Quick question for you… when you were in college as a pre-service teacher, making your preparations to become a teacher, taking all your education classes, did you ever take a class on how to lecture?
Another question, when you were assigned to make plans for an entire unit, like a curriculum map for a unit in one of those college classes, did you plan to lecture in class 80%+ of the time and say that out loud to your class?
Yeah, me neither.
That’s because as a pre-service teacher you were being trained on how to best help your students through the learning process, you spent thousands of dollars on your education to become the expert on the learning process, and now that you are actively in the classroom, let’s face it… you’re an overpaid lecturer if that’s all you do.
Oh man. I may have just ticked off a lot of people, but let me explain real fast.
I don’t believe lecturing is bad. Seriously, I don’t. Some of the best teachers I ever had were artists at lecturing and I learned SO much. It’s a form of content delivery, and I still do it in my own classroom sometimes.
But here’s the thing. We are trained professionals in the art of learning, and the art of learning that consists of our students just sitting there and getting the information from us is NOT THE hardest part of learning. So why are we spending so much of our time and energy on the easiest parts of learning?????
This is the topic I’m going to dive into in today’s episode of the Sustainable Teacher, and I hope you’re ready to join me for it.
If you are, be sure to grab the link to this episode and let one of your teacher-friends know that you’re about to give it a listen, and they should too. I so appreciate your help in getting our message out to other teachers that you, the teacher in the room, are a total B-A, and deserve the sustainable classroom of your dreams.
So let’s get to it.
If we consider what we know about the learning process, let’s take Bloom’s Taxonomy for instance, as educators we know that the part of learning where the human brain is receiving information for the first time and just attempting to encode information in order to hopefully use it later is by far the most passive and easiest part of learning.
That doesn’t mean that it’s automatically effective or easy for all students, but compared to the rest of Bloom’s Taxonomy, as we move up from receiving information, the process of learning only gets more difficult.
And, yet, most of our class time and working hours as a teacher, if you’re like most of the teachers I have known (including myself for a good chunk of time) are spent on the easiest most passive part of the learning process.
What this means is that if we were to overlay the diagram of Bloom’s taxonomy, which you can find at the link to our full length show notes on our website if you scroll down a bit where you’re listening, with how many hours we teachers spend on each rung of the pyramid, most of our hours wouldn’t get past the second level of Bloom’s.
So do you have that picture in your head? Let’s review real quick. Visualize Bloom’s Taxonomy real quick. You’ve got “remember” and “understand” on the bottom two levels, then “evaluate” and “create” at the top most two levels. No visualize writing a percentage (0-100%) of our time spent on each of those levels of the pyramid.
Would you agree that 50% or more of your class time, and your time as a teacher is spent on the bottom two levels? I’m betting so.
Now stick with me here as I take this imagery a bit further.
So we’ve got the percentages of how much time we spend there. Now let’s take on the understanding that time is money. Is it always? No. But when it comes to your annual salary, and how it breaks down into the hours you spend on tasks as an educator, let’s just say that those percentages equate to the amount of time and therefore money spent of your salary on those types of tasks in the learning process.
That’s a really expensive “remembering” and “understanding”.
If we are spending 50% or more of our time simply delivering the content of our course, that means that 50% of our value as educators (monetarily speaking) can’t go past the easiest parts of learning.
And the hardest part is that as high stakes and other types of assessments evolve and change, simply remembering and understanding the content is not the only aspect of learning our students will be measured by. And yet we can’t get past them because time is finite.
So, what are we to do?
Well, let’s get into that. Let’s get into how we can make the most of class time so that we can leave on time. But also, so that we’re sure our expertise is being used most effectively.
Here’s the thing - teaching is super hard right now. With exhaustion and pressure on the rise, and we just want to leave work at a reasonable hour so that we can attempt to hit a reset button in the evening in hopes that we feel ready to do it all over again the next day.
Plus, can we just say that the status quo should be that we get to leave on time without feeling guilty or having tons of more work to do? Can that be a thing? I’d like it to be a thing. And I hope you’re with me on that.
In this episode I have three action steps for you - we get really practical in this episode. And if you’re listening in the car or otherwise can’t take notes, don’t worry, it’s all laid out in our full length show notes on our website linked below.
This seems a little redundant as it’s what we’ve talked about most of this episode, but I’ll repeat it because it truly is an important step in not only using class time effectively but is the only way to know how to improve your use of class time so you can make changes, and making leaving at contract time a reality.
Look back on any given week, or go further back and look at multiple typical weeks you’ve had in your classroom. Break down how class time was spent for each day, or make an estimate of how much time was spent on the major daily tasks and routines that happen in your classroom.
Then ask yourself, is this serving my students? And is this serving me, allowing me to be an effective teacher while in the classroom so that I am then able to leave at contracted time guilt free.
These questions you need to ask yourself are so crucial. They are the ultimate mindset to take as you start making changes toward a sustainable classroom and being able to leave work at a reasonable time. Use big time scrutiny here for every aspect of your space and typical time spent and ask “is this serving us? If not, how can it or can it go?”
The shift you’re also wanting to make here is to spend more class time on the harder parts of learning, making the use of you as a learning resource much more useful. Regardless of what you think of your salary and where it falls compared to other career fields, the truth is that you are, rightfully so, the most expensive learning resource in the room. Again, rightfully so. Let that knowledge empower you to optimize your time, maybe even get a little bougie with how you spend your time so that you are being ultra effective when you’re in the presence of and available to your students.
This doesn’t mean you have to give up on content delivery - you can still deliver content, but instead of spending most of class time on it, let’s get creative with how we can deliver content. Whether that’s in a flipped video or in station work, or somehow streamlined in general.
The next action step and point I’ll make here for this idea of making the most of class time so you can leave on time is this. We know authentic feedback to our students on their work and learning is important and incredibly effective, so why do we make it last in our list of priorities and then spend zero class time on it?
Have you ever heard the phrase that if it’s truly important, it’ll be done in class time? That’s a mantra I want you to take on, and even add a qualifier there to important - meaning it’s got to be important, and few steps more difficult than easy for your students.
If it’s important, truly important to be done in your presence, you’ll do it in class. And I would argue that if feedback is given from you without being in your presence, then it’s deemed less important and less effective. They aren’t reading those comments you spent hours on, and if they do, they just have fifty more questions about them.
So, simplify it all for everyone, and do it in class. Yes, I’m putting a stake in the ground here, and may hear from some people in disagreement. But I stand by it.
Grade in class. That doesn’t mean you have to sit back at your desk, going through papers to grade while your students work the entire class period. That’s not “in your presence” feedback either. That’s at your desk. Grade things, give feedback at the student’s desk. Outloud, with them, as you grade it. Have them take notes.
If it doesn’t sit well with you to call that process grading or providing feedback, then call it a conference or a skill workshop of some sort. Whatever you have to do to sleep at night and be able to grade and provide feedback directly to students in class, do it. But it’s all the same, and it’s all worth the class time (and your time) spent on it.
The last action step for you is more for your students, but is absolutely a strategy in how you more effectively use class time. And that is to get kids talking out loud about the content and their learning.
What do I mean by this? Well, it’s twofold actually, but in the simplest sense I mean that students should be talking out loud with each other about the content itself more so than you are during class time.
A good gauge of if you’re doing this or not is to measure how much you talk to the class as a whole versus how much any one of your students is talking about the content in any given class period. Simple as that.
And getting them to talk out loud about the content doesn’t have to be complicated. You know why, because learning isn’t complicated. And that’s why we need them talking out loud about the content - to learn it.
Not to build the skill of speech delivery, or the art of discussion and debate. Sure there is a time and place for all of that. But what I’m saying here is that as simple as it sounds is exactly what I mean. Get your students talking out loud about the content more.
How can you do this?
In your bell ringer - instead of making it on a piece of paper and then checking answers, have them talk out loud about their answers, or make the bell ringer a think-pair-share of some sort.
In review - when you are reviewing for the test or quick quiz, take some time for students to ask you questions, letting them know that you will not move on or review anything you think necessary until they’ve asked some quality questions. That’s how important it is for them to not only know the material, but to know what they do and don’t know about it, then take steps towards finding answers.
When asking questions - this is an oldie but a goodie. When a student asks a question, ask another student to answer it. And keep your mouth shut. Your role is to make the space a welcoming one - one where mistakes and working through the hard parts of learning is expected. Other than doing that, keep your mouth closed so long as students are guiding each other in the right direction with the content. Say things like “I think we’re on the wrong track there, who can help us get back on track?” Or “that’s not totally inaccurate because of ____, but who can help us make this as correct or accurate as possible?”
In its simplest form, you are empowering students in the content here, and that is providing fantastic feedback and authentic learning experiences that will help in student mastery, but also in helping you get out the door on time without feeling like you’ve shorted your students.
Alright teacher-friend, there you have it for episode 71 of the Sustainable Teacher Podcast. I hope you have some tangible action steps to take in the near future in making sure you’re able to get out the door on time.
If you are intrigued by this idea of streamlining your content and using your class time more effectively, I have something very special in the works. It’s a new approach to professional development and a way to earn graduate credit all for the work you’ll already be doing in your classroom. If that sounds intriguing for you, I want you to get on the VIP waitlist to find out what is happening by clicking the link in the description of this episode or by heading to our website at teachonamission.com/waitlist.
Be sure to get on that waitlist and grab that free starter kit for your flipped classroom all at the links below where you’re listening, and I’ll see you same time, same place, next week. Bye for now.