A New Way of Thinking #sol18
October 2, 2018
It’s that time of year. When basic addition results in this equation: Student Learning Goals + Data Collection = Teacher Stress and Low Self Esteem. Now, I’m a literacy specialist not a math teacher, but these are the types of conversations I heard during the last week.
” We can’t set a goal that 100% of our students meet this goal, I know students who won’t be able to.”
” I think this student is low on fluency (insert comprehension or spelling)”
The actual truth is that any one or all of these statements might be true, but today I switched my own thinking about these statements. When we think about the three legged stool of RtI, we might call to mind the tiers 1-3, classroom instruction, differentiated instruction, or special education. Those are all means to assisting students in exercising their potential or getting to grade level or even progressing, but what are the real legs of our success.
When we consider who might reach our lofty goals or our measured goals, which students are more likely to succeed? Perhaps we are asking ourselves the wrong questions. It is less about the deficits of the students and more about our scaffolds, instruction, and assessment. When we create a partnership between the students, ourselves, and our resources, we elevate what each might do.
Let’s consider. First there’s the data. We collect it statically, actively, anecdotally, scientifically, through standards based assessments given with fidelity, and given to us by others whom we may or may not know. All data is taken at one moment in time by one human in a situation. Data has power to reveal and occasionally just encourage us to seek more data.
Students bring their experiences, perceptions, and knowledge to the equation; their mindset for learning, their challenges behaviorally, emotionally, and experientially. The students bring whatever situations they were in and experienced before we were their teachers. All of those things are mostly beyond us.
We, however, bring to the equation our considerable experience, our research, our knowledge, our colleagues, our ingenuity, our compassion, and our considerable grit.
So we, as educators, have the largest margin for change. Honestly, we are the only things we really can change. So let’s do it. How?
Updating our toolkit. Toolkits will vary by teacher, grade level, student population, and content. When you think about your primary presenting difficulties of your students, think what would be helpful? If students are having difficulty writing leads, perhaps shorter lessons on just leads, author mentors of leads in the genre you are writing, different ways of presenting lead including visual and auditory, short and more extensive.
Updating our mindset. I don’t know what is in your heart or mind, but we can all use a little (lot) can-do spirit, not just for ourselves, but our students. When I began thinking about writing this, I imagined that our general difficulty with goals for students is far less about what we think about the student capacity and far more about what we consider about our own abilities as educators. That’s a very hard truth and I also imagine some will not agree. However, if I truly believe that everyone’s capacity for learning is fairly limitless, then I also should believe that my ability to learn to assist that capacity is limitless as well.
Digging in. A very large part of success is actually failure. While I could Malcolm Gladwell here, perhaps it is true that we just have to keep attempting different approaches until one works and then again when we set a new goal with a student or that approach times out. I’m not going to lie here. Those attempts and the generation of those ideas are exhausting. That’s when we should help ourselves to the following tools:
Data collection – it will tell us what is working and how it is workin
Our colleagues in real Life– Our colleagues have had difficulties and ideas. They have attempted things, read things, and are fully prepared to provide us with new perspective, fresh legs, and encouragement.
Our virtual colleagues are invaluable. Debbie Miller, Lucy Calkins, Clare Landrigan, Tammy Mulligan, Jennifer Serravallo, and I are in constant communication. Sometimes that communication is one sided. They tell me things from their writings, their blogs, their tweets. Occasionally, I actually hear them speak or speak to them directly. Along with them, I have a cohort of practitioners who encourage me through social media.
So there you have it. It’s not them, it’s us… but in a good way. We have power. Power to adapt, to grow, to change, to attempt. To speak truth. To fail. To notice and definitely to succeed. I love a scene in the movie Eat Pray Love where she’s encouraged to cross over, attraversiamo. Just give it a go. What’s the worst that could happen? My darlings, what is the best?