To be very honest, I think I finally realized what ‘busy’ meant, was when I had my daughter. My husband and I often crash after a day, look at each other, and say, ‘Remember when we used to be soooooo busy before we had a kid?’ Then we laugh.
When my priorities changed and my life began to revolve around one single little life (prime example – I was late to #flipclass chat tonight because it was bedtime and we needed some snuggle time), I quickly learned that I really don’t want to be working as much as I used to at home. So I became much more efficient in my work at school. This also changed my outlook on what I expect of my students outside of my class. While I imagine (like all teachers do) that my class is the most important (;p), I acknowledge they also have up to 6 (even 7) other classes, a job, a sport(s), friends, the drama of being teenagers, and a family (for most) who would really, really like to spend time with them.
Yup. My students are stressed out.
I like to think I try to lighten their stress level, rather than add to it (although I’m sure I do at times – hell, I do it to myself often enough). I’ve found over the last few years a few things that seem to help keep my students’ (and mine for that matter) blood pressure at a reasonable level.
- Keep it Simple Mentality: I make a point to not over complicate – my subject is pretty intense on its own, so my ‘out of class’ work is kept (usually) to two things – vodcasts & studying/review – Both of these are done at the pace of the student, and can vary in length based on unit & need. While it always is more beneficial a student have a vodcast complete by the date we discuss it, all my students have the entire unit to complete them without fear of grade penalty. Many have figured out the value of doing them on time, but allowing the timeframe to extend the length of the unit has limited stress and many more complete it on time than don’t.
- Purposeful Work: I’ve become much more reflective in asking the reason behind why I assign something. I will not give work outside of class unless there is no other way around it. If it is not needed – they don’t get it. There is no need to add more to their plates ‘just because.’ And because they don’t always have work to do outside of class, they know I must have a really good reason when they do.
- What’s in a Name?: This may sound a bit silly, but I decided to change the phrase on my agenda from ‘Homework’ to ‘For Next Class.’ This wasn’t just a change in semantics, it was a change in attitude. The work I put there was meant to be completed by the next time we meet. It could be done whenever – during class if time was there was time (and since converting to flipped learning – this happens often), in a study hall, before school, after school with me…the key was that it didn’t have to be done at home.
So it turns out that by placing less on my students’ plates outside of class, we actually make more out the time we have together. This may be all anecdotal – and some will argue that I don’t have the data to back this up, but I’ve been at this long enough to know when things are better. We do have tough days but, by paying attention to my students, by listening to them, and by getting to know that my class is not the center of their universe – we breathe easier, and learn more.