Look at how you spend your work time. It will show what is most important to you. As a teacher it seems there is always something that demands your attention… meetings, making copies, fixing the copy machine, planning, grading, phone calls…
I love Kara’s thoughts about work/life balance and time saving tips and they got me thinking.
My first few years felt a lot like this:
If you’re anything like me you’ve probably spending too much time grading. Time that could have been used on something more valuable to our students. So after a while I started asking myself this question.
Reason #1: My school expects it!
Reality: My school wanted grades to be updated each week. They never said how many grades we needed to enter. I was collecting a ton of work and making it much harder on myself! Regular updates aren’t the problem. What if I only chose 2 things to record as grades each week? What best shows what my students are able to do?
Reason #2: Students want to know how they are doing!
Reality: Do they really look at the work when I pass it back? Does that check mark in the corner mean something to them? Do they even remember this assignment? Students need feedback, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a grade. A few minutes discussing proficiency, something they are doing well, and one way to improve means more to my students than 50 graded papers!
Reason #3: Students won’t do it if I don’t grade it.
Reality: This might be true (at first), but eventually class becomes more about… learning! Time to be honest…
Is the activity/assignment helpful? If not, then they don’t need to be doing it. I want my grades to match proficiency, not compliance. My time is better spent finding a more appropriate activity for the next day instead of grading something that didn’t help them learn/grow.
Did I offer them a choice? Students are much more motivated if they have a say in how they learn. I try to always give two options… partner or alone, iMovie or Adobe Voice, magazine or website, summarize article or ask 3 questions. If a student doesn’t like my options, I have them help me brainstorm another way to accomplish the same task. Oh, and Friday feedback was a powerful tool to help me plan for the next week.
Are they bored? Students get tired of repetitive practice. Am I challenging them with a task they might see in the real world? They need to be solving problems, using new tech (of their choice) to communicate, connecting with native speakers, or investigating how other countries compare to “home.” Once I find out what engages them, I don’t need to use grades to motivate them (carrot or stick).
Here’s another perspective:
That seems more in line with what I believe is important and what helps my students. So to wrap this up, time is limited. Find ways to spend more of your precious time doing the things that are most helpful to our students. If some of the grading isn’t necessary… cut it out!