Why I Don't Grade Papers at Home




I was in my third year of teaching and we had a new technology teacher.  This teacher has a fantastic personality for teaching.  All students love him from day one, and he has an ability to connect with them immediately.  He had just left a job at a bank, and this was his first year teaching.  He did what many first year teachers do.  He worked, and worked, and worked.  He came early, he left way late and he was very, very tired.  He came to me one day after a few months and mentioned to me that the school director wanted to meet with him.  He was a little nervous, and didn't know what she was going to say.  I gave him some assurance and let him know that our director was fantastic, and I'm sure anything that she had to say was just to help him.  The next day I asked him what the meeting was about, and he told me that she was worried about him.  She was worried that he was working way too hard.  She gave him some ideas to grade more efficiently and not have to work so hard.  You see, our very experienced educator knew something that only the best teachers know.  Let me explain further, because I made the same mistake. 

 Years ago I attended a commencement ceremony, and something was spoken that made a huge impact on me, though not the exact words, the message was along these lines. "Congratulations to all those who have graduated with A's, you have worked really hard, studied countless nights and you deserve those grades, but I would like to congratulate even more those who graduated with B's. Getting B's because you have made your family a priority, B's because you also are a parent, spouse, friend, and neighbor."  I thought, Yes, that is what is important. 

I started out teaching trying to be the "straight A" teacher, and as a result everything else suffered....even my students.  I stayed late hours at school....then I would go home, eat....and continue working.  I worked, worked and worked. Interestingly enough this often backfires on teachers.  I was so stressed, wasn't sleeping, and my patience in the classroom greatly diminished.  

As the years went on, I realized that what I was doing wasn't working. So, instead of planning curriculum over the summer, I spent time reading, studying and planning systems so that my classroom could run more efficiently, and I told myself that I would leave school everyday at 4:00, and I would not work at home.  I didn't stick to my plan 100% at first, but I did better. Each year, I perfected my systems and stuck better to my plan.  I noticed something interesting......I actually became a better teacher. I had more patience for my students, and I noticed that I began to value every minute while at work.  I learned to use my time wisely. I then began applying this with my students. I began to value my time with them even more, and when my students were in my class, they thought and problem-solved until they walked out the door. I took it as a compliment when they said their head hurts from thinking so much.

I'm not necessarily saying that you need to work less and you will be a better teacher, rather, the point I am trying to make is that you need to work smarter.  You need to work very efficiently and effectively while at school.  While at home, you need to work hard at not working :) It's tough to relax and spend time on other things when you feel like you have a long to-do-list.  However, you need to trust that doing so will truly make you a better teacher.

I have learned that what we do at school is important, very important, but what we do at home is more important.  When teachers set their priorities straight, your teaching and classroom will improve because you will be happier and less stressed.  Set a goal and try to change something today to act according to your priorities. 
Great blog post to encourage teachers not to grade papers at home.  Teaching middle school math can be stressful, but here are some great ideas to keep your priorities straight! #makesenseofmath

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