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”

Encountering Parents in the Wild

On the first day of Summer, I was up before dawn and off to the local coffee shop. The plan was to go in to the district office at 7:30 am to earn some overtime working with fellow teachers planning next year’s curriculum. But before that, I wanted to get in 90 minutes typing my next book Make Them Score It, the follow up to my first title Make Them Process It.

The plan was to have a quiet, contemplative, and focused morning. That’s not quite what happened. The gentleman sitting next to me, who appeared to be getting an early jump on his work as well, was very friendly, and we started talking. Continue reading “Encountering Parents in the Wild”

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!”

School’s Out: Closing the Book on My Thirteenth Year of Teaching

It’s been a while since I have posted. The last time I wrote for Make Them Master It, I was beginning to explore what it would look like to ditch the grade book and go gradeless in the classroom. I was excited to post about what I was learning and get the conversation going here. But then something got in the way: grading essays.

So, the growing education trend I was getting really excited about (going gradeless in the classroom) had to wait until I was done . . . grading? And the assessment that I set myself up for during that time was intense! For catharsis at the time, I even used the Twitter hashtag #AmGrading.

But it was rewarding. More on that some other time. Continue reading “School’s Out: Closing the Book on My Thirteenth Year of Teaching”