Why Bother to Lighten Somebody’s Load?

Every day is a busy day in my classroom with much to do. As much as possible, I like to use what time I have efficiently and not waste any of it. But I’ve recently discovered that slowing down and having my students do a little less is actually more efficient than piling on the work.

A Lesson from a Fourth Grader

 Twenty-nine fourth graders is a large group of students to teach. Not only that, there is a lot to teach. On any given day there is reading, math, writing, cursive, spelling, grammar and science. Also included is music, p.e., library and computer studies. 

There is constant learning and assignments to complete from the beginning of the day until the end of the day. 

Some of my students already have what it takes to do this kind of rigorous academic work. They are at grade level and don’t struggle with basic skills.  They come from  home environments that are stable and being in a classroom surrounded by twenty-eight other students is no sweat to them. But not all of my students come that well suited. 

Instead, other students come from an unstable background, work very hard to learn grade level material and find a classroom full of students to be a huge distraction. Given the differences between my kids, somehow, everyone still has to complete their work.

Unfortunately, sometimes I have to keep some kids in from recess in order to finish their work. I don’t like to keep anyone in from a few minutes of play time, but it seemed like the only solution until I learned a lesson from one of my fourth graders, Colt.

Colt is a polite young man whose parents are not raising him. Instead, Grandpa and Grandma are raising Colt. Sometimes, Colt has to stay in from recess to get his work done and he hates missing recess. Not only does Colt have a hard time getting his work completed, but his work is messy. The other day I asked him, “Is there a reason your work is always so messy?” He sighed heavily, stuck his hands in his pockets and said, “I always feel like I am in a hurry and I just want to get it done so that I can go outside and play. All this work is a little stressful.”

Now it was my time to sigh heavily. I thanked Colt for his honesty and sent him outside to play. Then I assessed myself. Can I slow things down for Colt and others like him? Can I find ways for them to still do the work, but maybe lighten their load just a bit? 

The next day when I passed out an in class assignment, I told Colt to not worry. Whether or not he completed the paper was not as important as doing the work neatly and I assured  him that he would get recess. He gave me a smile worth a million dollars and handed in a very tidy paper.  

Why bother to lighten someone’s load? Some kids already carry a heavy load. If I can lighten it a bit, their smile will make it worth my effort.

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