The most successful people I know got that way by ignoring the race to find the elusive, there’s-only-one-and-no-one-has-found-it right answer, and instead had the guts to look at the infinite landscape of choices and pick a better problem instead.
There is no shortage of people who want to tell you the most important problem you need to think about and solve this year in your classroom. Many of those same people would be happy to sell you a program or curriculum to solve that very problem — imagine that!
Maybe you’ve been told the problem is your student test scores are too low, or you haven’t yet mastered the Common Core. These may be genuine problems for you, or they may be trumped-up crises. It doesn’t really matter, because if you’re going to focus your work on solving a problem someone else hands you, it’s not going to add much zest or pleasure to your teaching.
There’s a reason thoroughbreds wear blinders so that they can’t see other horses in their peripheral vision. They run best when they run their own race. If you want to love your work, pick a question about your classroom or students to explore that’s a better problem out there in that “landscape of infinite choices”: one you really care about now. Maybe it’s building the nonfiction collection in your classroom library, or looking closely at how kids master conversation skills, or diving into blogging with your students to see how that changes their conversations about books. Or maybe (probably) it’s something else. If you care about it, it’s a better problem to think about than anything suggested by someone else.
What would schools look like if leaders spent less time asking teachers about standards and paperwork, and more time asking them how they planned to add more joy to their classrooms? I have no idea, but I do know successful people tend to chase joy in their work, not paper.
This week we’re focused on goals — plus more as always. Enjoy!
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Here are two articles from the Choice Literacy archives to help students and teachers set goals.
Gretchen Taylor is Helping Middle School Readers Set Goals in her sixth-grade classroom:
Be kind to yourself, as well as realistic. This is the advice of Ruth Ayres in On Perfection and Goals:
If you’re new to student goal-setting, Maurice Elias at Edutopia has some practical tips:
Donalyn Miller has suggestions for Turning a Reading Slump into a Reading Surge to revive reading motivation after a break. While Donalyn was writing after winter break, the principles work just as well for students returning from summer break too:
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Gretchen Taylor goes through the stages of “value-added grief” when her sixth-grade team receives disappointing test scores from the state. She finds teacher research helps her find joy again in her classroom, as well as some useful strategies for helping a group of struggling readers:
Sometimes the goals of reading a variety of books and having the stamina to finish them can be in conflict, especially as students move into lengthier texts. In this week’s video with print commentary, Melissa Styger confers with a fourth-grade student who is reading two novels simultaneously, and shares her criteria for determining when it’s appropriate for students to read multiple texts:
One goal of many primary teachers is to help students finish their drafts with an ending other than “The End” (or “they lived happily ever after”). Katie DiCesare shows her first graders many alternative examples, and she begins early in the year. She lists some of her favorites in Mentor Texts for Writing Endings:
In a new series, Megan Ginther and Holly Mueller present Reading Contracts, a system for middle and high school teachers which involves students contracting to complete specific texts and tasks each month. In this week’s installment, they will provide an overview of how the contracts work. Subsequent installments will feature sample monthly contracts:
New PD2Go: Mandy Robek presents a two-minute reminder minilesson to her kindergartners on the “I-Pick” strategy for selecting books during independent reading time.
This lesson supports Common Core State Standard English/Language Arts Literacy RF K.4: Read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding.
That’s all for this week!