September 3, 2014.  (Day 2 of the school year.)

Discuss one “observation” area that you would like to improve on for your teacher evaluation.

I know many, many English teachers struggle with timely feedback. Last year I looked forward to being on a two-person team, as it would reduce the pile of written assignments I needed to read and then give feedback on. I figured the smaller pile of work would take less time to review. I even thought I’d be able to provide more feedback on the papers I did receive. That plan didn’t come to fruition though for two reasons: a new prep and electronic submission.

The first problem: I found myself spending an inordinate amount of time prepping for 8th Grade Social Studies (US History) as it was the first time in 16 years I taught SS. An added stress was I knew I couldn’t teach it as I did 16 years ago. From my experience as a National Writing Project teacher consultant, I knew learning history needed to be more than remembering and regurgitating names and dates. I knew my students needed “to be historians.” I pushed myself to develop lessons to engage my students. What I found was I needed to relearn and understand history myself before I could lead my students down the same road. As a result, I spent much of my time focusing on this new prep and the ELA papers and projects ended up sitting longer than I wanted.

The second problem: With the implementation of Google drive for our students and my use of Edmodo last year, I asked the students to submit much of their work electronically thinking it would be helpful to me. It was in some respects but in others it was not. When students submitted their work electronically there was no pile of papers that I had to move from the family dining room table when it was time to eat. Those same papers were no longer on my kitchen counter where I moved them back to the dining room table then into my school bag. In other words, the electronic submissions could hide in the cloud and not give me (and my family) that constant reminder that I had work to do. I found I could procrastinate longer and no one knew until my students would ask me, “Did you look at our papers yet?” “When are we going to get our papers back?”

This year I won’t need to spend as much time prepping for Social Studies, but I’m still trying to figure out a way to make that electronic pile of papers more visible for me and my family. Maybe blogging about how I want to improve on giving timely feedback will motivate me.