Design Teaching

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Nov 12 2011

My Commitment for the School Year

Commitment is as much a mindset as it is a set of actions. So, this year, I am committing. I am committing to 100%.

I commit to 100% of my students being 100% engaged, 100% of the time. This means that if I or another student am talking, all eyes are on the speaker, all voices are off, and all attention is focused on processing what the speaker is saying. This also means that during labs and explorations, each and every student is actively problem-solving, collaborating, asking questions, and seeking answers. If these expectations are not met, I will not scream, I will not yell, I will not be angry, I will just ask that my students do it again. And do it again. And do it again. Children rise to the expectations I set.

I commit to 100% of my students reaching their growth goals in academics. This means that my student reading at the first grade reading level in the fifth grade will receive individual tutoring to give him the support he needs to grow leaps and bounds. This also means that my students coming in already mastering 80% of the course content will be challenged to lead classes themselves and do a deep study of extension topics that are one, two, or even three grade levels above their current grade.

I commit to 100% of my students mastering the course content and skills, skills that will set them up for success far into their futures. I will track data relentlessly to catch any students falling through the cracks in understanding. I will think creatively to be an effective explainer. I will empower so that students are masters of their own learning.

I commit to 100% of my students reaching their growth goals in character. I will see the strengths in every child, and help him or her develop those strengths. I will nurture trustworthiness, honesty, integrity, kindliness, and community. I will work with students to set personal goals that they are invested in reaching, and celebrate with them as they work towards those goals.

I commit to never, ever, insisting on anything less than 100%.

Originally posted as part of my series on Students for Education Reform. Please leave comments there:

4 Responses

  1. Ms. Math

    so how did this 100% idea work out? I’m so impressed with your vision-I feel like I’m always too pessimistic to believe in 100%. I’ve never seen anyone do it so I don’t know what it looks like or how it happens. I do think that even if it is not a feasible goal that it would still be a productive mindset.

    • debryc

      It’s working out wonderfully in terms of class culture. Every student is engaged and quite literally begging to participate and do experiments. There are some students who still struggle to be on task and to listen respectfully to their teammates, but the problems are diagnosable… (one student is very confused all the time, need to pre-teach that student so that he can follow along the conversation, another student needs to change seats because she’s sitting with her best friend and gets distracted easily in the back of the room, but definitely WANTS to participate, etc.).

      I’m struggling more with ensuring that 100% of my students are mastering 100% of the core academic content. It’s a testament to my improved data tracking and formative assessment skills that I now know exactly which standards which kids need to work on, but I haven’t yet figured out the systems, rituals, and routines that I need to put in place with my kids so that they can guide themselves through the mastery process. For example, I would love a system in which students can go to a resource bank aligned to the standard they need to work on filled with things like games they can play, flashcards they can use, videos they can watch, and experiments they can do then create a product that proves mastery of that standard… all without me having to do the work. I want other students to be the ones to find or create these resources, then place it in a central place for their teammates to access and engage with.

      Although this system doesn’t exist (yet), I find that because I have the mindset of 100%, I’ll keep working on it, and tweaking it, and figuring it out until my class gets to 100%. If I had anything less than 100% in mind, then I would let kids fall through the cracks.

  2. Ms. Math

    wow! This is great :) I’m super impressed at your attitude and how it’s working in your classes. I can’t say that I ever reached the 100%, but maybe it’s because I didn’t believe that I could do it. Perhaps that was my entire problem-I’m always wondering if some sort of realistic attitude or idealistic attitude would serve me better-your reply seems testament to the idealism. It’s good to know that these things are possible!

    • debryc

      Thanks for the encouragement!

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