Are you listening?

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Our school district has had a strange winter. We’ve been out of school for three separate events (extreme cold, Atlanta SnowJam 2014, and Atlanta Snowpocalypse 2014) for a total of seven missed days of school. We have three make-up days built into our calendar, and the decision was made to make up the remaining four days by adding 30 minutes to the school day for 48 days.

This week was the first week of extended days, and by Tuesday, I was stressed out. In talking with my colleagues, I realized we are all feeling this way. An extra 30 minutes at the end of the day puts our dismissal time at 4:30 pm, and by that time, traffic is worse and 30 minutes becomes more like an hour. I was definitely listening to what we as teachers were feeling.

But then I started having conversations with my students. Their already busy days are now longer. Some students have to get straight off of the bus and go to extracurricular activities or even school related ones often without dinner until 8 or 9 pm. These extended days cause students to lose 30 minutes to an hour or more of time to work on homework. Not only are teachers stressed, but our students are stressed as well.

After talking with and listening to my students, I realized I needed to make some changes with these extended days. I have been using the flip class model this semester. Most of my students really like it, but now there is not as much time to watch the videos at home. The solution? I’ll still have our flip lesson videos available for students as a supplement, but I will not be requiring as much out of school hours work. Just like teachers need work-life balance, so do students. It would not be fair to rob them of stress relieving activities like sports in order to be overloaded with homework.

I don’t know what my teammates and colleagues are doing, but for me, I hope I have helped my students feel a little less stressed. Since learning should be fun and not stressful, this is so important to me. This week also helped me to remember that it’s not just about listening to my needs and the needs of adults around me. The most important thing I can do is listen and respond to the needs of my students.

Are you listening to your students?