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4 Promises to My Students at the Start of a New Year

Amy Lauren Smith

Every August, we teachers start out with new goals. Whether they’re personal or professional, a new year equals a fresh start, new students, and a chance to improve our craft. But, even with the best of intentions, these goals can get buried and pushed aside for other projects and obligations.

So this year, rather than set goals for myself, I’m going to remember what being a teacher is truly is about. I'm making some promises to my students instead.

1. I will assess and hand back your projects in less than a week.
This is a recurring goal for me, and one I can rarely stick to. With so many students and projects coming in at once, it’s difficult to thoroughly assess and return them in a timely fashion. But my vice principal always says that after a week, the power of feedback is lost. This makes sense. After all, when I submit work or send an email, I’m used to getting a response in a day or two, and if I don’t, I start to doubt the quality or content of my work. I would hate to cause my studentsespecially with their need for social media likes and instant gratificationto experience anxiety over quality work they’ve handed in. And as for the work that isn't the best quality, asking a student to re-do an assignment two weeks laterwhen we’ve already moved onto another unitis rarely going to lead to improvement.

2. I will give you formative assessments so that no grade is a surprise.
Assessing and grading projects doesn’t take nearly as long if you’ve been actively involved throughout the whole process. When I do periodic check-ins and conferences with my students, I know where they’re succeeding and struggling, and more importantly, so do they. When it comes time to hand in their projects, they are aware of where they’re at, and I’m able to assess the final product and give them the grades they feel they deserve.

3. I will work with you to create projects that are current, relevant, and engaging.
It’s not easy updating curriculum as you go, but it’s also not easy to keep students engaged when you’re sticking to the same lessons and projects year after year. As a health teacher, it’s important that I stay on top of the latest news and ideas, and ask my students for their input along the way. In a subject as inherently personal as health, giving students "voice and choice" over what they learn takes on an even bigger sense of importance.

4. I will put you before my email and be waiting at the door when you arrive.
One week into school, and already it’s started. The endless barrage of emails… school events, new systems and initiatives, announcements, meetings, and messages from colleagues and friends. While important and often entertaining, checking email is not the main purpose of my job. I’m here for the students, and while it may be tempting to sneak a look at my computer as they shuffle between classes, the last thing I want them to see when they enter the room is the back of a computer screen. I’ll set aside time after they leave, but I won’t allow the distractions of my technology to pull me away from the present. Then, hopefully, I can expect the same from them.

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