Post Academic

Tame the Teaching Workload First

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionWhen pondering an escape from the ivory tower, you probably think about becoming a lecturer or a classroom teacher. This reaction is natural since teaching is a valuable, concrete skill. You might even be able to make good part-time money at it if you get a job teaching the SAT or the LSAT.

But don’t make the leap just yet, especially if you want to leave academia because you had trouble managing your classroom time. Kerry Ann Rockquemore describes the impact of the “Teaching Trap” over at, and it’s clear that teaching is one of the classic tasks that expands to fill the time available.

If you thought teaching took up too much time when you were in academia, a change of scenery won’t help you. Whether you’re teaching the SAT at Kaplan or teaching a class at a public high school, teaching will continue to take up all of your time unless you improve your time management skills. Visit my tips on how to tame your paperwork, and try these four tips, all after the jump:

Limit the amount of time you grade each paper. You should know after reading two paragraphs whether or not a paper is worth your time. If you read a stack of papers that all start off badly, you’re better off devoting a class to good introductions and thesis statements instead of painstakingly grading each paper.

Do not line-edit your students’ papers. By editing and marking every single mistake, you are doing your students’ work for them. It’s their job to fix bad grammar and punctuation, not yours. If you actually prefer line-editing to teaching, switch to an editorial career. (This is exactly what I did, and I am much happier as an editor with teaching skills than as a teacher with editing skills.)

You can’t help them if they don’t want help. By no means am I advocating leaving students behind, but the comments you leave on papers will not inspire students. What you do in the classroom is what counts. If you think a student can do better with a little more effort and a brief one-on-one session, write a note on the paper telling the student to attend your office hours or to visit the campus writing center. Print out papers with the address of the center and other related information to save even more time.

Cut students off if they want you to write their papers. Some students are smarter than you give them credit for. They go to your office hours to find out what you want in a paper, and they’ll repeat it back to you. This is great for the student but bad for you because this game takes up a lot of time. When a student is trying to squeeze you for ideas, hold your ground and tell them to go back over their classroom notes.

The Teaching Trap [Inside Higher Ed]

Image of a classroom at the University of Pittsburgh by Piotrus from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

2 Responses to 'Tame the Teaching Workload First'

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  1. Snoopydog said,

    I agree whole-heartedly with your comment about teaching filling all the time available. There is of course much to love about teaching, and so many reasons to go into it, but those about to do so need to recognise that it isn’t a 9 to 3 job for perhaps 40 weeks of the year.

  2. Absolutely. I think people watch movie depictions of slacker high-school teachers (Bueller? Bueller?) and assume teaching is a relatively cushy gig. And then they realize how much work must take place outside the classroom!

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