Figuring out what we will teach, as well as WHY we will teach it is the best way we can ensure that students will not only learn, but also jump out of bed each morning eager to get to school. And, here’s a little secret – it is also the best way to get TEACHERS to jump out of bed eager to get to school.
When you know why you are doing what you are doing, it takes away the fear factor. It allows your full focus to be on students – where it belongs. They should be the surprise each day – the incredible ideas and thinking that comes out of their mouths and pencils.
If we want teachers to be ready for kids to arrive, most of the time before schools starts needs to be dedicated to PLANNING. What will students know at the end of the first 3/6/9 weeks of school? What will they be able to do? What will they understand that will help them be better human beings and feel more powerful in the world?
When teachers slow down and take the time to long-term plan – in a minimum of 3-week chunks, students learn more, can do more, and be more, because we are teaching with intention, not by accident.
In your myriad of meetings and classroom set-up activities, give yourself the gift of time. Grab a colleague and start to discuss the big ideas behind what you will teach this year, then figure out what the students will create to demonstrate their understanding. Commentary for the local newspaper? A memoir excerpt they’ll share at an Open Mic Cafe Night in October? A “How to Save Energy” brochure to distribute to the neighborhood around the school?
As you are planning, all along the way, write learning targets that address knowledge, skill, and reasoning goals….backmap these goals to the standards you are required to teach, and then, take a really radical step: challenge yourself by doing your own assignment! This will help you revise and refine your thinking, add some skill targets, take others away. When you experience first hand all that goes into creating a high-quality piece of work, you get more real about goals for your students and how much time it takes. Get out a calendar and map it all out to make it real.
Spending 4-8 hours before school starts thinking through WHY you are teaching particular content and what you want students to walk away with will have huge payoffs, in terms of energy and happiness, oh, and LEARNING for you and your students.
Happy Planning this week (and the next, and the next, and the next… ),