During my five years as a coach in Naperville, we implemented at least 15 new initiatives, maybe more. So it makes sense that I was frequently asked, “What’s the right way to do this?” or similarly, “Am I doing it right?” Questions of this variety reflect our desire as educators to do our best. Many of us grew up in an education environment where there was almost always only one path to the correct answer. When we became teachers that mentality had already been ingrained in us so it makes sense that we would continue to ponder correctness of our actions in the classroom.
The problem is there are so many “right ways” to teach depending on our students that there really isn’t an easy way to answer that question. When teachers ask me if they are doing it right, I always respond with, “what’s the impact on the students?” If you are seeing students grow, then you are “doing it right.” If not, it doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong, it just means it’s not working for that group of students. And that’s okay. It just means we need to reflect on what we know about our students, tweak our approach and try again.
Some years one structure or teaching strategy will have a phenomenal impact on kids and other years it will absolutely flop. The best teachers are constantly in “beta” stage, regularly creating, reflecting on student growth and refining their work in a continuous cycle of improvement. When something doesn’t work they don’t give up or blame the students, they try something new from the plethora of strategies in their own toolbox or reach out to their PLC or PLN for more ideas.
Change is inevitable and constant in education. As we implement new strategies and structures, it is important to not get hung up on perfection of the thing being implemented, but instead, place greater importance on the impact we are having on students. Asking the simple question, “what’s the impact on students?” will always lead to “doing it right” for our kids.