Do Less This Year, Allowing Students To Do More

Summer is a great time to recharge, reflect, and learn for educators. Based on your reflection and learning this summer, what are your goals for your classroom this year? And, how are you going to get there?

Based on my learning this summer, I developed a list of five simple ways to increase learning in your classroom while empowering students. Not only will the students reap great benefits, but these goals will help teachers stay engaged and excited about student learning.

  • Talk way less so that student voices can be heard. Whoever is doing the talking is doing the thinking, and teachers are smart enough. Let students do the talking and the thinking. Don’t just decrease teacher talk a little, decrease it dramatically while increasing the number of open-ended questions you ask exponentially.
  • Be curiosity-based. Explore your own curiosities and let that fuel your passion for learning. Then, allow students to do the same. Start as many sentences as possible with, “I wonder…” or, “I am curious about…”. Start questions with, “What are you wondering about…” or, “What are you curious about…”
  • Focus on what students are doing rather than what you are doing, and let that determine your effectiveness as a teacher. Are students cognitively engaged? Are they enthusiastic about their learning? How do you know, what evidence do you have that suggests that? It is not about a ‘show’ you put on–it is about what is going on in their heads.
  • Try something new regularly. If you are super ambitious, try something new every week. If you are a little more cautious, try one new thing a month. It could be a new technology tool, a great idea for helping students practice a skill, or a relationship-building strategy. Don’t be afraid of failure, not all your new ideas will be winners. Some may flop, but that is okay because you have a new thing to try just around the corner.
  • Help students set goals and track their progress toward the goal. It is empowering and motivating, and allows students to ‘own’ their learning. Not only that, research has proven over and over that when students set goals and track their progress, achievement increases. If you are just starting to have students set goals and track them, start small with just one subject. Build success and grow from there.

I am a principal, and my own goals this year mirror these classroom goals, just replace ‘students’ with ‘teachers’. I always see myself as a path-clearer and a thinking partner for the teachers I work with. This year, I will work to support them in exploring curiosities, trying new things, and empowering student voice.

Looking forward to our best year in education yet! Yay school!

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