Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Your End-of-School Checklist

With a little over a week to go before your summer break, you don’t have the time or the motivation to read anything too long or too thought-provoking from me, so this one is going to be short and sweet. It’s a checklist of 5 things I want you to do before you leave for the summer.
1.  Find a student who has worked hard and has improved in your class this year—not one who received the highest grade on his or her report card but one who should be proud for having come a long way. Privately let that student know that you are proud of his or her hard work and have noticed the improvement and growth. Students get so focused on grades that they don’t often feel validated or noticed for their progress. Be intentional about pointing it out and you might provide some momentum that carries over into the next year and beyond.
2.  Leave yourself a note somewhere where you will find it when you return to school in the fall. Tell yourself something nice and motivational, but, more importantly, remind yourself of something you want to make sure you remember to do differently next year to impact student learning or to help you maintain your sanity. The beginning of the school year can be a blur. Let this note be a reminder of what is most important to your wise end-of-school self that your harried back-to-school self needs to know.
3.  When you sign students’ yearbooks, don’t put comments about anything that reinforces a fixed mindset. Don’t write about how smart, creative, athletic, talented, or beautiful your students are. Those seem to imply fixed abilities that students either possess or don’t. Provide descriptive feedback about traits that are under their control and show the positive choices or qualities they have demonstrated. Most of the time, praising the behaviors you like to see when you see them brings them to the attention of the students and causes them value those behaviors in themselves.
4.  Say thank you to a colleague and to an administrator for something they do or have done to make your year better. Everyone likes to know they’re appreciated, and busy times are when people need to hear it most.
5.  Peruse the bookshelves at work and find one book you can read over the summer to help you grow professionally. Don’t take too many. You mostly need to read things for fun during your vacation, but a little professional learning during your break might give you some new ideas to start next year afresh. If you’re not a reader (yet you’ve managed to make it to bullet point 5 in my list), maybe you can commit to some professional learning online.
Thank you for all you do to improve the lives of students, to build community in your school, to change the trajectories of lives, and to support your fellow educators. Thanks for the late hours, the early tutorials, the after-hours event attendance, the feedback providing, the parent phone calls, the positivity, the perseverance, the problem solving, the patience, the planning, and the other duties as assigned. Your hard work and dedication make a difference. You are a hero.  

Enjoy a well-earned summer break.  

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Two Ideas to Let Steep During Your Summer Break

One of the joys of summer during my childhood was sun tea. There was something especially wonderful about filling a big jar with water, dropping in a few tea bags, and letting the tea steep in a sunny spot in the backyard for the afternoon. A tall glass of sun tea with a sprig of mint snipped from the garden and a squeeze of fresh lemon surpassed the quality of traditional boiling-water-brewed tea and, not surprisingly, the instant Nestea or Lipton varieties. Perhaps the difference was merely in my brain, but I’d like to think that allowing the tea to brew slowly over a long period of time produced something superior.



Ideas are a lot like that. The ones we let steep for a long time are often better than the ones we cook up in a jiffy. When I have a problem to solve, I often find it’s useful to let it marinade over time rather than try to solve it in an afternoon. The summer is the perfect time to passively ponder over something that you can put into place at the beginning of the new school year.

If you don’t already have a burning question you hope to ruminate over during your vacation, I have two suggestions of topics that, because of their complexity, might not present easy answers at first but could transform your teaching practices in the fall if you had an opportunity to think about them in depth:  the state of your gradebook and your classroom expectations.

The State of Your Gradebook       

Grading has been a hot topic in recent years, and, if the chatter I see in my Twitter newsfeed is any indication, it’s not going away anytime soon. There’s a call for change in schools because people have realized that our long-held practices about grading don’t accomplish what grading is supposed to.

Your gradebook should do more than just provide a numerical proclamation of a student’s performance in your class. The numbers are meaningless unless your gradebook provides worthwhile, usable information about a student’s progress toward mastery of objectives in your class. This means that every entry— major or minor— communicates to students and parents what a student does or does not know or know how to do. This also means that things such as “completion” grades and “participation” grades need to go. Teachers embracing gradebook reform have to rethink what their gradebook looks like, what constitutes a meaningful grade, how many grades need to be taken, when and how students can redo an assignment to reach mastery, how this intersects with the district’s curriculum, and what this looks like in a teaming situation with multiple teachers teaching the same class on a campus. Such change will certainly necessitate discussion among teachers and administrators and some re-education of students and parents.

Wrapping my head around this boggles my brain because it’s hard to unlearn something that was a part of my upbringing in the school system as well as my accepted practice for decades of classroom teaching. I’m convinced, though, that it’s time for a change, and this is something I might need a summer to ponder to figure out for myself.  

Clarifying Classroom Expectations
A second thorny topic has to do with classroom management. Once upon a time, I’d spend hours over the summer devising a new set of rules and consequences to be unveiled on the first day of school to a new crop of future offenders. What behaviors are unacceptable? How many times should a student be allowed to leave the room and for how long? How many warnings occur before something terrible happens? How will I display my rules and consequences so my students will know what dreaded fate awaits them if they violate my policies? Should I underline the word “not” each time it appears on my list of rules, put it in boldface, italicize it, or do all three?

The reading I’ve been doing lately on the subject of classroom management says that punishment it out and expectations are in.

Effective teachers teach students the behavioral expectations for each activity that occurs in their classroom: how to enter and leave the room, what to do when the tardy bell rings, what reading time looks and sounds like, what happens during group work, what to do when you finish an assignment early, and what to do if you have a question or need assistance. At the beginning of school, teachers communicate, practice, and model these expectations, and then they hold their students accountable for them consistently throughout the year, reteaching as necessary and reinforcing the desired behaviors as they observe them.

What this means is that I need to spend some time clarifying my expectations for myself. What situations are likely to occur in my room, what do I want the students to be doing in each instance, and how can I communicate those most clearly to my students at the beginning of school? Setting up clear procedures at the outset is the best way to have a classroom that functions smoothly throughout the year, and that requires clarity in the mind of the teacher. I’d let that one brew over the summer so I have a clear picture in my mind when it’s time to go back to school in August.

Sun tea doesn’t take a lot of work or effort to make, but the result is worth the wait time. Similarly, having an idea in your head— one of the ones I suggested or one you’ve dreamed up yourself— gives you something to ponder in a low-stress environment, the kind where the best ideas develop slowly over time without a lot of conscious work on your part. Maybe you’ll have some inspiration and clarity in a moment of unconscious reflection that will pay off for you in the fall.  

I just read on the internet that sun tea might harbor deadly bacteria because the water doesn’t get hot enough to kill the bad microbes in your tea. So don’t get so gung-ho about the nostalgia that you poison your family and friends. Maybe you could enjoy a snowcone instead. The metaphor isn’t as good, but at least it won’t kill you.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Riding Into the Home Stretch

Have you ever been on a horseback ride? I’m not talking about the kind where you take a horse from the barn and gallop freely through a meadow in whatever direction you please. I’m thinking of the ones where you and a whole crowd of other city slickers pay money to hop into a saddle and ride slowly in a long line of horses along a dusty trail in a loop that the poor animals have walked several times a day for years. The horses follow one another mindlessly out of the barn and know the path by rote. Riders have the illusion of control, and they receive instructions about how to slow down, speed up, and turn the horse by kicking gently or moving the reins. Ultimately, though, the horses are in charge. What these horses want to do—in my experience—is walk lethargically with their noses uncomfortably close to the backsides of the horses in front of them.  



There is a moment in such horse rides, however, when the horses realize that the stable is just around the bend. They start thinking about hay, oats, and water and about getting these annoying tourists off their backs. At that point, for the first time in the ride, the horses perk up and try to break into a trot—or perhaps a canter—to get back to the barn. This is the only time in the horseback riding experience where the rider has to make any effort to exert control because the horses have reached the home stretch and are determined to get this ride over with.

A similar phenomenon is occurring in schools across the country at this very minute. Students have realized that the end around the corner, and they are resisting all control as they gallop into summertime.

At this point in the school year, I have three pieces of advice for teachers (who, I hope you have realized, are the riders in this extended metaphor):

1.  Hold on. The last weeks of school can get pretty bumpy. Even the kids who usually make great decisions will do something stupid. Several are going to quit working altogether and try to scrape by, making end-of-the-year grades a nail-biter for you and for their parents. There will probably be a random pulling of the fire alarm or some other shenanigans. Things will be done that try your patience. Don’t freak out. Be the adult in the room. Someone needs to be thinking calmly and rationally, and it might as well be you. And the kids won’t be the only ones testing your fortitude. Your principal will probably add on some extra paperwork, a meeting or three, checklists, sign-out sheets, textbook inventories, goal conferences, and other end-of-school fun and games. Make a to-do list and check off tasks with a smile, knowing that there’s a break in your future. Don’t let stress overwhelm you. You’re not alone. Everyone is feeling it. Hold on, and you’ll get through.  

2. Maintain control. The state tests are over, the AP test party is coming to a close, and final exams seem further away than they are. But there is instructional time remaining, nearly three weeks’ worth. If you don’t fill the time with something worthwhile, you’ve (A) wasted some opportunities to teach your students things that will make them smarter, more skilled, or better prepared for whatever the world is going to fling at them in the future, and (B) inadvertently communicated the idea that the real purpose of school is to prepare students for the state tests.  The mentality that the rest of the year is playtime since the STAAR test is over harms students—and the teachers they will have down the road—by reinforcing the test-prep mentality and eradicating authentic learning. The last few weeks of school should be a time for students to pull everything together, reflect on the year’s growth, set goals for the future, and showcase what they have learned in your class throughout the year. It’s a time to enrich, to extend, and to move beyond the basic skills. It’s also a time to keep students busy; that’s the best way to keep them in control until the final bell rings on the last day of school and you send them out into the world. We only have a limited time with our students to help them become literate, functional, thoughtful, competent, independent adults. Shouldn’t we take advantage of every moment?  I’m all for letting students have some say in what they are learning and how they learn it, but they don’t get to decide that their choice is just to hang out and do nothing for the last three weeks of the year.  

3. Enjoy the ride.  Kids are awesome. That’s why we got into education, right? So don’t forget to take the time during these final weeks to enjoy your students. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t smile at the beginning of the year and has forgotten that at some point it’s okay to do so, now is probably the time to retire the frowny face. Don’t let your ever-growing to-do list turn you into a grumpasaurus. Laugh, especially when things get crazy.  Keep the pacing in class relaxed but productive. Form some happy memories. You don’t want your students’ final memories of you to be “that teacher who yelled at us until she broke a blood vessel in her neck the week before exams.”


I wish you a safe and enjoyable ride to the end of the school year and hope that you’ll leave with happy memories that will keep you coming back with renewed excitement for another lap next year.     

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Common Language

All I wanted was a washcloth.

After a 19-hour flight from Dallas followed by a full day of sightseeing in the summer Sydney sun, I checked into my hotel, thinking only of how wonderful it would be to wash the layers of sunscreen off my travel-weary face.

My hotel bathroom was well equipped with hand towels, bath towels, tiny soaps and shampoos, but nary a washcloth was to be found. I called down to the front desk, and asked if housekeeping could please bring me a washcloth. The person on the phone, who spoke Australian English, seemed a little flummoxed by my request but said she would take care of it.

About 45 minutes later, there was a knock on my door. When I answered, a hotel staff member handed me a tall pile of hand towels, smiled, and walked off. At this point, I was too tired to think, so I simply assumed that perhaps washcloths aren’t a thing Australians use. After all, it’s surrounded by ocean. Maybe everyone just brings their own loofah with them when they travel.

The next day, I mentioned this confusing incident to some Australian friends at lunch. At my mention of the word “washcloth,” they looked at each other with perplexity. So I did a little charades while describing the item I was looking for. In unison, my friends replied, “Oh, you mean a face washer!”

That night, back at the hotel, I called to request a face washer and within 15 minutes had a supply to last me the rest of my stay.

Sometimes, even in a place where everyone speaks a common language, knowing the preferred terminology for something can make all the difference.   

The same is true in schools. When there isn’t some standardization across the school, we risk confusing, frustrating, or completely losing the students. If a student goes to five different academic classes and several electives in the course of the day and each teacher has a different tardy policy, a different term for the activity the students are expected to be working on as the bell rings, a different policy for late work, a different test makeup policy, a different idea of what note-taking should look like, and a different organizational scheme for notebooks, the student has to juggle six or seven separate sets of guidelines throughout the day.

The power of AVID Schoolwide is that schools establish a common language and present instruction with a unified voice across the school. If the entire faculty of a school shares some basic understandings and terminology—about what the note-taking process entails, how students should organize their materials, where and how students should keep track of assignments and due dates, what a Socratic Seminar or Philosophical Chairs discussion looks like, how students are expected to use academic language, what students should be doing when they read critically in all classes, and how collaborative structures can enhance instruction and deepen student learning—students succeed with fewer impediments.

Imagine a student who experiences three so-called Socratic Seminars in one month of school in three different classes. In one class, the students and teacher arrange chairs in a circle, and the teacher introduces various topics for discussion and debate. The subjects for discussion range from school dress code to the winners of the MTV Music Awards. There is no grade, nor is there any follow-up activity. In another class, the students circle up and discuss a teacher-generated topic about a novel they had been reading. During the discussion, the teacher tallies the number of times each student speaks and assigns a grade determined by “participation and quality of discussion.” In the third class, the teacher gives students an article to read and annotate for homework. At the beginning of class the next day, students in triads generate questions for discussion. Students form a circle of desks and engage in 30 minutes of discussion to deepen the class’s understanding of the article. The teacher only interrupts to remind and encourage students to use the academic language stems they have been practicing in class. The following day, the students begin writing an essay about the article using the notes they took during the discussion to help them.

At the end of that month, if you asked that student to explain Socratic Seminars to you, you’d probably get a muddled answer since the student had three disparate experiences that were all called by the same name. If the faculty at that campus had only had  a shared understanding of the purpose and procedures of Socratic Seminars, students could focus on deepening their skills for rigorous academic discussion rather than learning to navigate the rules in multiple environments.

The AVID Site Team is a powerful force for maximizing the impact of AVID for all students on campus. With members from many content areas, the Site Team can determine what best practices should be disseminated across the campus and provide staff development to help establish a common understanding among the faculty. Having high-impact instructional practices in place for critical reading, note-taking, academic language, content area writing, collaboration, and organization is the passport students need to transfer learning and build overall academic skills throughout the instructional day.  

With a common language for instruction, we can keep students from driving on the wrong side of the road academically. When the academic language barrier is removed, everyone can work toward shared goals that will open doors down the road for success in college and careers.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Guilty!

We’ve all done it. Each one of us is guilty. And some of us don’t even know what we are guilty of.


Here’s an example of a time I was unknowingly guilty:  My English students were in the midst of a study of Romeo and Juliet. My main goals during the unit were to familiarize my students with the language of Shakespeare and equip them with the reading strategies they could use to analyze difficult poetic text. In a planning meeting, our team came up with an assignment we thought our students would enjoy completing. We provided four options students could choose from:  
  • working with a group to rewrite a scene into more contemporary language and perform their modernized scene for the class
  • illustrating a scene from the play in a comic-book-style format
  • writing diary entries from the perspective of Romeo or Juliet about the events taking place during the play
  • watching or reading a contemporary adaptation of the play and writing an essay about parallels with Shakespeare’s original text
We gave the assignment, the students chose their options, and they set out to work. We crafted a generic rubric that would apply to all four options and awaited the student creativity.


What we were guilty of, even though we had the very best of intentions, was not aligning our assessments with the instructional goals. The goals, as I stated earlier, related to students’ abilities to comprehend Shakespearean poetic language independently. The assessments, depending on what students selected, measured a variety of things. Acting out a modern scene in a group assessed the ability of one person in a group to be able to rewrite a scene from the play and for all the members of the group to perform the script effectively. The comic book tested a student’s ability to draw but not necessarily to have a keen understanding of what the language means, especially if the student paid attention to the scenes from the film I’d showed in class and could render them on paper. The diary required insight into character, an understanding of the plot, and some writing ability. The modern adaptation analysis assessed whether a student could write a compare/contrast essay (or, perhaps, the student’s Google skills).


None of the options we gave our students was terrible. They simply had little to do with the objectives of the unit and were thus not an accurate assessment of student learning. Furthermore, the four assessments didn’t even assess the same skills. A student could strategically select an option that played to his or her strengths and never have to demonstrate actual learning of a curricular objective.  


Every teacher has had a planning brainstorm about something that would engage students and has inserted it into the curriculum without spending the time to think about how the new idea fits with unit objectives. WIth more deliberate planning, however, we can make sure we never commit this instructional crime again.


Two questions developed by WIggins and McTighe in The Understanding By Design Guide to Creating High-Quality Units help me think about how assessments align with unit goals:
  1. Could students do the proposed assignment(s) well but not really have mastered or understood the content in question?
  2. Could students do poorly on the specific assessment(s) but really have mastery of the content in question? (p. 53)


In the case of my Romeo and Juliet assignment explained above, I can answer yes to both questions, which isn’t a good thing.  


Yes, a student could give a convincing and impressive performance of a modernized scene from the play without knowing anything about how to read and interpret Shakespearean verse.


Yes, a learner who knows how to read Shakespeare could make a C if she didn’t have the art skills to draw a comprehensible comic book rendering of a scene.


Yes, a student could write an awesome diary from Juliet’s perspective with only knowledge gained from watching the film or reading the Sparknotes online.


Yes, a kid could analyze West Side Story as a Romeo and Juliet adaptation without reading a word of Shakespeare.  


It’s clear that when we were planning this assignment, we were thinking a lot more about activities than we were thinking about understandings. Though our Romeo and Juliet project gave the students choices of several potentially interesting activities, the activities we designed weren’t valid measures of the student outcomes we claimed to be seeking.  


When we string a bunch of activities together to create a unit, we often commit the crime of not having activities line up with unit objectives. Another crime we could be charged for at the same time is lining up activities that do not work together to ensure student success on the final assessment. In an effectively-designed unit, the activities the students do are carefully planned and sequenced to prepare learners to transfer their learning to the final authentic assessment. Anything that is incongruous with the end goal should probably be avoided.  


When we realize we are guilty of misaligned activities, we have to make some hard, sad decisions to say goodbye to some beloved old friends.


I’d have to say goodbye to that AVID assignment where students researched various colleges and worked in teams to create a scrapbook that showcased their findings and “memories” of their fictional first year in college. In reality, a group could get a good grade for putting together an attractive scrapbook and have learned little about college itself; conversely, a group lacking scrapbooking skills could know a lot and not be able to show it.


I would have to sever ties with that day the kids loved when they brought in Greek food while we were reading Homer’s Odyssey because how does making (or buying) a pan of baklava demonstrate any understanding of Greek epic poetry?


I’d bid a tearful farewell to any quiz or test where I asked the students to recall the speaker of a quotation from a novel, short story, or play because I never taught any unit where the learning objective was, “Memorize a text you read once, maybe twice.”


I’d realize I had to let go of most of my artworks depicting scenes from books, artistic vocabulary posters, anything involving paper mache or a trip to Hobby Lobby, and all other activities and assignments that don’t measure skills I have taught or help students develop skills necessary to be successful on an assessment of their skills and understandings.


People who disagree with me on this are probably thinking, “This buzzkill thinks we need to get rid of everything that is actually fun and enjoyable to the kids!” That’s not the case. I’m a firm believer that fun and authentic learning are not mutually exclusive terms. There is fun in discovering a new book, reading it, and engaging in worthwhile conversation about it with another reader. There is fun in exploring a topic in depth, posing student-derived questions about the learning, and seeking the answers. There is fun in learning how to do something you couldn’t do before and using that new skill to solve a real-world problem. There is fun in debating a topic and using logical support to buoy your argument. With careful planning and attention to learning goals and outcomes, you can make learning fun and engaging.

The next time you are planning for instruction, ask yourself those guiding questions to make sure you’re not guilty of a goal/assignment mismatch. Your instructional coaches will be happy to do our best to help you remain crime-free...at least in terms of curriculum and instruction.  

Saturday, April 15, 2017

20 Questions: A Note-taking Self-Quiz

20 Questions  
A Note-taking Self-Quiz
Answer the following questions about your reading and note-taking from a textbook. The “best practice” answer for each question is “yes.” If you’re struggling with note-taking and studying, consider ways you might change some of your “no” answers to “yes.”.  
While reading:   
1. Do you preview the chapter before reading to get an overview of how the author has organized it?
2.  Do you read in an environment that is free of distractions (no television, music, text messages, computer interruptions, etc.)?
3.  Do you think while you read? (You should be actively working to construct meaning and understand as you read.)
4.  Do you leave white space in your notes so you can add more information or make connections later?
5.  Do you abbreviate whenever possible?
6.  Do you avoid writing complete sentences in your notes, focusing instead on phrases, words, or pictures?
7.  Do your notes reflect the organization of the chapter?  Do you write the names of sections?  
8.  Can a person looking at your notes distinguish main ideas from supporting details?
9.  Do you try to see the big ideas in the reading?  Are you thinking about how the author organized the chapter, why the author included specific information, how ideas compare and contrast, etc.?
10.  Are you categorizing the information or grouping the information by theme (ie. social, political, economic; causes, effects) as you read?
11.  Are you avoiding minutia (tiny details or trivia like dates and statistics)?
12.  Do you look for cues in the text (“the most important reason…”, “another cause…”, “three goals…”)?
13.  Do you put info in a chart, picture, or diagram when useful to do so?
14.  Are you thinking about your notes as a reminder of what you learned in your reading rather than as a storage place for information you didn’t take the time to put in your brain?
15.  Do you think about why people, events, examples, etc. are important?
16.  Are your notes legible?   
After reading (steps that lead to long-term learning):   
17.  Do you review and revise your notes after taking them (preferably before class)?  Are you underlining or highlighting key terms? Putting stars by important ideas? Color-coding your notes?
18.  Do you write higher-level questions about your notes after reviewing and revising them?
19.  Do you summarize the notes as a whole after writing questions?   
20.  Can you use your notes to retell the story of the chapter?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Your Hidden Objectives: Are You Accomplishing Them?

What are you teaching tomorrow? If I asked you that, you might respond in several ways:


“Cellular respiration.”


“Pythagorean Theorem.”  


“Act II of Romeo and Juliet.”


“The French Revolution and the American Revolution.”


“I don’t know yet. I have to make it through today first.”


Maybe answering a question like that makes you uncomfortable. In many cases—perhaps most—we gauge our classroom experiences not by what we are teaching but by what our students are learning or doing. Teachers who want to make the learning clear to students do so by informing them of the learning objectives for a particular lesson or for a unit as a whole. Students like to be told what they’re supposed to be learning or doing so they can figure out whether it’s happening.


When we shift our thinking to what our students are doing, we come up with more thoughtful objectives, and sometimes we see where the weaknesses in our instructional plans lie. Your students might be explaining how their cells extract energy from the foods they consume, determining the length of the third side of a right triangle when they know the lengths of the other two, or comparing and contrasting the French and American Revolutions and using their discoveries to determine features common to all revolutions.
If you discover that all you can say is that tomorrow your students are learning what happens in Act II of Romeo and Juliet, you might consider how you’re teaching it and what you might change to make that learning more meaningful. Perhaps your students could debate whether Shakespeare’s portrayal of the blossoming love between the teens is convincing or ridiculous. Or your students could analyze how Shakespeare uses figurative language to communicate the feelings of the young lovers to the audience and discuss how figurative language might strengthen their own writing.
     
Whatever your stated objective is, I also invite you to consider something bigger, something I like to call the Hidden Objective.


The Hidden Objective is the overarching transformation you hope will occur in your students because they took your class. It’s the life-altering difference you hope to make in them that will benefit them even if they never take another course in your subject area. It’s something you would probably never overtly tell your students, but it’s something that you would be completely delighted sometime in the future to discover has taken place and that you played a part in it.


Here are some of my own Hidden Objectives from my own teaching of English, humanities, and the AVID Elective:    
  • My students will read for pleasure and will share their love of reading with others.
  • My students will feel confident as communicators who can speak and write powerfully for a variety of audiences and in any situation.
  • My students will be able to form an opinion of their own, back it up, and share it with others in a way that makes others consider it.
  • My students appreciate the arts as a means for understanding others, understanding the world around them, and understanding themselves.
  • My students seek out arts experiences of their own to add value to their lives.    
  • My students use their talents and abilities to make the world a better place for someone other than just themselves.
  • My students will realize that learning doesn’t always have a quantifiable outcome and that the best learning is learning for its own sake.
  • My students will take charge of their lives, advocate for themselves, and not just let life happen to them.


Considering your Hidden Objectives gives you life and direction as an educator. The objectives become a part of your mission, the driving force that propels all your other efforts. Reminding yourself of these objectives and checking in on your progress not only keeps you on track but also gives meaning to the work you do.


If you’re lucky, you’ll run into one of your former students years later, and, in thanking you, that student will let you know what impact you’ve made on his or her life.

It’s not likely that the former student will say, “Thank you so much for being my teacher. Because of you, I know what happened in Act II of Romeo and Juliet.”  The former student probably won’t say, “Because of your class, I can analyze the effect of figurative language on a reader. That has taken me far in life.”

Perhaps—and this will warm your heart when it happens—you’ll hear your former student say, “I write all the time for my job, and I think that I’m good at it because you taught me the importance of always considering how the audience will respond to what you write. I choose words carefully, reread my writing for clarity, and anticipate my readers’ reactions in advance. Thank you for teaching me that.”


Unfortunately, we don’t always get to know about the impact our work has on students. Rest assured, though, that because of our collective efforts and the many Hidden Objectives that drive our interactions with students, we have made and will continue to make differences in the ways they view themselves as thinkers, citizens, community members, readers, writers, problem solvers, mathematicians, historians, scientists, leaders, athletes, performers, scholars, family members, students, employees, team members, listeners, speakers, partners, innovators, caretakers, creators, planners, hosts, guests, producers, and people.


I’m interested in hearing about your Hidden Objectives. If you’d care to share yours, add them to my Google Form here. If I get enough responses, I will share them in a future post. There’s power in seeing the impact we are each making and how it affects the big picture of our students’ experiences.