I was thinking the other day about how a simple little line on my whiteboard does a little credibility signal-sending for me on a regular basis. It's this — a countdown to the AP exam that some of my ninth graders will be taking come May.
But, it could also be…
- …a countdown to the end of the unit, or
- …a countdown to the end of the semester, or
- …a countdown to the most difficult pop-up debate of the year.
Really, it wouldn't matter what I counted down to — what would matter is me periodically referencing the countdown with my students to cultivate a gentle sense of urgency in the work we're about in the classroom.
The mirage of modern life gives us an impression that there will always be time. Too many of us teachers get into countdown mode because we can't wait for the rest and relaxation that comes once break begins.
And while I'm the last person in the world who will guilt you for looking forward to break — I believe you should! Absolutely! Breaks are a gift — I don't think that spirit of counting down does too much for building credibility.
So count down to the next assessment, the big project, the what-have-you. And as you reference the countdown, do so in a manner that suggests things like
- “Today's lesson is precious.”
- “Our time is finite. Let's make the most of it.”
- “Let's start class with this procedure because it'll give us more minutes to learn.”
- “Let's learn until the bell.”
And so on.
There's not a single silver bullet in my repertoire — not a one. They don't exist. But things like this are little aids, little signal-senders, that add up to giving students a deep impression that we're good at what we do, that we care about it, and that it matters.
Something to think about, anyway.
Best to you, colleague,