Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Being Strategic

I sat around a large table with a handful of experienced teachers who combed through a district-provided curriculum. They marveled at how organized the materials were and sighed about the amount of information they were expected to "cover." They looked at the books the students were supposed to read and commented, "I just don't think most of my students care about these topics. I don't think these will engage them." We discussed students' current proficiency with the unit's goals and agreed they needed some more work on prerequisites before jumping into the focus of the unit. There was a collective groan and someone asked, "Do we have to do this unit exactly how it is written or can we do what our students really need?"

In this time where just about everyone thinks they know what is best for teachers to do, I find myself talking to teachers about being strategic as readers, writers, and mentors. I want to help them find their own path. There are three main dispositions that help me be strategic in just about anything I do. I try to bring awareness to what I am doing, I consciously make choices, and I adjust those choices as needed. This happens whether I am making an elaborate meal, competing in a race, or conferring with a reader.

I ask teachers to frequently spend a few minutes reflecting on where and when they are being strategic. When we are strategic we gear our decisions towards our students and what we know they need, not on what an outsider who has never met our students says they need.

Three Dispositions of Being Strategic

  • having awareness of what you are doing
  • having an awareness of your purpose or intention

  • making choices about what you are doing and your purpose
  • aligning your choices with your purpose

  • reflecting on whether your choices and purpose align
  • being responsive and open to change your direction as needed

We don't teach curriculum; we teach students. We have to be strategic to meet them
where they are. If we find ourselves teaching a curriculum without these three qualities present, we likely are not serving our students. Remember, a curriculum is just a destination. Choose your own route.

Of course, we want our students to be strategic as well. Perhaps it would be helpful to show and explain to students how to cultivate these three qualities as readers, writers, and thinkers. Consider where in your minilessons and conferences you are mentoring students to be more strategic-- not just copiers of our skills and processes, but thinkers who have awareness, make choices, and make adjustments.

by Gravity Goldberg, EdD

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