Life Hacks, Inspired By Students From McFadden

The estimated reading time for this post is 2 minutes

A photo by Sonja Langford.

When we were at McFadden on Friday, we asked the students if they were to do their own live show, what it would be about. One of the students said that they would do a show about life hacks for students, like things that would make someone’s life easier as a student.  This got me thinking, what if we shared “teacher hacks” or something that has made all the difference in the world for us that we know has made us better, more efficient teachers, principals, employees, students, or people?  It could be anything, small or big.  I know I’m not a teacher right now, but I have so many things that I could share that made all the difference for me when I was in the classroom.  For now, I will share one.

You Don’t Have To Grade Everything!!

Ok, so before you throw tomatoes at me, just hear me out.  When I was a newer teacher, probably in my first 3 years, a mentor teacher saw me at my desk late one night with a stack of papers so high she could barely see my face behind them.  She asked what I was going to do with all of the papers, and I told her that of course I was going to be up all night grading them.  At that moment she did something that would change my teaching career forever.  She gave me permission not to grade the papers, and told me that not all papers were for grading. She said some were for just for looking at while the students were doing them, and giving immediate feedback in the classroom.  She told me that the energy I would have in the classroom the next day would affect them more than any paper I could give back to them.  She told me that if I was happy and present for the students every minute of the class period that it mattered more than a grade.

It took me awhile, and I tried it.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I still graded things, but I never let the stress of grading papers get in the way of who I was going to be in the classroom.  If it was a choice between being alert, happy, energetic, and fully present for my students, and grading papers, I chose the former.  Over time, I let go more and more of grading every little thing because I saw that the payoff was very small compared to the amount of time it was taking.  I wanted to do things that were high value, that produced the most results with the limited time I had. We all know that time is a limited commodity for teachers, so I just chose to fill it  with things that I knew would produce the most results for students, and I didn’t want to interrupt that with checking papers, and inputting things, especially when students were in the room. I decided that immediate feedback, being present 100% of the time in the class, constantly interacting with students, and engaging in rich discussions with a no opt-out policy, every minute of the period was the best use of my time.  I only had them for 1 hour a day, and I wanted to make it count.

Do you have any “teacher, principal, employee, or life hacks” that have made things more efficient for you and or the students?  Let’s share them with each other!

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