Thursday, November 25, 2010

Hitting a Moving Target

Defining targets differently
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I realized today that students in my classes are analyzing material deeper than in previous years. Students are thinking critically more often and are striving to meet my expectations, expectations that are progressively raising as students approach the bar. What's different? Are the students smarter than previous year's students? No. I, like several of my colleagues, have created a culture of increasing expectations, and most students have accepted that striving for the bar is the right thing to do. Our moment of glory is seeing a student try, and, if unsuccessful, problem solve and keep trying.

Why do my colleagues and myself continuously maintain high expectations? Why do we spend extra time making our lessons more meaningful? Why do we research, collaborate with our PLN, model our ideals? The answer to each: because that's what we do. We put in the time, we give what we can - even when a few of our colleagues are "collecting a paycheck" and others are in it for the pat on the back. We are 21st Century Educators. We prepare students for their futures.

Now, I don't live in a fairyland - I understand that there are students who just don't want to try. I am not naive in understanding that there are those who do, those who can't do, and those who won't do. As educators, we can often make an impact on those who do and can intervene with those who can't do. The won't do group has to make the decision for themselves - sometimes we can reach them, sometimes we cannot - we have to accept that for what it is.

Upon reflection, I have to recognize that today's students are challenged much like students of the past. So, really, what's different? In my classroom the tools are different. Information is readily available in the moment. Research is spontaneously occurring each class because students have the Internet continuously available. Collaboration through backchannel chats are spontaneously taking place in Google Chat. Technology tools have enabled students to complete research, collaborate, create products, etc. much faster than students of previous years. The benefit: we have Time to analyze, dig, explore. Student work is public (posted to websites, blogs, wikis, web videos, etc). Students ensure that their work is of good quality since anyone may see it.

As students' abilities change, the target changes.  21st Century Skills align with this concept. Teachers who push there students for quality work typically are doing all the right things that the "educational gurus" say teachers should be doing. Even so, it's a great affirmation to be able to say, "Yeah, I do that already." So, as long as teachers challenge their students, the target will continue to move.

1 comment:

  1. I think this is an awesome approach. As a new professor, I really love being able to interact and learn from more experienced teachers (especially those outside the university). My PLN has become super important to my growth as an educator.

    But I think what you say is crucial-- if we set the bar low, so do our students. I really aim to keep my bar high, but within reason, for both myself and my students. Having the bar is great; being the model, even better.