This past school year, our colleague Tanya Ramm shared a simple shift in her syllabus language that gave her added life and agency as a teacher.
Here's all she altered:
Practice: (50% of Marking Period grade) – This category includes student participation such as in-class practice with speaking, listening, reading & writing activities, as well as assigned practice through “PASSPORT,” our Carnegie Learning online portal and/or other online practice platforms such as Conjuguemos, EdPuzzle and Quizizz. Daily participation and practice are expected. Sra. Ramm will choose which activities are entered into the gradebook.
Tanya cited this shift as highly life-giving because it freed her from any guilt when she decided not to enter a practice activity into the gradebook.
A few things that stood out to me in this anecdote from our colleague:
- Tiny, external actions can often lead to large, internal shifts. Tanya changed some wording about grading, but in so doing she felt liberty to decide as a professional when to enter practice work into the gradebook. This helps her grade on purpose — a non-negotiable for all of us who seek to craft saner workloads.
- The human heart is wonderfully malleable and awfully powerful. This tiny tweak in language removed a burden that Tanya had felt for years, but it was a burden that she realized she had been placing on herself. While the work of teaching is super hard, you and I also have to recognize that much of the pressure we experience is self-inflicted.
These are sweeping strokes meant to pull out principles rather than pinpoint your unique circumstances. The question I take away is this: what small shifts could lead to big improvements in my own experiences as a teacher?