We’re all cheaters as educators, but we have to be


Teaching | Monday, May 5, 2014

We’re all cheaters as educators, but we have to be

We're all cheaters as educators, but we have to be

We're all cheaters as educators, but we have to be

We’re all cheaters as educators.

We cheat every day. Every one of us.

When we plan, when we grade, when we teach, we cheat.

Administrators cheat. eLearning and instructional coaches cheat. So do media specialists.

And honestly, when we go home to our families, we cheat too.

We’re all cheaters. But we have to be.

That’s because there are only 24 hours in the day. 168 hours in the week.

And if you haven’t noticed, there are a LOT of things competing for our attention. Lots of worthwhile things. Lots of things we want to do. Lots of vital, necessary things.

We have to sleep, and we have to eat, so that cuts some valuable time off our time in the day.

So, when our list of really good, really important things is longer than our hourly schedule in our planners (or our calendar apps), it’s time to cheat.

Andy Stanley, the senior pastor of Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta — the second largest church in the United States — gave a wonderful message called “Choosing to Cheat.” It’s a great, relevant message regardless of your religious views. I’ve listened to it multiple times and have played it for my wife. (Yes, I played a message called “Choosing to Cheat” for my wife … ironic as that may sound.)

The crux of the message is this basic question: “What do you do when your work life is so full you don’t have time for the people that matter most?”

That’s a powerful question that we all have to come to grips with at some point.

bammy award banner for DTTAs educators, there’s a similar question that we have to come to grips with.

What do you do when your life in education is so full that you don’t have time for the work that will impact your students the most?

I find myself saying this a lot, but it’s true. This is an exciting time to be an educator.

Technology makes so many things possible that never existed before. Great research proves best practices that we only believed were best.

There are so many options to improve our teaching. So many great activities that other teachers share with us. So many thought-provoking videos that could change our students’ ways of thinking.

There’s so much good stuff out there. And there’s not enough time to try it all out.

Teachers have more ideas to implement in their classes than possible. Technology leadership have more great resources than they can adequately share with their staffs.

So we have to cheat. We have to prioritize and leave really good, really exciting, really useful ideas aside.

And that’s OK.

I really struggled with this concept of “acceptable cheating” and even “encouraged cheating” as a new teacher. I wanted to try every great new idea. I wanted to grade everything my students did for me. I wanted to teach them every important grammar point, vocabulary term and cultural aspect of the Spanish realm.

I wanted to. And I tried to. But I couldn’t.

So I started to cheat.

I’ve followed a suggestion from Cool Cat Teacher Vicki Davis I heard at a conference last summer. Pick one or two (maybe three) really good new ideas and implement them. But don’t try to implement everything you learn or see. You can’t, and even if you could, it wouldn’t be best for your students.

More cheating I do: I don’t grade everything my students do for me. Grading every activity, every answered question is nearly impossible. Even if I did, there would be diminishing gains on my students’ improvement. Just not worth it to me.

I do the best that I can do for my students within the amount of time I’m given (the hours I’m at school and the amount of time I have chosen to work at home). Then the rest goes to a more worthy cause.

Faith. Family. Friends.

It’s a sign above a doorway in my living room, but it’s the reason I cheat. In the end, when your life comes to a close, that’s what will be most important. Not which technology tools you integrated into your classes.

Embrace this kind of cheating today. You’ll be glad you did.

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