Before I start talking about a sports analogy, let me inform you I am not a big sports fan. I ran x-country and track in high school. I learned the value of a each back then. Having said that, I do not watch organized sports much in the year. Okay, now that I hopefully have avoiding alienating those who don’t like sports, I want to talk to you about the teacher as “coach,” and expert on student motivation. We have a group of kids we are to “model” the lessons for and then foster their ability to do it as independent practice. I sometimes forget about my role coaching kids. For over 13 years I have set clear goals for my class and we have worked tirelessly to achieve them. Sometimes my class meets the goals, sometimes they fall short. Every year they have a goal and I coach them toward it. One year we were shooting for a percentage of proficient kids in the class. We ended up missing the goal but scoring highest in the district for my grade level. That was extremely gratifying to me professionally. So much so that I set higher goals for the next year’s kids. That didn’t work out quite as well. I saw my kids getting burned out when I’d say I wanted 20 students advanced on a test and we ended up with 18 for example. The “proficient only” ones sort of got ignored.
I felt burned out as well because an assessment should be an exciting experience not a heavy burden of guilt. For this reason, I decided my coaching should be focused on effort and actions rather than raw scores. Will this work to create higher scores? I’m not quite sure but it is somewhat irrelevant. My goals remain in the background. I hope we achieve them. Nonetheless, my new goals are based on lower score expectations and higher measurable efforts. Advanced is no longer the goal. Instead, it will be rewarded if it happens above and beyond our goal. Some might say this is lowering my standards for my class. I disagree. I am focused on motivating students to learn. I am still expecting proficiency from all of them. Perhaps by saying “you did a great job” as a coach for realistic and appropriate goals will yield more advanced scores. Being an effective coach involves flexibility or expectations. Every child should be coached at her/his own level to do the best they can and to simply improve. Have you ever had a coach that meant a lot to you and helped you succeed? That’s the impact I hope to have on kids.