During my first five years in the classroom, I left teaching twice. The great irony of this is that I loved nearly everything about the job. I loved my colleagues, the variation, the challenge, and getting to focus my working hours on helping to make my students’ lives a little better today than they were yesterday.
Despite those things, there were two things that actively pushed me out of the classroom. First, the workload: The days I pulled into the lot before sunrise and left after the sunset, the nearly constant string of (as a colleague called them) Sunday-no-fun-days spent grading papers, and the lunches spent in my classroom wolfing down a sandwich with one hand while another clacked on my keyboard—none of which ever seemed to stem the endless papers in need of grading, emails in need of answering, and lessons in need of planning.
Second was the fact that despite all of this work, my students never grew as much as I hoped they would, especially when it came to writing. I didn’t know it at the time, but the stagnation in writing growth I witnessed in my own students mirrored national trends, where according to the NAEP Nation’s Report Cards, writing growth has largely stagnated for the last 25 years at the terrifying level of nearly three-quarters of students graduating 8th and 12th grade without being proficient in writing.
This site exists because I ultimately realized that I didn’t want to leave teaching, but I also didn’t want to spend my nights and weekends hunched over papers that weren’t leading to much student growth. After returning to the classroom the second time, I began to research and write about the questions that kept me up at night: Can writing teachers carry their heavy load of papers without sacrificing nights and weekends? Are there ways to improve student writing faster that don’t put more on a teacher’s plate? How can we be more equitable and responsive to increase the impact of our writing instruction? And is there a way to find balance and better outcomes simultaneously?
That process is in its 10th year, and the answers I’ve found are on this site and in my blog posts, articles, books, and professional development. My hope is that these can help you to be a better writing teacher and a better parent, partner, friend, and family member to all those in your life.
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