Teaching is not easy.
Your heart expands to fit 25-30 (sometimes more!) new young people each year - complex & complete human beings, with needs, desires, and struggles. Meanwhile, your mind gets pulled in a million directions: standards, staff meetings, assessments, parent communication, committees, recess duty...
Teaching can be easiER, however.
One month into my first year as a teacher, a colleague saw me organizing binders and pencils after school. "What are you doing?!" she laughed. She then proceeded to rock my world: "Stop doing everything for them," she said. Organizing materials is not only something students CAN do, but they SHOULD do; giving students responsibility for class materials will help them, because they'll know where and how things are kept and access them on their own. "If you want to train them to simply *show up* and follow your lead, then keep doing everything for them. If you want students to learn how to lead their own lives (and you want to stop staying here so late at night!), you'll give them the ability to take charge."
It changed my teaching life. Not only did my students organize materials, but they came up with the systems and organizational structure of the classroom, and by creating it themselves they had systems that worked for them and that they used on their own. No more staying late to put things away/set things up for me!
That made me hungry for more. The empowerment I saw students have with materials and daily routines? I wanted more of it. How could I help my students take charge of their LEARNING in the same way they took charge of their class supplies? Ten years of teaching - ten powerful, challenging, unforgettable years - but eventually I left the classroom to figure this problem out.
Teachers carry too great of a burden on their shoulders right now; they are the only ones who know everything that needs to be learned that year, and they have to keep track of how everyone is doing on the journey. I see now that it's like me 11 years ago, staying late to sharpen all the pencils. What are we doing?! Stop doing everything for them!
There is a better way. Giving students the big picture of everything they need to learn, and a guidebook to chart their learning and develop metacognition changes everything. Teaching isn't easy, but it can be easiER when all of the students know what they're at school to learn and are charting their own progress. I've seen it now, over and over again in CoreAtlas classrooms: it's like students realize they're on the same team with the teacher, all heading toward the same goals, and they can all help each other get there. With a map, students can help guide their own (and each other's!) way.
It's like my wise colleague said years ago: "If you want to train them to simply *show up* and follow your lead, then keep doing everything for them. If you want students to learn how to lead their own lives (and you want to stop staying here so late at night!), you'll give them the ability to take charge."
- Sara Niesen