Spring Break is here for most of you. This week symbolizes the homestretch and the beginning of the end. As we wind down the school year a lot of us are putting a lot of energy into getting all of our instructional standards taught and assessed. We have tests to prepare for and curriculum to cover. We know we made a commitment to others that our students would be proficient in a number of standards and want our students to be prepared to be successful next year, but if our entire focus is simply on getting through a bunch of content in the last few month of the year, we are missing out.
As a dad to four amazing children, I know my primary goal is to prepare them to be successful without me. I have to work daily to teach them the skills they will need to thrive on their own. As children today, they are developing into future adults. As their dad I never assess their readiness for independence by testing their academic knowledge. I do not gauge my success as a parent by testing their fluency, analyzing their mastery of science standards, or measuring their mathematical competencies. These things are all important and I want my children to learn all they can, but they are not the most essential skills I need my children to learn. Often their progress towards maturity and independence is determined by their responsibility, their organization, their respect, their affective behavior. I believe that as a parent my job is to reinforce these personal characteristics. Watch any superhero movie and the villain is often the smartest person on the set. Intelligence is great, but character is better .
One of the struggles we often face in our classrooms is looking at our world with blinders and assuming there are simple solutions to complex problems. We think, “If I focus all of my energy on academic success, kids will learn all that they need.” We think College and Career Ready means just mastering standards. But this is rarely the case. Kids need more than that. They need safety, trust, respect, etc… Often we try to find a cause and effect when in reality we live in a cycle. Feedback only works when trust is earned. Trust is earned by providing honest feedback. Feedback is only listened to when trust has been established. This is a cycle, not a procedure.
In our classrooms the same is true when looking at our student management, student engagement, and student academic success. These cannot be addressed in isolation because they all depend on the other. Kids will not be learning if they are not engaged. Student behaviors are impacted by their engagement levels. Student engagement is impacted by student trust. It’s a cycle. If you only focus on learning, you will not get the maximum results you are looking for.
As you finish up the year, be mindful not to just focus on student academic goals. To help your school get the biggest bang for your buck, continue to reinforce classroom management necessities and create engaging activities. These lessons this year will allow for greater success next year. Try to avoid tunnel vision. When you are in a tunnel, you lose sight of the world around you. Create a classroom environment that demonstrates learning by being safe, focused, engaging, and respectful…only then will you be able to truly be placing your kids in a position to be successful in the future.