Your Questions: Answered
Dear Mr. Teachbad,
How do I make my students, on average 6 grade levels below standard, become on average 3 grade levels below standard, in one school year? I am being told this is my SMART goal (achievable being the operative word) so I am sure it can be easily done, but nobody seems to be able to tell me how. It must be common knowledge because they all insist this is my goal, even though I tried to explain that I was supposed to set my own SMART goal. Plus my district says they are data driven, so they must have the data to prove that this can be done.
I am sure that you know. Please share.
With big eyes of sincerity, I am
Adrift in America
OK, let’s see if I’ve got this right. The kids in your class are about six years behind and you are supposed to, via the SMART goal, get them to be only three years behind by June. To rephrase, in one school year your students are supposed to advance in the knowledge and skills of your discipline by four years. (It needs to be four years because while you are teaching them, a year is passing. If you only do three years, they will still be four years behind at the end of the year. And as your SMART goal states, this won’t do.)
SURPRISE!! You fail.
Take solace in two facts:
1) Goals often go unmet. It’s OK, and
2) Your school cannot hold you accountable for something this stupid.
On number 1: I play guitar like crap. I have never published a book. I am not an astronaut. I have never had a three-way. I don’t have a tatoo. I dropped out of my PhD program. I could go on and on with a litany of hundreds of failures, but I won’t. The point is that these are all things (except maybe for being an astronaut) that I could have made happen if they were important enough for me. If I really cared and worked at it, I would have been able to check these boxes.
The problem with SMART goals at school is that goal achievement is 80-90% about what other people do and think is important. You can probably only control that by about 10-20%, at most. That leaves a gap of about 60-80% of shit over which you have no control. So, as far as your SMART goal goes, I’m afraid you are fucked. Sorry about that.
On number 2: The good news is that your school will just forget about this at the end of the year and they’ll start it up fresh in August with some new unattainables. Meanwhile, the important thing is to just to create the impression that you are really working on your SMART goal and take its achievement seriously as a possibility. And, really, even pretending might not be important. The folks at my school have so many goals and initiatives that they all just spill on the floor and nobody really keeps track of anything. All you really need is a mop. As a former colleague once said, “These guys drop every ball they pick up.”
Dear Mr. Teachbad,
Each morning I start my classes by telling them life is one soul crushing moment after another. Is this wrong?
The Fist of Indifference
Dear Fist (noun, not verb)-
Are you asking 1) If the statement itself is factually incorrect or 2) If this observation should not be shared with children?
Number 1: Teachers probably agree with the statement more than many others. But I know none of us are encouraging our students to be teachers, so perhaps we might save them our fate. Life doesn’t have to be like this. Perhaps more subtlety is in order (but you’ll have to do a half-hour vocabulary-building scaffolded graphic organizer station workshop about “subtlety” first)…”life is one soul-crushing moment after another” and then add “for people who thought teaching would give them a feeling of tangible value instead of having their souls crushed.” I don’t know…I’m just brainstorming here. (Could I get a scribe to put this on poster board for the gallery walk?)
Number 2: You have to be responsible. You can’t tell students everything, but I find that students really appreciate honesty. If it’s good news or bad news or something embarrassing about yourself, they get it. There is no substitute for honesty. The smart ones appreciate it the most. And they are who keep us from totally flipping out. Feed them.