Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Teachers: What is Your Learning Legacy?

I've always liked a good debate--not a fight--not bullying--just two minds looking at both sides of an issue in hopes to discover the best way to move forward. By challenging one another, we find alternatives, various solutions, and hopefully an eventual agreement or at the very least an understanding on a topic. 

Recently, I've been thinking a good deal about my purpose as an educator. With so many varied thoughts and opinions out there, it can be easy to get caught up in the hot topic of the moment, and lose focus. 

Then, I just happened to read this article by Grant Wiggins, who always gets me thinking, and it just so happened that the theme of this piece rung true to my own inward debate. Check it out here: http://www.teachthought.com/teaching/why-you-teach-developing-teacher-mission-statement/

Grant urges teachers to clear away the classic egocentric thoughts on the importance of making a difference or offering hope to the next generation, but rather the end goals. I would argue that they are in many ways one in the same, but let's dive in a little deeper. 

Wiggins asks: 
"What do you aim to accomplish as a teacher? What is your goal for the year, for all the years? What kind of a difference in their thinking and acting are you committed to?"

As an educator, I've always been an advocate for the backwards design model. So, these are my aims. 

Goal 1: My students to be leaders of integrity. 
(I am committed to them in every way--mind, body, and spirit). 
In the mornings, I have an inspirational quote of the day, and students write a quick morning reflection. During the moment of silence, I pray for each of them silently. I pray for my past students every morning. I pray for my current colleagues and previous colleagues. I do this in silence, but my goal is to demonstrate to my students the importance of prayer and respect. It also makes me feel better and happier. Additionally, the morning reflections bring us closer together, and we are able to check in with each other, without being rushed. It takes all of about fifteen minutes, but it has made all the difference. The students treat each other better, and they work more as a team. 

Goal 2: My students discover their way/approach to learning which allows them to develop into life-long learners.
(I am committed to fostering their personal learning style)
All humans are unique, and our uniqueness is what makes us beautiful. My goal is to tap into the uniqueness of all my students so that they are able to achieve their greatest potential. This goes beyond teaching the standards and the curriculum. It's the development of the confidence within that it's okay to be different. I often tell my students (almost daily)--difference doesn't make you any more or any less--just different--and different is beautiful. So, I offer choices. Lots of choices. Choice in process. Choice in product. The result is that all students can master the standards in the way that suits their needs. This allows my students to own--their way--of learning, and see themselves as achievers, which fosters a drive for learning. 

Goal 3: My students to be self-directed learners. 
(I am committed to developing learners that seek solutions to their answers--developing idea rebels.)
I like my students to challenge my thinking. Yes, does that seem odd? I hope not. I actually worry when a student tells me, "Just give me a packet of stuff to do, and I'll do it." Yes, one student told me that this year. Why? Well, because that was easier. There isn't much thinking involved in a pile of worksheets--no riddles to be solved--no debates--no thought. Anyone who ever truly made a difference in this world didn't comply--they changed things--they pushed past the status quo--they asked, "Why?" Those are the types of learners that I want to develop. As a teacher, I never want to be afraid of that challenge.

Goal 4: My students to find their voice. 
(I am committed to challenging them to speak out as communicators.)
As a painfully shy high school student, I was placed in a debate class my ninth grade year. I thought at the time, "Oh, no! What have they done to me!" I could not get out of the class, so I carried on, and did well, all due to the amazing instruction of my teacher ( who has been more instrumental to my life than any other I've had since.) I went on to major in Speech Communications in college, and moved quickly into a public relations position. I know first hand the gift that my instructor gave to me, so I now want to pass that same gift onto my students. Although, a standard according to the Common Core, it is also a life changing skill that helps my students develop confidence and achieve greatness. In addition to speaking, I want my students to find their voices in the written word. They write as learning in every subject: math, science, social studies, reading/writing. It's fluid--not a dry process. Writing in this way teaches all the uses of writing and how this form of communication is instrumental in finding confidence in our beliefs, thoughts, and individuality. 

These are the big goals I have for my students, and my instruction is developed around these end goals in all the contents that I teach. The content is covered. The standards are met. And above all leaders, thinkers, and communicators are born. This is the learning legacy that I want to leave every year. 

I hope that this post made you think of your own learning legacy. I would love to hear yours? Please comment and share. 

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