When I was a freshman in high school, my afternoons consisted of two classes: Mathematics and History. Both classes were taught by experienced teachers who knew their stuff and cared about their students. However, their styles of teaching were remarkably different. The Math teacher had a set routine for every week. We would learn a new formula, practice it the next few days, and have a quiz on Friday.
My History teacher, on the other hand, was the definition of unpredictable. He would get us out of our chairs and moving as we learned about the past. One week we simulated the stock market crash by having everyone pretending to sell stocks. Another week we had to perform short musicals about the Vietnam war. Then there was the day we had a mock supreme court trial!
Now, I’m deeply grateful to both of my teachers, but if you were to ask me which subject I still remember, well…did you know one reason for the Great Depression is that banks were investing people’s money without permission?
Grading is Not Learning
Short-term teaching can be convenient, predictable, and even rewarding. There’s something safe and secure about delivering content in expected chunks, with the familiar test on Friday. Still, you didn’t get into teaching with a goal of having your 4th grade class achieve a 95% on their weekly math quiz, did you?
You got into teaching for the long-term learning. You wanted to inspire the next generation of thought leaders and inventors. To be the educator who opened the world of literature to a shy girl who otherwise had little companionship. The teacher that finally helped a frustrated boy break through his self-doubt to realize he had skills to succeed.
It’s easy to put off the long-term teaching, the critical thinking can wait; the quiz can’t. So, we put off conversations and projects which inspire in lieu of lessons which deliver a short-term result (usually in the form of a grade).
A New Season with New Opportunities
Right now, educators are adapting to the new reality of COVID-19. It’s forced us to change the way we teach and consider new strategies for reaching our students. While this can certainly be exhausting, it can also be an opportunity. Rather than follow predictable short-term teaching methods, this new season can be a chance to explore some long-term teaching ideas. Just consider trying some of the following:
- Have students write letters to senior friends or mix things up and have them pen notes to historical figures.
- Create inspiration podcast where students take a stand for an issue they believe in using facts, reasoning, and respectful discourse.
- Teach students about the spread of germs, then have them apply their knowledge by creating fun PSA’s for their friends and family.
- Discover what plants and animals are unique to your home state, then have your class brainstorm sustainable ways to protect them.
Take your short-term success, but never lose sight of your long-term goal. Spend your most dedicated time and resources on the big game. Never let a grade be the final word in a teaching conversation. Once you give a grade, the conversation is over, the learning stops. When you offer feedback, activities, and experiences, the learning goes on.
After all, isn’t continued learning what teaching is all about?