So I was a little busy…


I try to post to this blog once a week, but sometimes I fall behind. Like the last three weeks. What happened?

It’s not that I didn’t want to write, and it’s definitely not that I’d run out of things to say. I have opinions about nearly everything, and I’m constantly filing away ideas during the day. Here’s a few from my current list:

Overheard conversation about ‘best’ schools

Z’s comment on form v. content

EdWeek worst PD list

Conversation with V about challenging yourself

Wrapping up school year

The easy explanation is “I was too busy,” but that’s a lame excuse. Would you accept that from a student who missed an assignment? No way.

I was busy. I took a team to the National Economics Challenge. I staged an International Economic Summit event at school. I had to finish up late work and finals before I left to grade AP tests in Cincinnati for a week.

But it’s not busy-ness that kept me from writing — it’s my priorities.

I had 24 hours in every day, 168 hours in each week, same as always, and I chose to spend my time other ways. I spent it writing a curriculum for training teachers in Lean Startup methodology. I spent it re-organizing the Summit materials so we could cram a day-long activity into four hours. I also spent it doing physical therapy for my shoulder, and I spent it relaxing over Memorial Day weekend and reading a book.

This is something we inherently understand about ourselves, that some things are just more important to do than others, and sometimes our work has to wait. But we have a hard time, as teachers, extending that same grace to our students.

When they don’t finish assignments or come in to make up work, we assume it’s laziness or some other character flaw. What other priorities could they possibly have, we wonder. What could be more important than learning economics or history or just passing my class?

Sometimes kids are lazy or defiant or burned out on school, but often teenagers today are juggling just as much as we are. They have after-school jobs and activities, sports injuries, family responsibilities, suffering friends, chronic medical conditions, and work for every other class. Some are living on their own and paying bills, and some don’t know where their next meal will come from.

I’m not suggesting we free them from deadlines — that would be a logistical nightmare, and we do need to teach them about real-world deadlines — but I do think we need to talk more often with them about priorities and how much control they can have over their lives.

We need to help them think about short-run vs. long-run goals, about the opportunity costs of the choices they make (yes, economics!), and about the fact that they have choices. And we need to help them understand that we feel their pain; we are in the same boat; we sometimes fall behind too.

We don’t need a special class or program to do this. We need to have these conversations when they occur naturally, when students aren’t doing their work and we need to get them back on track. Rather than lecturing them on responsibilities, we need to talk with them honestly about priorities — and the effort it takes to change them. 

And now that this crazy school year is over, I’ll get back to making writing a priority.