I say yes a lot at my school. I want to be available when others need me and I want to help out when it’s necessary like subbing for a period when a teacher has a meeting, teaching a before school class, or taking on an extracurricular class. I like doing these things because I feel like it helps me to connect with the community, meet new students, and find out what is going on in other parts of the school.
Most people are more than appreciative of these extra steps, but every once in a while it can seem like because I say yes so much, everyone assumes I just will. I’m not a pushover, but it’s not always easy to set boundaries. Let’s face it: the teachers and staff aren’t immune to the kind of drama our hormonal students deal with. I have trouble sometimes navigating between being a team player and making sure my time is mine.
I recently had a particularly bad day and I was feeling really sorry for myself (yes, I have pity parties, too). While I was going back and forth about how the world was against me, how I needed to stand up for myself, and how there were much better ways for me to be using my time, I started thinking about how this connected with some of my recent thoughts about all the Pinterest activities I’ve been witnessing in the classroom lately.
Let’s start by being very clear: I. LOVE. PINTEREST. Like I’ve seriously tried to figure out how to get paid to send pins to others. I have NOTHING against Pinterest – especially for educational purposes.
I wonder, though, if all those adorable activities and interactive notebook cut and paste items are as valuable as they are cute. How much time are students spending cutting and gluing, coloring and decorating? I’m concerned that the time spent on that takes away from the time they could spend making connections to their previous learning and transferring to their new learning through conversations and authentic text experiences. I’m concerned because I’m not sure those resources are being used the way their title suggests – are they really interactive? Are the needs of our struggling students being addressed efficiently?
Are we valuing our students’ time?
I want to balance the focused hard work I expect with the deep thinking that helps students make neural connections in their brains. When escorting my group from their classrooms to mine, I drill them on “trick words” with a ring of words I carry with me. On the other hand, instead of printing out graphic organizers for the writing we do, the students and I draw them together. Sometimes this takes time, but we’re also spending that time talking about how to organize our thoughts and what will work best for building our organizer.
Here’s my thinking: they need to have automaticity with their sight words (“trick words”) and if we weren’t practicing something on our way to my classroom, they would likely find ways to goof off and now I can keep their attention. It was suggested to me that I print out graphic organizers for the students so that they would have a neater place to do their writing, but I kept thinking about when these kids have to do writing and don’t have a graphic organizer in front of them that I have printed – what will they do?
When drowning in the multitude of ideas on Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers, I encourage you to consider the time. Are you saving time or cutting out deep, slow thinking? Are you wasting time or creating moments for students to experience the flow of learning and growing?