Study to be a teacher. Get teaching job. Get award for teaching. Quit. Return with new philosophy.
Cedar Springs High School teacher Dave Stuart Jr., a self-described nerd who likes to write books during his down time, has released a second book, “How to Focus Your Teaching on What Matters Most,” available on Amazon.
An accomplished blogger who wanted to publish a book before his 30th birthday, he released his first book, “A Non-Freaked Out Guide to Teaching the Common Core,” five years ago in an attempt to help teachers understand new standards known as Common Core. His latest seeks to summarize what he sees as the core of successful teaching. “I wanted to write a book that would help me and others do this job better.”
The Road to Here
Three years after gaining his teaching credentials, Stuart quit. “I, like most who go into teaching, did it for altruistic reasons,” he said. “For the first three years of teaching, I was trying to be the sole or lone savior in education, but I soon realized that I had not achieved anywhere near what I wanted to.”
He admits to feeling pretty successful and was “even named rookie teacher of the year,” but believed that he was not doing enough and — more importantly — what he was doing “was unsustainable.”
“I knew that one day I would want to be a husband and father, and couldn’t even be a friend to my spouse and do what needed to be done in the classroom every day,” he said.
Stuart took only one year off before returning to the classroom. “It was somewhat out of necessity, but mostly I realized that I loved teaching –- I just had to figure out a different way,” he said. His latest book is his take on “how a teacher can be successful without sacrificing his or her entire life.”
Lessons He’s Learned and Practices
Stuart believes there are ways for teachers to concentrate their efforts while still making sure students flourish in the long run. His book outlines classroom practices that he believes will help students build knowledge and confidence.
He makes a case for writing assignments across the curriculum, citing data indicating approximately 25 percent of high school graduates are proficient in writing. “That is only one of a myriad of issues in education today,” said Stuart.
“Even welders have to write and submit reports at the end of projects.”
Classroom teachers ask for much less writing than they used to, he said, “and when they do, they find it difficult to read all of the papers, let alone provide feedback.” One idea Stuart shares to eliminate teacher burnout is to randomly select a few student papers to identify common errors and then spend class time on larger issues. Students then can work on correcting their own and their classmates’ work.
Since “we spend more time talking than we do writing,” teaching public speaking is also essential in every classroom, he said. “For many years it seems that it is a forgotten piece in education, except maybe in an occasional language arts classroom. Some students have no idea how to engage in a meaningful discussion.”
Stuart makes sure students engage with each other in every class period, and they are required to speak for their group or themselves to the class nearly every day. He encourages other teachers in all subject areas to try it. “It is important that every student can verbalize clearly,” he said.