The staff at Free Spirit is privileged to work with many amazing authors. We will be sharing more author spotlights with you, and hope you enjoy learning about these writers who are dedicated to helping kids succeed. The following interview was recently published in our newsletter, Upbeat News.
After working as a classroom teacher for over twenty years, Patrick Kelley, M.A., has picked up more than a few tips and tricks to make life easier for educators. In this month’s author spotlight, he shares why he decided to write a guide to help teachers better manage their workload and how his students—and passion for the job—have benefited from cutting back on busywork. Read on.
Q: What prompted you to write Teaching Smarter?
Patrick: Like many teachers, I have often been at the threshold of burnout due to the ever-increasing and ever-changing workload. There is a prevailing mindset in education that the way to fix every problem is to put the new task on the teacher. I am absolutely convinced that the road to academic success needs to be paved with less paperwork. I wrote Teaching Smarter to validate what part of the teacher workload really matters to student success and then give practical ways to get it done with minimal stress. After reading this book, I hope educators will say: “This is a relief! There is less on my plate! I can manage this.”
Q: What was the best/most rewarding part of developing this book?
Patrick: I tested the thesis of every chapter of Teaching Smarter with my own students. I virtually read the book to them. The best part was my students teaching me what works and what doesn’t. I have to tell you that kids really think that much of what we ask them do in class is busy work and a waste of time. Many students underperform because they don’t know the rules of the game. They taught me how important it is to reveal the logistics of the teacher grading system. To them how their final grade is determined is a hidden agenda and a mystery. It was rewarding to see the educational process through their eyes.
Q: Did you like school as a kid? What were the best parts? Was there anything you didn’t love about school?
Patrick: I loved P.E. I hated math. I loved history. I endured English. I liked all subjects when the teacher demonstrated passion or unconventional thinking. I disconnected with much of the work –especially writing and worksheets.
Q: What is your favorite part of being an educator?
Patrick: Lunch. Now, I know what you are thinking! It is not that. You see, a nice number of students eat lunch with me every day. It is the most real part of the day. They talk, they joke, they let me into their world. It is not about work. It is not about grades. There is no agenda. No standards. No objectives. Just fun. I laugh and they laugh.
Q: How about the hardest part of being an educator?
Patrick: The workload tries to follow me home every night like a stray dog. It invades my dreams. The hardest part is the feeling that I will never master the game—only manage it. Perhaps that is also the best part.
Q: What is the most important thing you’ve learned in your twenty years of teaching?
Patrick: The power of humor. I am not by nature all that funny but I work at it. I get a yearbook every year and have all of my students sign it, just in case someday they are famous or infamous. They often comment on all my “jokes.” I never prepare a joke in my lesson plans. I rarely realize that I just said something funny. Sometimes they make me laugh so hard that I turn red. I think they are afraid I may keel over. We have good memories. Good memories are often founded on humor. I am able to endure the demands of teaching through humor.
Q: And finally, our favorite question for authors: What makes you a “Free Spirit”?
Patrick: I have no dancing skills whatsoever. I believe I was born that way. When students play their beloved music for me, eager to hear my approval for their exquisite taste, I offer up my best dance moves as an interpretation of my take on the song. I can’t do this often because it is hard to regain control of the class. I also have the quirky habit of getting off track and making annoying puns. Just the other day we were watching a video on the Cuban Missile Crisis and one of my dear students said that my smile was just like Nikita Khrushchev’s. I was devastated. I paused the video and walked up to the screen in the front of the room and struck up a smile side by side with the old Soviet leader. We were twins they said. There were many photos taken. They warned me it might go viral. I said, “No, no, with Khrushchev it can only go nuclear.” Annoying puns I am sorry, but you asked.
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