Happy summer, fellow teachers! I hope you’re enjoying your time away from the hallways of a school building and rejuvenating yourself for a new year. If you’re anything like me, and I’m sure you are, you’re probably thinking, “There’s not enough time!” Even in these summer months I’ve managed to commit myself to so many tasks – school-related and otherwise. However, when September rolls around, I know that feeling will be amplified. I’ve never met a teacher that brags they’re bored or just don’t have enough to do (if you ever do – PLEASE send them my way! I’d love to encourage them to write a million dollar book on how to get there!). We’re constantly complaining, “We can’t do that, too! There just isn’t enough time!”
Like I implied, I haven’t found the secret to fitting everything in. Teaching less isn’t an option. Teaching longer days or more days per year isn’t an option for me. Making life miserable for kids isn’t an option either. The best thing I have come up with is to ensure my teaching is these 3 things:
There are so many skills that I am responsible for teaching students each and every day. I have played with my classroom schedule again and again, being ‘creative’ to the point of becoming ineffective. It simply never all fits. The best way I have found to be sure I can help my students meet standard in all areas has been to integrate instructional areas. Instead of teaching each subject in isolation, finding ways to teach multiple standards at once has proven to be beneficial. For example, in my district, a team of teachers has been creating instructional materials that align with a science textbook but uses vocabulary, research, and comprehension strategies as the instructional mode. For each lesson students are working with reading and writing strands as well as science strands. Not only does this allow you to increase the area covered at once as a teacher, but it provides authentic learning experiences for the students. Life doesn’t happen in a 45 minute social studies block, a 45 minute writing block and a 30 minute lunch period. Critical thinking skills and integration of knowledge is key to success in the ‘real world.’
I thrive on finding ways to integrate instructional content. However, I wholeheartedly believe that this cannot be done without intentionality. The key to being successful in doing this is being fully immersed in all of your standards and looking for ways to very deliberately match them. When teaching summarizing and plant structures at the same time, I, as the teacher, am committed to providing learning objectives in all areas. I have my learning targets made known to students and student-friendly measurements of success in each area. It is very common in my classroom for one lesson to have a science target, a reading target, and a speaking target.
Very early in my career, I did something I am so embarrassed by today. I taught in a school where I was responsible for music instruction, as specialists were used in other areas. Each trimester, I would use content songs in my content instruction and then do the unthinkable. I would write on every report card, “Music integrated into content.” and give each student a passing mark. NO! Music was not integrated! I simply used a (great) teaching strategy of using songs and chants to learn material. I did not teach music. To this day, I feel horrible for being so ineffective for those students. I hope the relationships I created with them and the love I had for them helped ensure they learned, but I can say with certainty they did not have the MOST effective teacher. Which brings me to my last focus …
If I am to be deliberate with the limited time I do have with students, the connections I make between content areas will be completely based on the standards provided (in my case CCSS, NGSS, and state criteria). Not only that, but my instructional strategies will be completely aligned with the teaching standards I’m held to (in my case CEL5D+ criteria). In my new teacher days I did not know what the music standards were, or probably even where to find them. I certainly was not qualified to teach this subject, let alone evaluate students on it. Sadly, my students never knew they were being ‘evaluated’ (if you could even call it that), nor how they could demonstrate mastery over whatever it was I was looking for in them. I’m VERY proud to say I have since grown as a teacher and am more purposeful in my instruction.
By no means have I solved the NETP (Not Enough Time Problem!), but here’s how I’m coping for now. It has been beneficial for students to have authentic learning experiences with clear goals and target criteria.
How do you fit everything into your short days?
I grew up here in Western Washington, wanting to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. As the oldest child in my family, I had plenty of opportunities to "practice" teaching my younger siblings. I enjoyed this. They may not have. :) When I'm not working, I enjoy outdoor activities with my husband and our two Australian Shepherds (whom are far too spoiled for their own good!). I also love spending time with my family, being an auntie (to the cutest kids ever to grace this planet!), hosting dinner parties for friends, crafting, taking photographs and shopping.