Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Honeymoon Period - Week Four

Your relationship with truth impacts the quality of your decisions.


The first few weeks of a school year are magical. Students are refreshed from the summer break. Kindergarteners, sixth-graders and high school freshmen are sweetly tentative. Their end-of-school counterparts are motivated for their promotion to the next level in only nine months. The beginning of school 'honeymoon period'  alone is possibly responsible for many teachers coming back to the profession year after year.

Then three weeks passes.

Students settle in to the habits they have accrued over their school experience. The attention once given to instruction, only days ago, wanes a bit. This is when deep teaching starts. If we are honest with ourselves, however, the honeymoon period could end from the students' perspectives as well. The real 'you' shows up. The teacher that tires easily, plans superficially, calls parents for negative actions and doesn't respond to clear skill gaps and student interests. 

As a teacher, it is imperative that I own my power as an instructional expert. It is also important for me to own the bad habits that I have developed and try my best to correct them. Student performance, self-efficacy and even connection with school depends upon my ability to model great practices for them. You are the most significant influence on your students' achievement, but only when you are practice powerful and skillful instruction. This brand of instruction can only come from a deep relationship with the truth of who you (and your students) really are. This truth will afford you the opportunity to correct stubborn habits and build on enduring strengths. Three actions can help you cozy up to those truths:

1.Establish standards for practice: What constitutes a great day of instruction for your students? For you? What equates to a powerful and effective learning experience? These standards for practice in your classroom can be co-created with students, shared with parents and community stakeholders and referred to daily before instruction begins. 

2. Reflect on your daily performance: After establishing standards for practice, time has to be taken to reflect on how close to or far from these standards you were for the day or week. How was today's lesson? How did your habits and practice contribute to the day's success or failure? What are the next steps you need to take to help positively influence your behavior so that you can be in a position to provide the daily level of instruction students deserve? 

3. Respond to the data you see: Grading can be a bear (especially for an English teacher), but it is essential for you to know where your students are performing. This quantitative (as well as qualitative data) must be responded to with responsive teaching. Responding to the skill, attitude and attention gaps in your instruction is the single most important step towards relating to the truth of who your students are and taking them to higher levels of achievement.


My wife and I went to Jamaica for our honeymoon. It was the most beautiful time of our lives together. To this day we still talk about the scrumptious bacon (the bacon!) we ate and the epic ocean-side naps we took. This experience will never leave our minds. But, this is not daily reality. 

A honeymoon is never meant to be anyone's personal residence. At best, it is a great launching out into the truth of a marriage or any other enduring relationship. When this period is over, some of the deepest and best relationships are tested and strengthened.

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