then I set out every resource I had in my closet and let kids have at it. I allowed them to search online for videos. My role was limited to offering guidance, getting kids unstuck, and teaching lessons on evaluating the resources for how well they helped students meet the guidelines.
Some groups did well, others didn’t. They may not have all learned everything they were supposed to about Native Americans of Michigan, but they did all learn about working in a group, managing their time, evaluating resources, the importance of design in their presentations, and many other lessons that are more applicable to the real world that what kinds of houses the Chippewa built (wigwams, if you’re curious). And besides, they don’t all learn what they’re supposed to learn when I do all the work, either.
Enlist Their Help
So as I start thinking about next year, I’ll be looking for more areas where I can pull back and ask my students to step forward. If you have suggestions, please leave them in the comments.
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Stop Punishing Yourself
Those Students Need Recess the Most
Everyone Deserves a Break
It Doesn’t Work
The Lone Exception
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Why You Should Not Use Whole Class Punishments
Why You Should Use Whole Class Punishments
I have the students working together to earn their recess each day. It’s quite simple to earn recess. All they have to do is end the day without two checks on the board. However, if they get two checks in one day, they lose recess and write the rules during that time to refocus on what they as a team need to be doing to be successful.
It never fails that someone will say that they weren’t doing anything wrong, and therefore, it’s not fair they lost their recess…I tell them it’s similar to when I used to play soccer. In some games I may be playing great and even score a goal. But if we aren’t playing well as a team and our defense lets up three goals, we still lose. I still lose the game despite my good performance.
- This class is a team, and we will succeed or fail as a team.
- Behavior is everyone’s business. If you see someone doing something they shouldn’t, get them to stop because that behavior is going to harm all of us.
- This classroom will reflect the real world.