One of my favorite things to do is write letters. Maybe you've noticed? I write response letters to all of my students, but I also like to keep in touch with other people through old-fashioned letter writing. I don’t care if most people use email or social media now, I think an old-school, handwritten letter is still one of the coolest things to send and receive. It’s exciting to open the mailbox and find words from a person you care about. Right now I have two former student pen pals for two very different reasons.
My first pen pal is Ava. She was my student for two years, and at the end of her 8th grade year she moved to Hawaii. Since that meant she wouldn’t be able to stop by and visit me, we made a deal: if she wrote the first letter, I would write back. And I’d keep writing back until she stopped sending me letters. We’ve been corresponding through snail mail since last June. My favorite thing about exchanging letters with Ava is that we both like to draw goofy cartoons along with what we’re writing, to try to make each other laugh. I miss her dearly, but those monthly letters are a way to keep our relationship going through years and distance.
I have a new pen pal as of this week, and it's vital to me to keep this one going. One of my students was expelled last week. I sent her a letter so she would know I still care about her, that everyone makes mistakes in life, we just have to work harder to get past the big ones. I didn’t want her to think that everyone in her life had abandoned her or was disappointed because of one screw up, and it was imperative for me to get that letter in her hands. Honestly, I didn’t know if she would even write me back, but she did, and she asked if we could keep writing letters to each other to stay in touch. It was one of those rare perfect moments when best intentions met with desired results. My letter was the lifeline she needed at that moment in time.
While Ava's letters fill me with smiles and laughter, these letters from my new pen pal make the air catch in my throat. I want there to be forgiveness and exceptions for students, even when they make big mistakes, even when I know the district had no choice but to discipline her.
I have no control whether this student is allowed to come back to my district next year, or whether she'll be lost to me forever. I don't have control over whether she continues down the path she's started on that resulted in the expulsion. The only control I have in this situation is letting this girl know every week how much I love and care about her, and that I believe in her ability to turn things around.
I sobbed at the dining room table the night I'd found out she'd been expelled, telling my husband that she was a kid I thought I could make a difference with, and I didn't know if I'd ever see her again. Through letters, I now have that chance. I know I can't save every kid who needs it, but I will do everything I can for this girl. I want that big hug as much as she does.
Letters are one of our most powerful forms of communication. Find someone who needs one, and send it.
I am giddy right now. I am so obnoxiously self-satisfied and ecstatic that I dare anyone to burst my bubble. Why? Because I just completed my grading and response letters for Trimester 2 Final papers in record time. Four days, to be exact. All grades posted within four days, and students will receive their feedback letters and rubrics less than a week after they turned their papers in. This year, my tenth year of teaching, is the year I have finally hit my peak of paper-turnaround efficiency. I'll give the basics in case you find something in my technique worth stealing.
1. Make a schedule in writing, and hold yourself accountable. Make sure the people in your life understand that this takes precedence right now, so you can be fully present later. I would rather miss one dinner with friends or family to get papers done in a timely manner than spend that gathering thinking of papers and hating myself for procrastinating. The people who love you will understand that there are times when work has to come first. Not all the time, but once in a while, for major papers. This happens three times per school year for me, at the end of each trimester. Other papers are not as high-stakes, and grading them can take a backseat to my life.
2. Satisfying and self-nurturing breaks are a required part of that schedule, no exceptions. I hold myself to a roughly "two hours on/one hour off" schedule for nights and weekends when I have major grading to complete. If I reach the end of a class period before the two hours is up, sometimes I will start my break early and enjoy the extra time. If I'm sufficiently rested after 30 minutes of break and ready to keep my grading groove going, I'll start back early. Do not think that working non-stop will be more productive. It isn't. Taking a step away from the work at regular intervals will make you more efficient in the end.
3. Read student writing with a focused purpose for your response. I've sung the praises of having students writer "Dear Reader" letters before, and I would never go back to high-stakes writing and grading without them. We often tell students to have a purpose in mind for their writing. We should all grade with this same emphasis on purpose. Note: purpose for grading is not "to get these done" or "to make them realize all the mistakes they made." Purpose for reading and grading is to gauge how well students were able to achieve their purpose as writers, and to help them in the major area where they fell short. You cannot and will not fix everything that's wrong and make it better. I have some students who spend an entire year working on improving one aspect of their writing (like organization). It's okay. Giving them the time and feedback they need on that one area could be what makes them a great writer someday. Addressing every mistake won't. I have all my students for two years in a row; I'm lucky enough to see the progression that many teachers can't after only one year.
4. Pick the biggest strength and the biggest weakness to address. It is proven that the brain can only process so much at a time, yet we constantly think developing kid-brains are capable of handling everything we throw at them. Stop. Start with the positive so they know you care about them and respect their work. Address the weakness that is most damaging to their effectiveness as a written communicator. Yes, I hate poor capitalization as much as any self-respecting English teacher. No, I do not think capitalization is more important than a coherent overall piece of writing. Most grammar/usage/mechanics errors are a choice. Hold the students accountable for that choice, and move beyond it. I never want my students to think that "good" writing is solely dependent on spelling/punctuation/capitalization. Writing is more than those things. If our feedback isn't more than that, we are not teaching writing, we are only teaching editing.
5. Remember that your student is a person, not just this piece of writing. It is okay to be disappointed in a piece of writing and the student's effort, and to let them know where they've fallen short. It is not okay to allow a child think one piece of writing is a reflection of his or her self worth. If you haven't been critically judged on your writing lately, take a class with a professor who grades the way you do. Do you like it? If not, change something about how you are responding to student work. We are fragile people, those of us who love the written word. Don't let holding the pen make you forget how it feels to read criticism of your work.
6. Use your words to give meaningful response on two things (see number 4), rather than crummy response on everything. I have never had a student from my earlier years of teaching thank me for the marginal comments and paragraphs I used to scrawl across their papers, highlighting every issue and strength. I have dozens over the past few years who tell me they keep my response letters. Some of them don't even remember the pieces of writing that I wrote the letter in response to, but they kept the letter from me because it was personal and I took the time to create meaningful writing just for them. I can read 5-7 papers and write 5-7 (two to three paragraph long) response letters in the time it used to take me to rip into three papers with a pen. Which option makes me more efficient as a grader? Which option makes me more efficient as a teacher? Which option creates a better overall climate for writing? The answer is obvious. People are often skeptical that in-depth letters could be more efficient than comments. They are. There is never any doubt. You know what I heard in the hallway when my students were talking about seeing their Tri 2 Final grades posted over the weekend? I can't wait 'til we get our letters from Mrs. Hauptsteen! I've never heard a student say that about marginal comments. Ever. Building relationships is the single most important part of teaching. We have the ability to solidify or destroy them with our feedback. Chose wisely.
7. Celebrate victories together. I tell my students my goals for when I'd like to have grades and letters back to them. I give them a daily update until that happens. I boast about my productivity. I tell them how difficult and rewarding it is. When I told them today that I finished the last one while they were taking Iowa Assessments, my sixth period 7th graders gave me a standing ovation. Even the kids who don't like me stood up, swept away in the wave of peer pressure. Some remembered that last trimester it took me six days, so this was a new record. They celebrated with me, for doing my job. You know what feels better than accomplishing the enormous task of grading your brains out for four days straight? Having kids be proud of you for it.
I know I get preachy when I talk about response to writing, and I hope that doesn't drive away those who disagree with my methods. I believe that every good, reflective teacher has one core belief about their practice that they hold above others. It doesn't mean that I don't hold the other aspects of teaching English in high regard, but response is my obsession. If I could have one impact on the teaching world, it would be to change the way we approach response to student writing across every classroom in every school. I don't have that kind of power, but it won't stop me from preaching.
I write about my successes and favorite writer's workshop activities often, but it's dawned on me that I'm not confronting the failures nearly as much as I need to. I wouldn't ever want anyone to think I have a perfect classroom, and I certainly wouldn't want someone to think I'm holding myself up to a "perfect teacher" standard. I fail all the time. Last week I had a peer response activity that failed miserably. Even worse: I didn't do much to stop it, even after I knew the ship was sinking.
Full disclosure: as much as I love writer's workshop, and as much time as I've spent researching and working on peer response, this is still the area where I probably stumble most. I know peer response and authentic sharing are essential. I know how much I benefit as a writer from sharing with peers. It's still ridiculously challenging to create structured, effective peer response in a variety of ways.
One format I turn to a lot is Kelly Gallagher's Read Around Groups, detailed in Teaching Adolescent Writers. Or I should say, I steal the name "Read Around Groups" a lot, while playing with the format. This time, I created a hybrid of RAGs with structure based on a Tweet from @LitLearnAct (Peer Editing blog post). Here's how that looked in simple, whiteboard terms:
For peer response groups that don't use "allies," I always make writings as anonymous as possible. When writers take the opportunity to write about highly sensitive topics, I discuss with them (days beforehand) how they'd prefer to receive peer response. Sometimes that means seeking out anonymous peers from other schools using my teacher-friend network, sometimes it means asking some trusted 8th graders to respond to an anonymous piece from a 7th grader. Sometimes it means having all sensitive-topic-writers gather in my room during my planning period to peer respond to each other, creating a sisterhood of the brave and vulnerable.
Directions were clear. Groups were carefully divided with a mix of ability and attention span levels. So what went wrong?
1. I did this activity on a Friday when we'd come back from two snow days and a late start, making it the only full day of school since Monday. Focusing on the task at hand was a Herculean effort for most.
2. I should have split it between more than one day. I am frequently guilty of rushing through peer response in order to provide more time for writing. Time for writing is essential. Not providing the same respect for peer response time is a mistake.
3. I knew from the first two classes (one 7th section, one 8th) that it wasn't going well. And I didn't stop it. I did not modify the activity in any major way. I did not change course for the later classes, aside from growing increasingly frustrated and sharper with my directions. I knew the activity was dead, and I didn't use my skill as a teacher to prevent the disease from spreading to all class periods. I am hanging my head in shame and frustration as I type.
4. The kids had already done a round of informal, unstructured peer response on the same pieces the week before. Maybe they're just over it and ready to move on, no matter how major the assignment is.
5. I was crabby that day before we even started. An overly irritable captain doesn't make for smooth sailing.
Why the failure of the activity is still okay:
1. Kids were still in groups, having real conversations about their peers' writing. Feedback happened.
2. They are in middle school and have probably already forgotten what we did on Friday. I'll remember it more than they will.
3. I know that it was a failure. Even though I didn't do anything to stop it, at least I'm reflective enough to realize it wasn't successful and the changes I'll need to make next time. At least I know I won't fail again in the exact same way. The next failure will be new and different, which is the wonderfully frustrating part of growing and learning.
At Christmas, my mom did that thing that I usually hate: tried to send me home with a bunch of stuff from my childhood. It's not that I'm not sentimental; it's almost impossible to love reading and writing as much as I do without being sentimental. But I'm also a clutter junkie, and stuff is my weakness. I spend so much time trying to wrangle the stuff I do have, that I've built a strong aversion to adding any new stuff to my collection piles. Especially not new stuff that is actually old stuff.
And then my heart melted: this wasn't any old stuff. These were writings from my elementary school years.
I was lucky enough to go to an elementary school that truly valued and celebrated writing. I'm not sure if this was an educational push in the late 80's-early 90's, or if I was just in a special place, but my school loved writing, and I had some special writing teachers. Teachers in every grade chose a "Writer of the Month" to celebrate with the principal and publish our writings in the school newsletter. Our teachers ordered blank picture books for us to create professional looking publications. We had class writing anthologies each year. It's no wonder I wanted to be a writer when I was a kid: I grew up in the ideal writing workshop environment.
Reading through my old writings is ridiculously fun. From a writing teacher's perspective, I can see snippets of the voice and sentence structure I still use today. It's also a healthy reminder on how much writer's can grow in a nurturing environment. I love reading my old writings, and I wondered if maybe my students would like them, too.
We're in the middle of Iowa Assessments testing, the end of the second trimester is approaching, and blizzard days are leaving us all a little weary. I offered my students the option if they wanted to be entertained by some dramatic readings of my old writings, by the author herself. The yes votes were almost unanimous. I projected them up on the screen while I read to them.
Fourth grade class anthology:
My 4th grade masterwork (my students were impressed by the old-school typing and thought the font style should make a comeback):
My students loved that I ended my story with the word "butthead." Since I project my own writing on the screen while we work in class, I also pointed out that my use of parenthetical asides is something I've done for decades. We talked about how the paragraph about being tired after doing the dishes was a pretty decent example of "show don't tell" for a fourth grader. We talked about the basic structure and how I tried to follow my "list" from earlier in the paper, but kind of lost steam toward the end.
Then we moved on to a fifth grade example so we could compare and talk about how I grew as a writer:
To say "Mirror Image" was a hit would be greatly underselling the impact this story had on my students. They groaned at the clunky and unnecessary dialogue. They tore apart the plot loopholes. They gasped at the twists and cliffhangers. They ripped me apart for naming the sisters Shirely, Shelly, and Sherry. They laughed their butts off. They sent me emails about how it was their favorite part of the week. They wanted more. Not only were we able to have a significant conversation about how I'd developed as a writer between fourth and fifth grade, we also had a chance to talk about common issues with fiction writing.
Sharing these writings was such a hit that I know I'll come back to them (and others) with a more focused teaching purpose next time. My kids loved "Mirror Image" so much that they want me to rewrite it, make a sequel, or focus on other characters next time we have a Free Write Friday. I have to admit, I'm eager to dive back into a piece of writing from 23 years ago and see what I can do with it!
As a somewhat "advanced" writer for a kid, my 4th-5th grade writings were perfectly accessible for my 7th and 8th graders. Seeing how I've grown and being able to critique my skills gave them a confidence boost and the ability to relate more than they can to some of my current writing. I've long been an advocate for writing with students. Now I'm adding sharing our old writings (if we have them) with students, too.
Friend and fellow teacher Jenny Paulsen shared this Scary Mommy article to Facebook a few weeks back: Pedal Desks. It reminded me that recess is more than just an extra duty during my day.
Two girls asked me if I wanted to play volleyball with them yesterday during indoor recess. The gym was a chaotic mess of flying basketballs and volleyballs on the court, while the kids in the bleachers played games on their devices and displayed a stunning inability to keep their hands to themselves. It’s middle school, after all. I have a love/hate relationship with recess. I hate it because I never thought I’d have to be a recess monitor as a Secondary teacher. I love it because kids need activity, especially in middle school.
I haven’t played volleyball in years, and I never played it well even when I was a volleyball player. I accepted their offer.
We spent fifteen minutes passing the ball in our small group, alternating rounds of bump, set, hit. The passes were often wildly out of control, exacerbated by our lack of wanting to chase after rogue hits in our non-gym-friendly shoes. The red impact marks forming under the sleeves on my forearms were a harsh reminder of how unforgiving the unassuming volleyball can be. The routine of it became a trance: a few good hits or passes, then a random one that breaks the order, laughing, talking. While I was showing my benchwarmer-level volleyball skills, my trusted duty sidekick was having a three point contest with some kids at one of the basketball hoops. It was the most fun I’ve had during recess in a long time. Playing with kids instead of watching them play completely changed how I usually feel about my dreaded recess duty.
When we were done, I thanked the girls for asking me to play with them. The extended invitation turned into one of the brightest spots of my day. What a simple pleasure that I don’t take time to enjoy nearly enough. Most kids would gladly allow me to play with them at recess, but they don’t think to ask, probably fearing the rejection that I might say no. As an adult, I don’t ask to join because of the fear of butting in during one of their rare free moments of the day.
The act of play is so important for all of us, regardless of age. It’s a maddening and well-documented fact that too many schools are cutting recess and P.E. in order to squeeze in more instructional time in the face of testing pressure. And we all fall victim to the misguided mindset that as students get older, they shouldn’t have recess. When I first starting teaching and found out my school still had recess through 8th grade, I thought it was insane. Why is that? Does maturity mean that we have to turn into sedentary slugs? And what about the piles of research that show the importance of play and physical activity on health, well-being, and cognitive function?
I know this feels like yet another thing to add to the laundry list of what schools should be doing, and that’s as frustrating for me as it is any teacher or administrator. The alternating feelings of rage and impotence that come from not being able to do what we know is best for kids is enough to make anyone feel hopeless.
Recess keeps us active and young. It gives our brains a rush of fresh blood. If fifteen minutes of play in the middle of the day can change my outlook and mood as a 32-year-old, then we definitely shouldn’t be robbing our children and teens of it.
Taking time to play won’t make our schools fail, and it won’t make our students fall further behind. It would help to make them happier, healthier, smarter human beings. What would be so bad about that?
Today is my third snow day out the past five working days, which means in the past two weeks I've now been at home more than I have been at school. At any other point in time, this would be a dream for an English teacher: extra days to respond to and grade papers!
Except my students are currently working on their trimester finals.
And I've already done responses on the earlier drafts.
But they're not ready to turn in the finals for me to grade.
So here I am in limbo. What's a gal to do (once she's exhausted Netflix and needs a break from reading for pleasure)?
Write, of course. Well, find (and steal) inspiration for writing, and then write. In the words of teacher-friend and wisdom-sharer Jenny Paulsen, "If all else fails: read, write, and seek enlightenment."
Today's inspiration comes from:
1. A post from Sarah Brown Wessling that I came across this morning, responding to the question What Shaped You?
2. "The Layers" by Stanley Kunitz. Because when all else fails, poetry always inspires thought.
3. Jim Davis. Because he's Jim Davis, and he never fails to remind me to give credit where it's due.
What Shaped You As a Teacher?
The Iowa Writing Project
More than any other organization, class, or experience, IWP transformed my life. I would not be the teacher I am today without IWP. I might not have stayed in the teaching profession at all! Before IWP came into my life, I had lost myself as a writer, and you can never be truly effective at teaching writing if you don't practice the art of writing yourself. IWP Level 1 forced me to find my writer-self again in the most gentle of ways, in the most nurturing environment. Kirstey Ewald, my Level 1 facilitator, not only became a beacon for knowledge and truth in the ways of teaching writing, but because of that experience she will also always be one of the most important people in my life. An unorthodox alternate Level 2 experience with IWP Director Dr. Jim Davis pushed my boundaries beyond any previously held comfort zone in writing and sharing writing. Jim's gentle green-pen scrawl on my drafts will stay with me forever. Learning, reflecting, creating, confronting vulnerability and weakness: IWP does it all. Every time I read the introduction or acknowledgments section of a text on teaching writing, I am never surprised to see a reference to the author's experience in his or her state-level Writing Project. Two thoughts immediately enter my mind: 1. I am in good hands with any Writing Project graduate; and 2. I'm sure their state WP is great, but nothing can compare to IWP. If you haven't had the experience, please find a summer workshop that will work for you.
The Teaching English in Secondary Schools MA program through the University of Northern Iowa happened when I needed it most. I always knew I wanted my MA in English eventually, if for no other reason than I enjoy taking English classes. When the brochure showed up during my fifth (and worst) year of teaching, I decided to apply if for no other reason than to prove I could do what I'd always wanted. Silly me. My first class was IWP Level 1. After a BA and five years of experience, I still had no concept of what I didn't know, and now I'm at least smart enough to realize I'm still nowhere near knowing it all. As much as IWP crystallized the importance of teacher-as-writer, TESS reinforced the lifestyle of teacher-as-continual-learner. Maybe these things don't seem earth shattering to others reading this, but they were to me. I was burned out with the stress and pressure of my teaching life, never looking beyond the local and immediate. Being a part of the TESS cohort gave me fresh ideas and the power to take control of my classroom and curriculum in ways I wouldn't have thought of on my own. There is no going back to the complacency of my early years.
ICTE is the newest of these three, and the one I'm currently an active member of. To meet with these people and share ideas and knowledge is a pleasure. Allison Berryhill is the closest creature I have met on this planet that can compete with the Sun for the light and warmth she radiates on those around her, and presenting with her at ICTE in 2014 was one of my favorite teacher and life experiences. Jenny Paulsen is a friend and mentor who is simultaneously able to make every person in the room smarter and more confident in their own abilities. This group is full of so many people I admire, who are a million times better at this profession than I am in many ways, and they never make me feel inadequate. It's a special kind of magic to come together because of a common passion for teaching English and trying to find ways to share it with as many people as possible.
There are certainly more individuals (and books and articles) who deserve credit here, but these three organizations and the people in them have done the most work in shaping who I am as teacher today.
Let me start this by saying that I have nothing against the Denver teacher who started the phenomenon that captivated hashtags and Facebook posts in the past year. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, here's one of many stories that explain: #IWishMyTeacherKnew.) It's imperative for teachers to know their students as humans, and I've made it clear on this blog that relationships with my students matter more to me than just about anything else. But since the first time I saw this story on Facebook a few months ago, it's left a bad taste in my mouth that I haven't been able to articulate. I think I'm finally ready.
It comes down to this: teachers already do know the things students have listed on this hashtag. We know better than anyone what's happening in our students' lives. Just this month (through reading my students' writing), I know students who hate snow days because it means no meals; students who hate it when the weather warms up in the spring because it means no power at home; a student who is shy because her uncle used to molest her every time he babysat; students who are struggling with their sexuality and don't know how to tell people; students who don't know if their parents have been arrested during the day because of meth raids on their houses. I know all that stuff (and more) because middle school kids, despite their angsty bravado, still desperately look for someone to confide in. And many times, the people they turn to are teachers, counselors, and principals. So this hashtag pisses me off. Because teachers do know, and we aren't the ones who need reminding of what kids face every damn day.
This hashtag should say #IWishMyPoliticianKnew or #IWishThePeopleofMyCommunityKnew or #IWishJudgmentalParentsofOtherKidsKnew, but it damn well shouldn't say #IWishMyTeacherKnew. The people who would benefit from reading the struggles of kids' lives, the people who need to know exactly how terrifying and difficult many of those lives are, are the people who aren't teachers. The people who pass laws requiring more standardized testing that disproportionately punishes kids of color and those with low income families. The state legislators who refuse to pass adequate funding for public schools. The people who complain about families who qualify for free and reduced lunch. The people who are full of opinions about kids these days. Those are the people who need the wake up call #IWishMyTeacherKnew provides. Not teachers. Teachers know. We know what demons and hurdles our students tackle every day. I am there every day. I give hugs, I wipe tears, I raise my voice, I don't accept mediocre effort, and I do not allow a bad home life to be an excuse for not trying because I know that beyond sharing a Facebook post or using a Twitter hashtag there are very few people who actually take the needs of kids (who aren't their own) into consideration in the "real" world.
So don't tag me when you see #IWishMyTeacherKnew on the internet. Don't share it and think you are doing something helpful or extraordinary. Don't think that it's a new perspective to realize that kids out there are struggling. If what you see breaks your heart (as it should), then do something for kids in your community. Teachers already know. The good ones do their best to make up for those challenges and develop kids into adults that can break the cycle of hopelessness and hurt.
When I look back on how I've changed as an English teacher over the years, there are few things that haven't changed in my teaching beliefs and practices. I feel a sense of pride in that, since one of my personal mottos for life and happiness has always been Learn, Grow, Change. One of the things that's changed the most in my teaching has been how much class time I devote to writing. Not teaching writing. The act of writing.
I started my teaching career doing the same thing that was often done to me as a student:
1. teacher assigns paper by telling every single detail and requirement in one class period
2. teacher gives due date
3. teacher gives (maybe) (some) time on a couple random days while plugging on with whatever else they're doing
4. students panic and leave paper until the night before it's due
5. repeat for a variety of writing assignments and purposes
This would invariably lead to a few things:
1. students procrastinate
2. strong writers write somewhat decent papers
3. struggling writers fail miserably or don't write at all
4. students plagiarize
5. overly helpful and involved parents and older siblings help too much (another form of plagiarism, in my book)
It was all such a mess, and probably still is in many classrooms. And I didn't question it. I thought that was just part of the writing process because it was always part of my writing process.
Somewhere along the way (no doubt inspired by a variety of teachers, colleagues, and books), I snapped out of it. If writing is something I care about, and I want my students to care about it, then I have to show them it is worthy of class time. I have to give them time to write in my room, with me there as an expert helper.
This sounds obvious, but it was nothing short of revolution, and still earns me side eye from some people (one memorable UNI student observer complained that kids didn't do enough in my classroom for the two days of rough draft writing she was there to witness).
Writing in class gives my students the opportunity to ask for help from me, so I know exactly how much they are receiving and how much they are thinking for themselves. It ensures that the work they turn in is theirs, and theirs alone. It shows that I care enough about writing that I don't dump it off as something to do outside of school.
My students now get confused when I confront them about doing too much of their writing outside of class. They're not used to it being a problem. I'm sure some parents get frustrated too, since I don't want them to be able to help their kids as much as they are used to.
I know this won't cause a revolution any time soon, but as I read more and more articles and blogs about how students are being assigned more homework at even younger ages, it makes my stomach turn. (Exception: free reading. Kids should read as much as possible outside of school to improve their brains in every possible way.) Why are we cramming in so much work that it can't be done during school, with trained experts to supervise? If something is truly important, why isn't it important enough to be done in the classroom? I know the common teacher excuse is time, and while I am just as guilty of thinking there is never enough time, I don't think more homework is the answer. Quality over quantity, right? If we give students more class time, then they will produce more quality work, which will lead to better learning in the long run, even if we don't check of all the required boxes of our never-ending to-do lists.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.