29 Ways You’ll Know You’re Teaching Your #[email protected] Off

29 Ways You’ll Know You’re Teaching Your #[email protected] Off

by Terry Heick

Mediocre teaching is not difficult. Great teaching is another matter entirely.

For those teachers who constantly push, revise, take notes, Google, blog, connect, download, falter, and push even harder, we have collected the following “data points” –both serious & otherwise–so that you can see all that goes into your craft.


29 Ways You’ll Know You’re Teaching Your #[email protected] Off

Ed note: This has been updated and republished from a 2013 post

  1. You’ve spent as much (or more) time redesigning assessments than you have “re-teaching.”
  2. You’ve cried at least twice.
  3. You know the reading level of every single student, no matter what content area you teach, or how many students you teach.
  4. Students grow more confident as the year goes on, not less.
  5. You realized that your Project-Based Learning unit really should’ve probably been a novel study, and your “poetry unit” really should’ve been a self-directed, Challenge-Based Learning unit, and….well, you get the picture.
  6. You dream in edu-jargon.
  7. You’ve taught before class, during class, after class, during your lunch, during your planning period, in the hallway, before school, after school, via twitter, across email, and through YouTube.
  8. You focused more on learning than teaching.
  9. Your unit and lesson documents have more post-it notes (indicating needs for revision) than original text.
  10. Speaking of post-it notes, they’re making more than 50% of your books unreadable with clutter.
  11. Your instructional coach actually quick-walks the other way when they see you.
  12. You can recall, on demand, more than 75% of your academic standards.
  13. You text with your principal.
  14. You’re out of paper, hard drive space, bandwidth, or email storage by December. 
  15. The email address of more than 25 parents “auto-completes” in your email address bar.
  16. You’ve Google’d “instructional strategies” at least 11 times.
  17. Your district technology coordinator is intimidated by you.
  18. You read TeachThought, Edutopia, and Mindshift more than you watch local news, The Bachelor, and Duck Dynasty put together.
  19. You’ve encouraged your spouse, children, or friend to be “data-driven.”
  20. Some students don’t like you.
  21. Your facebook page has more edu-commentary than the YouTube comments section of an Arnie Duncan press conference.
  22. You have more than 3 legal pads full of meeting notes that seemed important at the time.
  23. You’ve spoken to the grandparents of certain students more often than your own siblings.
  24. You’ve “borrowed” someone else’s coffee, tea, or Diet Coke.
  25. You’ve fallen asleep grading or planning.
  26. You’ve wanted to fall asleep teaching.
  27. You’ve noticed a growing suspicion that the “unit” may not be the best way to package curriculum.
  28. Students seem bothered when you’re disappointed in them/their performance.
  29. You literally never stop thinking what you could’ve done better.

29 Crazy Examples Of What It’s Like To Be A Modern Teacher 


  • My principal included this list in her weekly mass email. I’m sure she meant to inspire us; however, it was anything but inspiring. It reminded me of the unattainable expectations placed on teachers and the lack of support they receive as they try to be great at their craft.

  • This website produces a lot of lists like this–with accompanying graphics–and I feel like they miss the mark due to complete lack of editing. 29 things is an awful lot, so there’s room to cut, and certainly not all of these are gems. 1, 5, 9 are redundant. 2 seems kind of whiny. 10, 11, 17, 18, 19, 21, 23, 24, and 26 are either really specific or really lame. And so forth.

    Overall, if the goal of this article is to give your subscribers and loyal readers useful content, TT should ditch thoughtless “this is what a good teacher looks like! this is what a student looks like! this is what a good desk looks like!” lists. If your goal is to produce super fast content that goes viral on facebook or in teacher inboxes, fine, but 29 is too many list items: 5-10 at most.

    Generally, I would prefer to read articles that are good enough to have an author’s name on them!

    • Good feedback. In short, we try for a variety of content styles that collectively–hopefully–help explore the best in teaching and learning. Some educators won’t read anything longer than a couple of paragraphs. Some prefer 1200 word essays. Some like snark, while others skip articles that depend on it. Some won’t read it *unless* it’s a list. And so on. This is the part of being a publisher that requires the most work–for me, anyway. It’s not easy–and the decisions aren’t as basic as they seem from the outside looking in.

      Thanks as always for the comments. Keeps us on our toes!

      • Reading over my comment, it was pretty snarky–that must have been me pre-morning coffee, I apologize. I *do* understand the need for a variety of content types, though I stand by that this one could be either lengthened or shortened for maximum effectiveness.

        Thanks for the response, though! I am a follower of your blog precisely because you guys do things like respond to comments in a thoughtful and sincere way that elevates the level of discourse, even for crabby teachers like me. 🙂

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