Friday, February 09, 2007

First-Year Advice...

Here is some great advice that Mr. Khaki Pants left on one of the first-year blogs. The first-year was feeling burned out...

"take a break! i recommend a Fri/Mon combo; it makes for 2 four-day weeks with an extra-long weekend in between. very cool. if you're burnt out, you won't be doing anyone any good. give your students a breather, let them miss you, and take the space you need and deserve. i promise you, it's worth it. they're already 3-5 years behind; you missing a few days won't ruin their lives; in fact, it'll make you a more productive teacher when you return.

advice on saving time:

step away from your grading system, and design a quicker one that works for you. (1) DON'T GRADE EVERYTHING (2) use a "done" / "not done" system or a "check-plus," "check," "check-minus" completion grade (3) throw away ungraded papers: if your students won't remember doing it, don't grade it (3) use a student assistant to grade for you -- this is hard to come by as a first-year teacher but an amazing time-saver.

if you hold detention in your room, use your detention students to organize your student portfolios/ conference records. if you trust your students (or want to build trust), ask a few to grade for you. it's amazing how quickly three students can burn through a pile of "done" / "not done" papers.

as an english teacher, i know how frustrating it can be to want to read everything that every student writes. but that's impossible. IMPOSSIBLE. if you teach 120 students (conservative estimate) and want each of them to write 2 pages per week (conservative estimate), you're asking yourself to read and correct 240 pages of handwritten papers every week! on top of lesson plans, phone calls, extra-curriculars, and life? impossible. with practice, you'll get better at scanning papers and grading holistically at-a-glance. (i grade for accuracy when i know my students need a skills-check before a test and if i have time. and even grading that in-depth has gotten quicker with practice.)

as a teacher, i want the burden of work to be on my students: let them do the heavy-lifting -- whether its loads of worksheets or lots of writing or tons of reading, THEY need the practice, not me. my honors students submit homework assignments every day (sometimes multiple assignments); if i read every word, i'd still be grading term 1 assignments (a mistake i made last year). if i never handed them back, my students are smart enough to realize my inadequacy and to cease working.

so, i make certain to grade as quickly as possible, putting check marks on pages as i flip through them looking for glaring omissions, so they'll have motivation to improve -- and "improvement" often just means following directions. a straight-forward, easy-to-grade-from rubric is the way to go. if the handwriting is illegible -20, if it's in pencil -10, if it's late -20, if it's incomplete -x. if it looks like the student followed directions and put in an honest effort, i give it a 100 and scan for a mistake or two to circle. i write "wow!" for encouragement and can finish a class in a few minutes. grading papers the day they're collected feels great. putting them off indefinitely has ruined many of my weeks. students love getting graded assignments back, and nothing encourages them to pay attention for a period like receiving a 100 at the start of class for something they did last class.

an easy way to get documentation of parent contacts is to send home monthly progress reports or tests to be signed. give a daily grade (or extra credit on the test) for signatures. it’s an easy way to log parent contacts for many of your students. then you just need to chase down those who refuse to return a signed paper.

if none of this is helpful, but just more of the same old bs you keep hearing, please give me a call. and, at the very least, take a break."

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