This post is week 5 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators.

What goal is so powerful that you are compelled to move toward, yet respectful of its immensity?

Big Hairy Audacious Goal

What is your BHAG for next school year?

Big, hairy and audacious? Or unrealistic? Grumpy Old Teacher can think of many goals he would like to achieve (along with the necessary efforts of many others):

  • The resignation of Betsy Devos.
  • The startling admission of Bill Gates: “I didn’t know what I was doing and I’m going to stop now. Sorry for the bother.”
  • The end of standardized testing because, as officials in all 50 states should admit,”We already know the income level of the parents. We don’t need an annual test to find out.”

But the Dollar Shave Club and its competitors don’t have enough razors to send me for those hairy beasts. Maybe we need to be more in line with reality.

GOT will complete his 62nd journey around the sun in a few weeks. Along the way, he has learned that above all goals must be achievable.

“I am old, Gandalf. I don’t look it, but I am beginning to feel it in my heart of hearts … I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.” (Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien.)

GOT’s sights are set much lower because they must be less grand in order to fulfill the job from which he earns his living.

Goal Number One: Replace the curriculum resources stripped away when the school system decided to put off its textbook adoption cycle for two years, but not extend the current contracts with the publisher.

In replacement, we will use free, online resources, some of which are not yet available. For example, GOT has extensively used the publisher’s online math platform for practice problems and assessments. He has found that the best way to get kids to practice math as they need to is to make them spend the first 30 minutes of each 90 minute class on the platform.

That way, there is no cheating, no looking up answers because GOT is supervising the work, and GOT is available to answer questions and show solution techniques. As he is fond of telling the students, “I don’t live in your bedroom. (That’s a creepy thought.) If I assign this as homework, I’m not there to help you when you need my help.”

The platform will be unavailable. GOT has no idea yet how to replace it. The district says the free, online alternative will provide something, but GOT has checked over the summer and it is not active.

So Goal Number One, while it may not seem big and hairy enough for the prompt, is to find effective alternatives as the year progresses.

Or, to put it another way, the adoption/non-adoption of new curriculum means that classroom teachers must find their own resources for their students. Goal Number One is to locate these resources and reconfigure what I do to maintain instructional excellence.

Goal Number Two: Continue to work toward establishing restorative practices as a better way to establish a school culture and climate of mutual respect and appropriate behavior.

The short of the story is that, when done right, restorative practices are effective in improving student behavior and reducing ineffective traditional punishments.

Many people will argue with that, but the only reason restorative practices are controversial is because, far too often, they are not done right. The supports needed are not in place. Community is not emphasized. Punitive action and repairing harm are seen as a dichotomy rather than two separate arenas that reinforce one another when used appropriately.

As summer draws to a close (it’s only mid-July but in my state, teachers will report for a new year in only two and a half weeks), GOT hopes teachers have used their time well, especially for self-care and rest. The general public does not realize that most teachers work the equivalent of a full-time year in the compressed space of 42 weeks for a 10-month salary.

No other profession does that.

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