Learn From Anything

Recently, a teacher I work with was ill and missed a couple days of school.  She thought she was at a good enough spot that she could assign a writing assignment for the classes to work on under the tutelage of the substitute teacher.  When you are gone, you really don’t have a lot of choices.  Either plug in a movie or a pointless worksheet, or hope for the best.

When she returned, the essays were anything but good.  They did not show any of the concepts she had tried to instill in them prior to being ill.  She was frustrated and wanted to simply toss the pile in the trash and start over.  She figured that it was two days wasted, so she was ready to roll up her sleeves and start again.

I offered a different perspective.

Any good writing takes multiple drafts.  What this teacher had was an opportunity to take a first draft, identify the errors, and then show how to improve.  Rather than trying to talk general theory, she had applicable writings that students could actually use to improve their writing.  Rather than seeing this is a waste of time, she could view it as a good use of time and a way to further student understanding.

It’s a simple concept, but her frustration with the students was blinding her.  If she hadn’t had opportunity to sound off with someone who wasn’t there to gripe and complain, but was instead trying to help her, it could have turned into a bad day for both her and her students.  In truth, she would have ended up wasting more time by starting over.  She would have frustrated and alienated her students.

My conclusion here is this:  The way to make teachers better is to encourage better collaboration.  Not “coblaboration” as one teacher told me.  Actually work together.  Offer and take advice.  Try to make things better.  Don’t just shut the door and do your own thing.


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