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My Guiding Light: What's good for students

It isn’t really my New Year’s resolution, but it is something that is strengthening into the New Year… and as I get older.

Maybe it’s just me getting older and more confident in my voice. Maybe it’s feeling comfortable in my position, knowledge, and ability. Maybe it’s just that I feel strong in my convictions, and I’m tired of feeling like I give in. Maybe it’s just that I’ve finally decided what hill I am willing to die on. Whatever it might be, this past fall I feel like I finally owned and embraced my guiding light – that glowing fire, that beacon of light in all my decision making. I identified it years ago, but this coming year, rather than giving it lip service, I will actually use it to guide my decisions. Because at the end of the day, I want my decisions to be what’s in the best interest of students. No more biting my tongue. No more nodding in silent agreement when I don’t really believe it will work. No more acquiescing to the louder, bolder voice in the room. Louder doesn’t make you right. No more putting my stamp of approval on a plan I don’t really believe in. This year, if you want my expertise, you’ll get it – and you’ll get my honest advice, suggestion, recommendation – not a watered-down, friendly to everyone response. You’ll get what my training and experience says is best for students.

Find your guiding light. Find your voice as an educator. And use it.

It’s makes decisions easier when you have a core belief guiding you. It doesn’t make articulating what you think any easier though, especially when people disagree or when they’ve worked hard to make something work. For example, a school sets up an intervention schedule and plan. I’m sure it took them a lot of time and energy. But at the end of the day when a teacher asked me if I thought it would work, I had to be honest. I said no. There was nowhere that their plan aligned to research or best-practice. The research on response-to-intervention points to definitive best practices, but that was not what was in their plan. In year’s past, I might have danced around it. I might have said, “Well, let’s see,” or “Give it a try.” But not this year. This is the year I look at something and use all the expertise, education, experience, endless hours of reading, and tell you what the research actually says. After all, that’s why I’m here, right? I’m the content and instructional expert. It’s what I’m paid to do.

I’ve become vocal about how I feel about some practices. My teachers know where I stand and that I want what is best for students. I want us to use best practices that are tried and true. I want us to read research and understand why we are doing something. I want us to make decisions based on what we know is best for students – not just what is best for adults. I want us as educators to be responsive, flexible, understanding. I want us to do our best and do it right for our students. When I look at everything I do, I ask myself is this good for the students in my district? Does it help them in some way? Academically? Socially? Culturally? Does it help them be successful students and ready to be successful, well-adjusted adults? Or did I just check a box?

I’m done with checking boxes. If you’re going to do it, do it right. And if the box that needs to be checked isn’t helping kids, why are we worried about checking it?

So in the New Year, really think about your practice. Why do you do what you do? If you’re going to take the time and effort on something, make it good for your students. And if you see things that are happening that aren’t good or helpful to students, be that voice your students need. Find your guiding light. Find your voice as an educator. And use it.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year! May it bring all things good to your classrooms!

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