Opinion
Teaching Profession Opinion

Buried Alive: A Cautionary Tale About Piles of Work

By Starr Sackstein — October 15, 2014 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

I’m not one of those teachers who looks for reasons to stay home.

As a matter of fact, I’m the opposite.

I go to school sick, in pain and often sleep deprived because the time I spend with students is precious and there is never enough of it to go around.

Usually, even when I’m home, work doesn’t pile up because a day “off” is a day to read student blogs, catch up on giving feedback, make myself available via email and text during class hours.

I don’t do “off” very well.

Unfortunately, sometimes we can’t be available and when we don’t clear the emails or the shared work, they build up like dirty dishes in a sink in desperate need of attention.

But students are more important than dishes and feedback not given can result in dire consequences. This is the exact reason why teachers can’t be the only source of feedback in a classroom. Students must be empowered to help each other and themselves.

Here are some ways to help ease back into the classroom without the burden of piles of student work:


  • Ask yourself, “Why do I feel a need to control everything in our learning space? What is holding me back from allowing students to take responsibility for their own learning?” Often, we get in our own way, refusing to relinquish control in fear of it not being done correctly or the sky falling or any other catastrophe that ends because we didn’t do it. Seems silly when you hear it like that, but really, what would happen if you let kids be empowered?
  • Ask yourself, “Which of these assignments can be turned into a class workshop experience?” 95% of the time, feedback can be given in class and students can help. Being out of school is a great opportunity to teach students to learn this important skill. For example, today when I returned to my 9th grade journalism class, rather than independently reading all of their first drafts, I had the opportunity to let those students who hadn’t finished work on them and the rest of the class was split into groups to give feedback on specific elements of news writing we discussed.
  • Ask yourself, “How can I empower students to take control of this assignment?” Can you meet with them in class as they work on their own revisions?
  • Ask yourself, “Can I teach a lesson on how to make specific revisions before they resubmit?”
  • Ask yourself, “How can I get students to reflect on their learning and couple that with what has already been done?”
  • Ask yourself, “Does this work need to be graded at all, or can an alternative assignment be provided that shows what students know and compliments the first one which was practice?” Can you try using an app like Voxer to give voice feedback instead of written feedback when one on one conferences can’t be done in person?

We need to be working smarter as teachers. Putting students in charge of their own learning, allows them to do the heavy lifting, leaving us free to facilitate help as needed which is a more effective use of our time.

Let’s face it, life happens and we won’t be able to stay on top of everything, all the time. But if we give students the skills to move forward on their own we solve many challenges at once and who isn’t for solving problems?

How do you handle your backlog when life complicates your plans? Please share.

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Opinion ‘A Culture of Care’: How Schools Can Alleviate Educator Stress This Year
It takes more than deep breathing to alleviate the stress teachers feel. Here's how to get to the root cause.
Sean Slade & Alyssa Gallagher
6 min read
shutterstock 740616958 resized
Shutterstock
Teaching Profession Reported Essay Students Aren’t the Only Ones Grieving
Faced with so many losses stemming from the pandemic, what can be done to help teachers manage their own grief?
4 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Teaching Profession We Feel Your Grief: Remembering the 1,000 Plus Educators Who've Died of COVID-19
The heartbreaking tally of lives lost to the coronavirus continues to rise and take a steep toll on school communities.
3 min read
090321 1000 Educators Lost BS
Education Week
Teaching Profession Letter to the Editor Educators Have a Responsibility to Support the Common Good
A science teacher responds to another science teacher's hesitation to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
1 min read