What is the Goal of Teaching?

To get students college and career ready?

To help students achieve their highest earning potential?

To get an A?

It might sound a little strange, but I like to think that my goal as a teacher is to work myself out of the job. When I say this, I am picturing the tradition of an apprentice learning from a master in his or her craft. Eventually the apprentice learns enough to take the show on the road alone and no longer needs the instruction of the master. This is how I I would like to view my relationship with my students.

If that’s really the goal of my teaching, then my students need to be ready to do everything that I am teaching them without me. They should not have to constantly run to me for validation, “What do you think? Am I doing this right? How good/bad is this?” Let’s think back to those pre-teaching years of our adult lives, when we first entered the world of work. In our time as employees, imagine if we did what I’m describing with our bosses. Imagine that we constantly knocked on their door to run everything by them. How frustrated would the boss be? And, as bosses, how effective would they be at their job if they had to stop and assess every little task their employees were performing? I imagine that company would go under pretty quick.

But how is grading every little assignment the students turn in any different? Grading each discrete task submitted makes us micro-managers. No wonder we’re frustrated in those seasons when grades are due! Continue reading “What is the Goal of Teaching?”

Why I Almost Quit

In my seventh year of teaching, when I was really hitting my stride as a classroom instructor, I was ready to quit. I didn’t want to. I loved teaching. The best way to put it is that I had hit a crisis. In plainest terms, people experience crisis when their behavior and choice patterns no longer work work for them, requiring some kind of change. Another way to put it is, “What has “worked” up until this point WILL NOT work from here on out.” That was me. I felt stuck in an endless loop that was wearing me down more and more each day.

My crisis centered around guilt. And this was no ordinary guilt, where I found myself going between two sides. This guilt loop had three elements, one for each of my main roles at the time: teacher, spouse, and parent. I had responsibilities for each role, and I wasn’t handling any of them well. Maybe I had people fooled, or maybe they were just being kind to me, but inside I was all tangled up in knots. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do next for any of those roles, and felt like I was frantically running from one to the next. That caused a lot of stress, and I was exhausting. I was at quit point. Continue reading “Why I Almost Quit”

Think-Pair-Share Is Overrated!

I teach at the high school level. I have only been teaching for 13 years. But when I entered the profession, pretty much every classroom had students sitting in rows while a teacher stood up front and lectured, gave direct instruction, read from PowerPoint slides, whatever you want to call it.

The picture is unmistakable: an active teacher up front talking while students passively sit and listen in their desks. Almost all classrooms looked like this, and mine was no exception. To get students more engaged, in the 1990s and 2000s, teachers were trained in different strategies, but Think-Pair-Share (TPS) was ubiquitous.

Now, if a teacher only uses direct instruction, and then learns how to use TPS, then that teacher should absolutely use it. But if a teacher has several strategies and some skill for engagement, then it’s time to evolve past TPS. Continue reading “Think-Pair-Share Is Overrated!”

Does Your Rubric Punish Students?

I’m going to make a prediction that you might not like. After reading this post, you’re going to see that you are doing rubrics all wrong.

But that’s okay. I had bad rubrics for years too. In spite of their poor quality, my students were still learning. Yours are too. But maybe our students at that time did not really feel like learners. There was a time when the rubrics I used to score my students’ assignments made them feel like losers. Continue reading “Does Your Rubric Punish Students?”

3 Ways to Wrangle the PIG!

“I have to plan the next unit.”

“What am I going to teach tomorrow? And how am I going to teach it?”

“But I have to grade these papers!”

Planning, instruction, and grading–if you’re like me, these three elements of teaching huddle up and, like specters, follow you around all year long. Each takes its turn whispering in your ear, especially grading.

It seems that right when you get one settled, one of the others crops up, jolting you with guilt, anxiety, or both. It seems never-ending.

Continue reading “3 Ways to Wrangle the PIG!”

3 FREE Tools to Make Writing Assessment Meaningful

Some time ago, I did a few posts (here, here and here) on tools I use for online grading. Since I am in the middle of assessing a big student paper, I thought I would shoot a quick video of how I use in writing assessment.

The three tools are . . .

Continue reading “3 FREE Tools to Make Writing Assessment Meaningful”

Helping You KNOW They Comprehend The Reading

After years of teaching expository text, I have finally stumbled upon a miracle way to assess my students’ ability (or inability) to comprehend a short expository text. It’s not a four step summary, a rhetorical precis, or a well-crafted summary template using They Say/I Say sentence frames. It’s a selected response, multiple choice assessment . . . plus a brief constructed response.

teaching-arguments

First thing’s first. I can’t take credit for this. I found it in Jennifer Fletcher’s Teaching Arguments: Rhetorical Comprehension, Critique, and Response. It is an incredible book! A revelation!

I taught AP English Language and Composition for 10 years and thought I knew how to teach rhetoric and argumentation. Then I read this book and it filled in so many missing pieces for me. I could go on, and perhaps I will in another post, but let’s get back to the topic at hand. Continue reading “Helping You KNOW They Comprehend The Reading”