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Good Teaching Takes Time!

Updated: Sep 21, 2021




On your mark, get set, go! And, you’re off. The race to teach your curriculum in 180 days has begun. Inevitably, there will be obstacles to overcome or navigate around and you will have to carry all of your students with you as you go. To add to your difficulty, you will be evaluated on how well both you and your students perform regardless of their personal effort, ability or background upon entering the race.

If you have been teaching for any length of time, you know how difficult it is to “cover” all of the curriculum standards that states require in the span of single school year. Planning for this task is no problem. Teachers are master planners. However, factors outside of your control (student absences, school assemblies, classroom interruptions, SPED, ESOL, and 504 accommodation requirements) cause route changes, backtracking, and unscheduled detours that interfere with your yearly curriculum plan. In an effort to “catch up”, you naturally quicken the pace. Consequently, you end up leaving some students behind.


If you are like me, the thought of leaving students behind is unacceptable. Educators are driven to see their students succeed and are willing to push themselves hard to “get the job done”. We don’t like to fail, nor do we want our students to fail. This is a good character trait. This type of drive leads to success, but if we are not careful, it can also take the joy out of life, teaching, and learning. So, what do you do? Give up, change your goals, or accept failure? The answer may surprise you.


As a runner, I enjoy being outside. I love to run trails, smell the clean air, listen to wildlife, and just enjoy the natural surroundings. But sometimes, I try to finish a certain distance in a set amount of time. As such, I am unable to relax and take it all in. It is less enjoyable to be certain, but necessary if I want to improve performance. I keep my love of running intact by limiting these “hard days” and making sure I give myself enough opportunities to enjoy the process on other days. It is not my goal to be the number one endurance athlete in the world or to win a marathon, but to stay healthy and enjoy life. Life is short and hard enough. It is more important to me at this stage in my life to be healthy, happy, balance work and life, and to make the most of every day. I have learned not to focus on driving myself so hard trying to meet the expectations that are placed on me by others or to get everything done I may have planned.


The classroom is no different. I propose that as educators, you consider a different way of life. Consider what life would be like if you took the time to teach your curriculum at a pace that is more pleasurable to both you and your students. Good teaching takes time, time to conduct activities that lead to a deeper understanding of key concepts that will lead to future success. Adopt a pace that allows more class time for assignments rather than piling on of hours of stressful homework (Homework you will have to grade). If you don’t get through a set number of standards by Christmas, that is okay. You have done your best and more importantly, you are giving yourself and your students an opportunity to enjoy learning and enjoy life. Instead of running the school year like a race, consider planning it like a nature hike. Accept that you may not cover all the standards, but students will grow to enjoy learning rather than dreading it. Accept that your evaluations will be influenced by some factors that are beyond your control. Realize that the system as it is currently set up is flawed, impossible, and unsustainable. Most importantly, realize that it is not worth your health or happiness to attempt to meet the unrealistic demands of current education requirements.


I know what you may be thinking. “But, I will be evaluated by how well my students perform on a standardized test.” I know, we are all in that boat. The difference is, I have found that student achievement increases when I take this approach. At some point, you (and school leaders) must realize that you and your students are human beings, not interchangeable factory parts. You are not a machine. You need and deserve a balanced and happy life. Neither students nor teachers should dread coming to school. So repeat after me, "It is what it is. I will do my best and that is good enough." A happy, healthy teacher is a better teacher and happy, healthy students learn better!

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