TeachThought Challenge: Day One

Hey y’all,

I literally just saw this challenge by TeachThought posted on Facebook a few minutes ago and decided it’s exactly what I need to do, since my blogging is dictated by things like sleep and eating. TeachThought is a cool place to connect and if you’re me, seek out solutions to classroom troubles. Their September challenge is a blog prompt a day. That’s a big step up from one post a…week? two weeks? I am most excited about meeting other bloggers through this! Also, if you’re a teacher and have been waiting around to start a blog, now is the perfect time because TeachThought tells you what to write about for the entire month.

Although my recent post did throw some goals for the school year in there, the very first prompt for the challenge is “What are your goals for the school year?” 

Goal setting has always been a problem for me; growing up I really didn’t “set goals.” I had some subliminal things that I would accomplish, but it never came down to that SMART goal process. I had a good setup that allowed me to accomplish the things I wanted to do: graduate high school, get into a good school, graduate from college, get a job…it all just happened because I figured out what I had to do, and did it. I didn’t worry about how “measurable” it was, because who cares?

Nowadays, your goals have to be measurable, and you have to monitor them. At least in teaching. This, to me, is pretty stifling. My husband makes fun of me about hating to measure things (because it’s true), but it also makes me pretty bad at measuring because I refuse to get good at it.

I just completed my “formal” goal for my teaching evaluation for this year. It goes something like this: “Students will make inferences with 80 percent accuracy by using Avid Critical Reading Strategies of Cornell Notes and Marking the Text by the end of April 2015 as measured by the Aspire Assessments.”

BLARG IT’S LIKE NAILS ON A CHALKBOARD

Why do I have this aversion to SMART goals? Intellectually they sound pretty good. I feel like I sound “smart” (heh heh) just saying it. I totally see the value in being able to track where your students are and trying to move them to where you want them to be. But I just want to run the other way when I have to write one. I don’t think it’s fear of failing, although that could definitely be part of it. It could be because this is not how I have ever created a plan to achieve anything in my entire life. It feels inorganic to me. I am not saying this is the wrong way to set goals. Research shows that it works.

I set the SMART goal to comply, do what I can to achieve it, and move on. If you are like me and you teach students who have a poor history of achievement, then you get it. Focusing too much on the measurement and on the assessment to get to that measurement is going to drive you crazy. At least, it drives me crazy.

So here’ s my subversive DUMB (??) goal for this year: Use Avid Critical Reading Strategies to empower students and train them in metacognitive skills so that they can make meaning of texts they encounter in and out of the classroom. This is something I think they need to work on, and my weakest point, I believe, is reading instruction simply because I lack experience.

I also may get to teach part of our fitness classes at school, and our Phys-ed/Health teacher brought up doing barre. Yes, even the boys have to do it. EEk!! So my other goal will be hounding the district to purchase/install a ballet barre in our new school. 🙂

 

What about your goals, teachers? Do you feel my struggle or do SMART goals come easily to you?

 

Happy Labor Day!

 

-S

 

 

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6 comments

  1. Hi Shanna, I’m glad you’re wrestling with the danged objectives. Here’s what I think the problem is – inferences are not supposed to be accurate, they are supposed to be logical (which is much different than accurate).

    First, it is difficult to define “inference.” The best I could ever do was: an inference is what an author did NOT say (or write) but could have.

    This is why inferences need to be logical: inferences should be logically related to the text. this brings us to exploring what “logic” means.

    While spending a few minutes looking up logic in Wikipedia would be helpful, here are two key ideas about logic that I keep in mind:

    1. Logic involves the assumptions we make about a situation and the conclusions we draw from the assumptions.

    2. Logic involves drawing conclusions without falling into the trap of a logical fallacy, such as being overly influenced by the reputation of the author, drawing conclusions without enough facts or details, thinking that if something is true or meaningful to us then it must be true and meaningful to everyone (this is known as overgeneralization), and many more.

    Alan

    1. The word logical is a more “accurate” (ha,ha) way to describe how an inference should be made. I think what’s difficult for me is getting students to be understand logic…do you know of any resources to scaffold that? The cuing that I use “where do you see that in the text?” sometimes frustrates students because they hear it a lot and sometimes feel like it’s just me being nitpicky. Of course I explain to them that it’s necessary that they have support because it makes their argument an argument, but I don’t think they fully ‘get it.’

      1. Hi Shanna,

        I think when you say to students, “Where do you see that in the text?” students think you are looking for a literal answer, which is either right or wrong. It is a bit different to ask, “What support can you find in the text for your interpretation?”

        Regarding a good source for logic, I would begin with looking up “informal logic” in wikipedia. Here is some of what you will find – Since the 1980s, informal logic has been partnered and even equated,[19] in the minds of many, with critical thinking. Critical thinking, as defined by Johnson, is the evaluation of an intellectual product (an argument, an explanation, a theory) in terms of its strengths and weaknesses.[20] While critical thinking will include evaluation of arguments and hence require skills of argumentation including informal logic, critical thinking requires additional abilities not supplied by informal logic, such as the ability to obtain and assess information and to clarify meaning. Also, many believe that critical thinking requires certain dispositions.[21] Understood in this way, “critical thinking” is a broad term for the attitudes and skills that are involved in analyzing and evaluating arguments.

        Here’s a nice website that explores how to evaluate arguments: http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/crit_think/ctw-m/eval.htm

        Here’s an even clearer explanation of how to evaluate arguments:
        http://learn.lexiconic.net/argumentevaluation.htm

  2. Back to measurable goals. You can make measurable goals related to critical reading and metacognitive strategies. Goals related to critical reading usually relate to the following:
    1. identifying the authors assumptions and the conclusions (or the argument)
    2. judging the argument. For example, commenting on how well it is supported
    3. identifying the author’s biases and judging the extent the author was open about them

    To make measurable goals for critical reading, create a list of stages based on specific behaviors like the 3 above then describe student performance in terms of those stages.

    Measurable goals for metacognition can be divided into two categories – awareness and control.

    The first goal is to be aware of possible reading strategies to use.
    The next goal is to choose a reading strategy and be aware when you are using it
    The next goal is controlling the strategy – knowing when it is working and changing to another strategy when it is not working

    I hope this is helpful.

    Alan

  3. I hope you will review the Tovani book and the Jeff Wilhelm book for ideas on reading strategies. They get more helpful when you read them the second and third times.

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