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What Have They Learned?

At its core, education is about learning! As a person who truly values relationships and connections, I'm still aware that what students learn and how they can apply it to their lives is often our metric for evaluation. No matter how many high fives (in the past), smiles, and "good mornings" we do, data drives our profession. While many of us may not like that way of thinking, it's our job to show what students have accomplished each year.

As this 2021 school year has started to wind down, I started taking a look at my notes concerning students' learning. While some of it was disappointing, I decided to see how close my estimates were to the reality on the ground. Even though I'd often reviewed and reflected many times in class, this time was different. I asked the class to open up a Google Doc and start typing everything they could remember about each topic we covered. Some students said, "Shap, are you kidding? It's been months from our first unit!" Others didn't say much, but I could tell they were hesitant about what they'd remember. We talked about challenging ourselves and not doubting our ability.

No matter what grade or content area we teach, it's only natural to constantly look for clues into the outcomes students show each year. The results confirm our hard work and allow us to see the fantastic progress made each day, week, month, and year. While we all have different measuring growth methods, I wanted to provide five simple tips to consider as our year starts to wind down. Feel free to give them a try, and I'd love your feedback!

  1. Start small! Instead of having the class try to go back to September or more than a few months, start from a few weeks ago. This eases them into past material and will provide some much-needed confidence as you push the envelope further back through the year.

  2. Praise even the most minor achievements! Again, getting students comfortable and feeling good can make a huge difference in how they view their learning. Many students may be intimidated by being asked to remember material that was challenging for them. Praise is never a bad thing.

  3. As students are working, making small comments to each one can help those who might have difficulty. It also allows for time to de-stress and even to ask questions. We aren't here to make things impossible but rather to see the progress they've made.

  4. Once students have gotten the hang of things, tell them about the next steps. They should be much more accepting of the challenge if the most recent work is doable. Allowing them to ask questions about what you might be hoping they achieve will also provide some much-needed guidance.

  5. Please avoid comparing one student to another. We all know the vast differences in ability levels. What might be exceptional work for one student could be average for another. The growth and progress are how we determine where a student was and where they are now.

Now back to my results! As students were typing their responses, I'd comment to each student. Even though many prompts were provided, most students seemed very pleased with the results. It was strange, seeing them typing away information from three-plus months ago. What I learned was the students who I thought would do exceptional did. But even more importantly, the growth that happened with those students who seemed to struggle throughout the course made me realize that I'd underestimated my classes' potential. To be clear, not every student accomplished what I hoped. But I learned that my initial disappointment wasn't on par with what students knew. I think you'll find the same results if you give it a try. This past year and beyond have challenged all of us. Thanks again for your incredible work with children, teens, and your colleagues.

Craig Shapiro

@Shapiro_WTHS #teachpos @Positively_Well

I’ve been a Health and Physical Education Teacher/Coach/Trainer for 30+ years. I enjoy all types of fitness, writing, speaking and spending time with my family! Stay positive, stay happy, stay well!

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