What’s More Important than Lesson Planning, Grading & Evaluation?

There's so much still to do...

There’s so much still to do…

Yesterday was an incredibly long day.  Now, it needs to be said that as I’m nearing week 37 of pregnancy, most of my days are somewhat long as sleep can be elusive, it’s the end of semester rush of assignments (I currently have 35 in my dropbox to grade), and I’m trying to get everything tied up at work and at home in preparation for my daughter who will arrive sometime in the next few weeks (or days, or hours).

And I expected yesterday to be long.  Thursdays are my long days with back-to-back afternoon-evening classes.  It was my final lecture of the semester (with the following two weeks reserved for conferencing, presentations and closing activities) and I started the afternoon with the full sense of pregnancy exhaustion upon me (even after 3 morning naps, eating a healthy lunch and hydrating).  Leaving the house, I felt a little like crying, overwhelmed by the rest of the day ahead (or perhaps pregnancy hormones).

But, what I didn’t expect was that yesterday would be a day that would remind me of why I truly do what I do.  What’s more important than lesson plans, grading and evaluation?  Humanity, integrity, and love.  Let me explain.


I left my house feeling fully in my own humanity–exhausted, pregnant, unsure of how I’d make it through the afternoon.  But, in my humanity, I forgot my privilege.  Yesterday, I had 3 students who confided in me major family crises that had come to a head over the semester.  At the secondary level, this happened to me a lot, but as one student said, “Once you get to college, it’s different.  You don’t really talk with your professors about what’s going on with you.  People just expect you to handle it.” It really struck me, as an educator, this perception that post-secondary instructors “just expect you to handle it” and that this particular student hadn’t come to me to discuss what was going on earlier.  It reminded me of the importance of being open to students’ humanity no matter what level I am teaching at.

I ended up spending most of my evening lecture dividing my time between a student who was going through a pressing family crisis that had completely unraveled throughout the day.  Dividing my time and attention between two equally (but differently) important and urgent tasks (my final lecture and counseling my student) is difficult with a full brain, but with my current limitations, it exposed another layer of my humanity to my class.  My lecture during this session (which also happened to be the class in which evaluations were administrated) was definitely less than my best in terms of structure and organization, but one of my students kindly called out, “On your worst day, you’re still better than everyone else on their best day” (Thanks, Brittany!) and I appreciated the amazing graciousness of my students in the face of my split mind.  They trusted my need to be out of the room as they were working on various activities and came up with AMAZING project ideas when I returned to check on them.


The nature of these particular crises that my students were experiencing with their families touched upon various personal and professional experiences that I’ve had in my own life and woke me up to the fact that there’s so much more to who I am as an educator than just designing and delivering good lectures and evaluating student work.  Being in integrity with my own professional identity means being someone that students can trust to always have their best interest in mind, being someone that shows up for them, cares for them and pushes them to be their best.  It means doing what I do even when that may not show up on the evaluations (because of an administrative error that I discovered after the fact, I’m not even sure that my evaluations last night will count).  And, integrity means showing gratitude in the face of the exhaustion, giving my best 100% of the time (even though that best will vary), and always teaching by example.


Last night, my 9-year old son woke up in the middle of the night and came down the hall to my bedroom.

“Mom?” he said, tentatively.

“Hi, Son.” I responded.

“Mom! I’m so glad you’re home!  I missed you so much last night!  It’s not the same here without you.” It had been a couple of weeks (because of Spring Break and online sessions) since I had been gone the entire evening on a Thursday and he definitely felt it last night.  He gave me a huge hug.

As I returned his hug and told him how much I loved him, I was filled with a sense of peace–that in this crazy time at the end of the semester, if I continue to honor who I am, that things will turn out okay–and a sense of immense privilege, that I get to come home to such loving arms.

So, today I’ll tackle (some of) the 35 submissions in my dropbox, my 4-hours of meetings, my uncertainty about when my baby girl will arrive, but I’ll do so knowing that my humanity, integrity and love will carry me through these end-of-semester days and the many more after them.

One thought on “What’s More Important than Lesson Planning, Grading & Evaluation?

  1. You are an absolutely astounding professional and human being. Your teaching pedagogy and life philosophy resonates throughout your classes and in your personal life. You inspire countless hopefuls in a time of uncertainty and doubt, and you are the absolute best mentor that any prospective teacher or human can have. I’m so incredibly honored to be in two of your classes. Never before have I felt as assured of the profession I will enter as I have when watching you.

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