During the last two weeks, I've had time to enjoy my beautiful ladies (my wife and our two-year-old and six-month-old), visit with family, reconnect with friends, rest my mind, and reflect on the year to come. I am certainly thankful for the holiday break that our profession affords us.
And from that gratitude flows a commitment to carry out the duties of teaching with excellence. Teaching is not a job; it's a calling. It is about so much more than me or you. Ultimately, it's about promoting the long-term flourishing of our students, which in turn promotes the long-term flourishing of our society. It is about fulfilling this task while striving for humility and courage.
I can honestly say that, thanks to you, the readers of Teaching the Core, I am much better at fulfilling that calling now than I was when I started writing six months ago. You have challenged me, encouraged me, sharpened me, and called me to higher ground. The work you all are doing in your classrooms is difficult, it is important, and it is real. For every comment, every Tweet, every Like, and every kind word, I thank you and am in your debt.
Because of how much I appreciate you, I want to go out on a limb and share my goals for the coming year as a professional. I'm going to frame them as SMART goals so that you and I can hold me accountable to them. If you'd like to share some of your own SMART goals for 2013, I'd love to hear them and hold you accountable for them as well — just leave a comment or communicate via the social media channels I mentioned above.
Dave's Professional Goals for 2013
- 70% of my students (high school freshmen) will score at grade-level proficiency on end-of-year ACT Writing, English, and Reading prototype tests. I am no lover of standardized tests, but I am also not ignorant of the current power that such scores have, both in how my school is perceived in the community and in how my students are perceived by post-secondary institutions. I refuse to let my own dislike for standardized testing get in the way of the service I owe my students. Scores are obviously not my highest aim, but, in my opinion, they must be one of my measurements of success. I set the number at 70% because, at present, slightly less than 50% of students in my school score at a college- and career-ready level on the ACT.
- 70% of my students will demonstrate a proficient grasp of the following skills, all of which come from within the W.CCR.1 and R.CCR.1 anchor standards. I choose these skills because, first, I know it is not realistic or helpful for me to “focus” (I say that with intended sarcasm) on all of the CCSS. In my opinion, it's better to be great at a few key skills than to be mediocre at everything. These are the basic linchpin skills that I believe my colleagues can build on in later grades:
- Make a clear, precise claim when writing argumentatively from a text (WHST.9-10.1a)
- Identify the general argumentative claim in a complex text (RH.9-10.2)
- Develop claims and counterclaims fairly, supplying evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both (W.9-10.1b)
- Identify evidence within a complex text that would support claims and counterclaims for an argument
- Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented (W.9-10.1e)
- Integrate textual evidence into an argument without interrupting the flow of ideas (W.9-10.8) by using techniques like blending and attending to quote-usage mechanics.
- I will lead professional learning experiences and/or speak publicly 10 times. This goal is relevant because public speaking and teaching outside of my classroom develops me as a communicator and as a person. It pushes me way out of my comfort zone, and that allows me to better relate to my students when they speak outside of their comfort zones in front of their peers. It also forces me to determine what is at the core of my message, and it even brings my annoying speaking tics to light. Finally, I chose 10 based on what is already on the cooker: one workshop at the Michigan Reading Association conference this spring, an application in the works to lead one session at NCTE in November, three proposals for a local student teacher conference this spring and three planned for the fall, and several opportunities to speak/teach in my local church.
- Update: In January, I led a learning experience at my church for creating small groups that promote whole-life, heart-deep transformation. This was a smaller workshop just for the lifegroup leaders at our church, but it did push me out of my comfort zone and force me to clarify and boil down my message.
- Update: On March 4, I spoke four times at the Fire Up Conference for student teachers in West Michigan. It was a blast!
- Update: On March 10, I spoke one time at the 2013 Michigan Reading Association conference with my friend Erica Beaton!
- Update: On March 13, I was asked by the senior class to give the graduation commencement address on May 30. This humbling honor will likely put me in front of an audience of 500-1,000 people, which naturally makes me very nervous and puts me way out of my comfort zone. It is also forcing me to determine what core message I want to leave with the audience.
- Update: On April 10, I was asked to give the keynote address at this fall's Fire Up conference at Aquinas College. This is a great opportunity to work on speaking to larger audiences in an engaging fashion (something I still fall woefully short on). With this opportunity combined with the four sessions I'll lead that day, my total after Fire Up will be 11 public speaking/PD experiences. *Crosses fingers about NCTE.*
- I will draft at least 10 chapters of a book for new teachers. This book's mission will be to join the fight against the appalling teacher attrition rates in the USA, particularly in under-resourced schools. Basically, I want to write a book that encourages and helps new teachers to stick with it and develop their craft.
- Write 24 articles for Teaching the Core. In case you haven't noticed, my post frequency has taken a serious hit since September rolled around. I guess that might have something to do with being a full-time teacher and a husband/dad who loves his girls. And even though I'm about as far from a CCSS expert as you can get, I do still feel like there are some key resources I want to make available here, especially pertaining to in-class debates and creating a thriving, passion-infused argumentative culture in the classroom. I'd also like to add more flesh onto the “Beyond the Standards” section of the site.
Do they meet the SMART criteria?
Specific: Yes, they clearly indicate what I need to accomplish to meet them.
Measurable: Yes, they contain concrete criteria for determining if they've been met.
Attainable: Yes, they are within reach. The ACT scores are probably the most difficult in terms of attainability, but I have seen close to those numbers in the past and believe they can be reached. The writing goals (the final two bullets) will push me the most, but I believe they are manageable (since I started Teaching the Core in June, I've published 78 posts).
Relevant: These goals are worthwhile because, if I achieve them, I will have benefited my current students, my future students, and my peers online, and I will also have pushed myself to go out of my comfort zone and do some things that aren't always going to be fun. Also, I've sought to create goals here that are appropriately timed (for example, I chose against aiming to finish a book because I don't think my ideas are ready).
Time-bound: Yes, these goals all have a deadline of December 31, 2013, or in the case of the first two bullets, June 2013.
So, what are your SMART professional goals for 2013? A key part of goal-setting is making them public, so please, share them with the community here!
A final thanks
Lastly, I want to thank you all again for such an awesome and expectations-exploding 2012. Since starting in June, you all have made some amazing things possible:
- Since transferring from teachingthecore.wordpress.com to teachingthecore.com (I don't have stats from before the switch), the Teaching the Core blog has had:
- 12,129 unique visitors
- 28,674 page views
- 449 visitors on its biggest day (thanks in large part to a feature post on commoncore.co)
- The social media communities currently include:
- As mentioned above, 78 posts total, the majority of which I never would have written if it weren't for the timely encouragement I received from you all via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or the comments section of Teaching the Core.
- Those 78 posts include a post for every single one of the Common Core anchor standards. It wasn't always fun, but it would have been utterly miserable if it weren't for your feedback.