There’s no doubt that English teachers have to manage a ton of work. Students have to practice writing frequently and gather as many quotes and evidence as possible before sitting down to write a high-quality essay. The end of a unit always means the beginning of the next unit which for me means collecting classwork, collecting reading notes, collecting the old book, distributing the new book, and introducing the new book. It sometimes feels overwhelming, especially at the end of the quarter.
School work can spill over into home life, especially because it’s so easy to socialize and get distracted by emails. I haven’t taken work home in years because my family comes first and I’ve created a system that makes handling the workload easy. I’ve learned to enjoy my job more because I can walk out the door in the afternoon and know that my life is mine. Here are a few things to do to make life easier:
1. Bundle classwork assignments.
I print and distribute all classwork for a unit at the beginning of the unit. This way, I don’t have to keep entering grades over and over or assign zeros for missing handouts. I never worry about making sub plans or keeping extra handouts around because my students will already have all the work for that unit in one place. Students submit their class notes with their essay with the idea that their quotes and analysis should help them write the essay. I don’t feel the need to collect a lot of work on a daily basis because I walk around the room during activities to assess progress and give feedback.
2. Assign reading notes, not quizzes.
I used to stress over every word of a reading quiz, and then I realized that reading notes are more valuable for a number of reasons. It’s a skill students need to learn for any subject area, and they can use their reading notes to help write their essay. It’s also more obvious if they’ve read the novel.
3. Prioritize verbal feedback.
It can take me anywhere from three to eight hours to grade a set of essays. I use the same checklist for most essays so I don’t feel the need to write lengthy written feedback. While I grade essays, I take notes and use them to provide verbal feedback to the entire class.
4. Practice low stakes writing.
I will assign small one sentence responses as a quick, informal assessment of progress rather than constantly grading lengthy assignments. Those assignments work well as models, especially if they are online discussion posts that everyone in the class can read. Students can submit a single sentence response to a question or interpret one quote.
5. Don’t grade everything.
There are certain assignments designed to help students improve, that don’t require a teacher’s input or feedback. I avoid grading small revisions on essays or small stakes writing I mentioned earlier and quarter reflections. I give a class participation grade so technically, I can still account for any ungraded assignments.
Teacher's Workshop, professional development for secondary ELA teachers