Friday, December 13, 2013

Goals and Timelines

A goal without a timeline is simply a dream.
Kevin O'Leary

When Kevin O'Leary said this on an episode of Shark Tank, it stuck in my mind and has been percolating around in there ever since.

Goal setting is a big part of a CAFE classroom.  Students declare goals based on assessments and employ strategies in an effort to reach them.

How might the simple addition of a time frame affect their growth?

For instance,

Me: Andrew, how long do you think it will take you to finish this Magic Tree House book?
Andrew: I don't know.
Me: How many pages are you reading each day?
Andrew: Um.  Let's see.
After thumbing through the book, Andrew discovers that he is reading about 12 pages a day.
Me: So Andrew, there are 80 pages and you are on page 56.  If you read 12 pages today and 12 pages tomorrow, you'll be able to finish this whole book by tomorrow afternoon.  I am going to make an appointment with you on my calendar for the day after that so we can chat about how it went.  This is so exciting!


Me: Emma, I notice you are spelling they like it sounds, t-h-a-y.  The actual spelling is t-h-e-y.  If you practiced this word during Word Work, how long do you think it would take you to memorize it?
Emma: Hmm.  One day, probably.
Me: One day?  And then you would know it forever?
She smiles.
Me: Okay!  I am going to trust you to choose Word Work between now and Friday and really work hard to learn that word.  I'll meet with you a week from Friday and we'll peek in your writing notebook to have a scavenger hunt for the word they to see how it is going.

The timeline adds a little more accountability and is, perhaps, just the boost students need to accelerate their progress.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Remember Me?

"Hi Mrs. Sabo. Do you remember me?"

My eyes scanned the face of the fifth grader before me as my mind tried to link him with the first-grade version I must have known.

"Of course," I cheerily lied, "but help me out with your first name."

"De'oujmun, but everyone calls me De."

It turns out he had been in my classroom as a first grader, but only for a week. He attended five schools after that, and had just returned to ours again. "Wow," I said. "You have a lot of experience being the new kid. Tell me, what are some things that teachers and students did to make you feel welcome?"

He thought for a second and shared that at some schools, the teachers were friendly and made sure he had everything he needed. Students in those schools were welcoming, showed him around, and included him at recess. Others schools didn't feel as good. He said he felt disrespected by both teachers and students. I assured him that we were delighted he was back in our halls.

It can be disconcerting when we get that call from the office announcing that a new student is coming the next morning or is already on their way down the hall. My heart rate quickens at the thought. But I'm reminded how important it is to take a deep breath, put on a genuinely happy face, and model a spirit of welcome and belonging that students can emulate. The impression we leave on a student's first day will likely be indelible, whether they are with us for five days, 180 days, or anywhere in between. Let's make their first day a great one.