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IN PRACTICE


guides individual students toward appropriate resources to support their study. Despite minimal initial expenditures of time and energy, utilizing problem-based learning or similar approaches can result in short- and long-term benefits for both teacher and students.


From a practical standpoint, it makes sense to consider how we can use the time and energy we do have to create resources that can be used repeatedly. Renewable resources receive a great deal of attention in discourse about environmental sustainability, but rarely do they enter into discussions about teachers’ work and time. Many teachers spend a great deal of time on single-use resources, such as the laminated vocabulary word sets mentioned above. There can be great value in developing replicable materials, routines, and procedures as long as they yield results and move students toward learning goals. Such renewable resources can lead to greater efficiency because both students and teachers know how to approach their work. Teachers are more likely to refine and improve resources and assignments that are used frequently and repeatedly across school years. Some examples we have seen used successfully include routines and templates for daily warm-ups and wrap-ups, regular procedures for group work, and consistent assessment criteria for writing assignments or lab write-ups. While some of these resources may initially take time to create, they result in long- term benefits that can improve student learning. We must consider the overall relationship between the initial investment and the ultimate outcome.


The suggestions mentioned here and above may make logical sense, but they may not be workable in every teaching context. It is important to remember the individual and contextual nature of sustainable teaching; each teacher must assess for himself or herself what actions and practices seem sustainable based on time commitments, students’ needs, and pedagogical priorities.


Working Smarter or Working Harder? Consider two scenarios that illuminate challenges to and opportunities for sustainable teaching.


Mr. Jones’s Global Studies Class Mr. Jones is an enthusiastic first-year teacher. He is teaching World History to 10th graders, as well as a Global Studies elective. He enjoys the elective class, but is responsible for creating its curriculum from scratch. There is neither a textbook, nor district resources, as his school is the only one to offer the course. He finds planning the course quite daunting. The students in the elective are highly motivated, and he is pouring a lot of time into planning for these eager learners. For his second unit in the course, he picks Afghanistan, which he figures will be of interest to the students. He creates an introductory lesson in which he has five


Spring 2011 Vol. 8 No. 1 Virginia Educational Leadership 47


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