More Than Instruction

By Caroline Lehman, 7th Grade ELA, Elizabethtown, PA:

Teaching is more than instruction. Way more. I thought that I knew what teaching entailed from my undergraduate work and my student teaching, but the sheer amount of decisions and multitasking that a teacher has to do throughout the day is an adjustment, no matter how much you prepare.

I can be teaching and simultaneously engaging in recording data for a behavior plan or de-escalating a student needing emotional support. At the same time, I can be answering questions from students and simultaneously catching up an absentee. During that same time, I can receive an email marked “urgent” from administration that pulls me away and alerts me to important information. I have also needed to call for coverage to report suspected child abuse or to call for support when a student melts down.

During the day, I have to find time to answer parent emails, which sometimes means gathering additional information, making observations about their child, or gathering resources for them. On top of that, there are adjusted schedules in a middle school for special events like our Turkey Trot before Thanksgiving.

If you work in a team, you might also, like me, need to be the scheduler and communicate to parents for IEP and GIEP meetings, in addition to other parent meetings scheduled in order to support students. That’s not including the in-the-moment decisions I have to make about how to react when technology fails or when a certain approach with a student isn’t working.

The recent article “Teaching Isn’t As Simple As It Appears” by Thomas M. Stephens highlights the fact that teachers make an average of 1000-1500 decisions a day. I am not surprised. Most of the time you feel like a performer spinning plates. The good thing is that as you get more experienced, you know how to make decisions faster.