The last week of school semester should be an opportunity for an educator to dive deep into their tactics and strategies and assess/plan for the innovations needed to grow the coming semester. Teachers should not be resting on their trusty curriculum and past experiences to prepare for the new semester, but be forward thinking to what the specific group of students need for success in the next term.
Thinking about the last few weeks of school before the holiday break as a student was like placing myself in a desert ½ a mile from an oasis, with a sandstorm between me and quenching my thirst...there is a lot to do to finally break into that break.
As a teacher, it might be similar except the Andes mountains of grading, testing, reporting, commenting, and parent phone calls are standing between you and (in some cases quite literally) that beach chair and long awaited novel you have been saving.
The end of the school year can really be a heavy load which is why a majority of teachers will call the audible and have students watch a movie loosely related to the topic they just finished.
I’m wondering if a movie isn’t the best way to prepare your classroom for the next semester.
Seth Godin writes in his book This is Marketing:
“If you can bring someone belonging, connection, peace of mind, status, or one of the other most desired emotions, you’ve done something worthwhile. The thing you sell is simply a road to achieve those emotions, and we let everyone down when we focus on the tactics, not the outcomes. Who’s it for and what’s it for are the two questions that guide our decisions”
There is a lot in this quote so I want to break it down to relate to transforming a teachers end of the semester approaches.
First our Goal as an educator: “To mold the minds of all who enter our classroom to be effective, independent, problem solving, learners.”
Now that we have our goal, let’s look at this quote:
1. “ …bring belonging, connection, peace of mind, status or one of the other most desired emotions, you’ve done something worthwhile”
What questions are you asking of your students at the end of the year to better embody the characteristics/needs in this quote above? Is there a free forum where your students can share their opinions? Learning happens in a flow of knowledge, moving between and within students to help understanding come. Direction and facilitation are needed, but are all lectures all the time really effective? Let your students speak into it so that the classroom climate you are creating can engage and inspire the minds you are charged with growing.
2. “...we let everyone down when we focus on the tactics, not the outcomes.”
Many times, as educators, we are buried in tactics. It is really easy to fall into holiday movie mode along with the mindset of “the way it has always been done” because there are many different tactics required. The funny thing is, if you are practicing a level of teaching that is constantly shifting toward students. Challenging them to be problem solving learners who experience failure and work through the process of figuring out a solution. Our brains are meant to be ever growing, evolving items. To fix our mindset and our brains on something so rigid and out of date causes a loss of engagement and understanding. The outcome is to create stronger, more independent learners. Not people who cannot work through an activity without a step by step chart to guide them.
3. “Who’s it for and what’s it for are the two questions that guide our decisions”
When you ask the students to rate your classroom/unit/lesson on a scale of 1-5, who is that for? If 90% of your results come back as a 3, I am 90% confident that survey was a facade in order to appease the students who might have an opinion on how you are running your classroom. What if you allowed your students to speak truthfully to you, without consequence, about your classroom and your teaching? It would hurt, it would be humbling, it would put you in a place where you would need to improve.
What if the end of the semester question wasn’t a question, but a statement that the students answered:
“Mr./Mrs.____ I feel like___ is the most frustrating part of your classroom. If you would____I know that I would be more engaged and focused”
The end of a semester is a time to celebrate, but it is also an important time to move forward and begin the next steps in our classrooms and learning.
In the words of Carol Dweck, “Love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort and keep on learning.”
Taylor currently serves as a Coordinator of Innovative Learning for a mid-sized school district in Texas. He is a speaker, writer, and coach for all who are in conflict with the status quo.