From a book I am reading, by writer’s I highly respect, comes this statement, “Whatever it takes — that’s the job of a teacher.”
A statement like this sets off alarms in my head, but for this Monday, I want to do something that I ask of my students. When they first read a text, I ask my students to read “with the grain.” That means they are going to accept it as true, agree with the author, and see what’s there. Later they are asked to read against the grain, which we will do later this week. For now, let’s go with it.
Teaching is a demanding job, especially for those who are teaching a core subject that has a high stakes test attached to it. Just think about taking a group of 30+ young adults and leading them all to do the same thing at the same time, even if it is something fun. If you add in that they are at differing ability levels, differing literacy levels, and differing motivational levels, anyone can see this is reaching a level of complexity that can make a person’s head spin. I could go on listing all the challenges that teaching in the classroom presents, but let’s switch gears.
Considering all the complexities, is there anything else you can do? Have you done, whatever it takes to make the students successful?
Teaching English Language Arts at the high school level, every time a lesson doesn’t go as good as I hoped, I am reflecting about how to make it better. I am constantly refining my written directions to make them just a little bit clearer. The same goes for my success criteria, usually in the form of a rubric or scoring guide. And if when I am teaching three sections of a course, I am silently asking first period’s forgiveness, when fifth period had my best performance of that lesson during the day. But am I doing whatever it takes?
Can you feel the guilt creeping in? If you’re like me, you’re looking at all that you do, maybe making a list, counting off with your fingers, getting more animated as you go, justifying that change is unnecessary because of how hard you work! In the end, however, that question haunts you and you slump your shoulders and admit, “no.”
Before any of us go on a guilt trip, let’s stop and get the needle moving in the right direction. Let’s start with one thing. Just one thing. In your quest to do “whatever it takes,” what is one thing you can add or tweak to your teaching practice that will get you one small step closer to “doing it all”?
For me, that one thing is parent communication. I tend to wait for parents to contact me instead of bringing concerns to them. Also, if a student does something great, I keep that to myself too. I should do more to reach out to them. Phone calls, emails, whatever.
How about you?