By Nick McDaniels – I have heard before that teachers make thousands, or tens-of-thousands, of decisions every day. This is probably true of everything we do in our lives – we have to make many small decisions to accomplish any task – but, to some extent, the amount of mental dexterity required to be teacher does seem to be exceed that of many other professions.
I have tried recently to focus on the many small decisions I make every day in my classroom.
When Nyah shows up late to class, do I respond to her differently that I do to D’Andre when he shows up late?
When I want my students to read an article that is 14 pages long, do I decide to find a different article because I know 14 pages x 33 students is more copies than I will be able to make?
When Michael asks to go see the nurse for the third straight day, do I let him go?
When Keohna is using her cell phone in class, do I ask her to put it away, take it from her, go stand near her to see if she puts it away on her own, or ignore it?
When Matthew asks me the answer to number 4, do I tell him where to find it, tell him the answer, or tell him to find it himself?
The list could go on and on.
I am not claiming that any or all of these decisions I make are particularly impactful on the learning experience for students. Some are. Some are not. I do know that I have become much less thoughtful about every small decision I make in the classroom, and that, perhaps counter-intuitively, makes me a better teacher.
You see, it is these microdecisions that overwhelm new teachers. I was significantly more conscious of the many decisions I had to make earlier in my career. I would come home mentally exhausted because of it. Now, much more, I read the situation and react to it based on years of experience. The amount of decisions I make on a daily basis is probably greater than ever, but the efficiency and confidence with which I make these decisions is also higher.
If you are a teacher, take some time this week while teaching to do a little meta-reflection. Think about the decisions you are making as you make them. I think you’ll impress yourself with the complexity of your day-to-day.