The conversation and debate around what is best for students, and what impacts learning most is not a new one in the human experience. It's been hotly debated for quite some time.
What impacts student learning most?
Are tests the best way to measure student learning?
Or, wait, don’t tests hinder learning?
How does technology impact learning?
Standards-based, flipped classroom, project-based, problem-based, student centered, backwards planning, flexible seating...
Wow - so many things. So many ways to impact student learning.
How in the world do we know what strategies impact students the most?
That's just it... there is no ONE strategy that will impact student learning more than another.
... there is one person.
If you're reading this post, this is probably no surprise to you that teachers are the number one influencer on a student's learning.
But I don't want to just say that and claim it as truth. I want you to see for yourself.
And that’s exactly what I want to show you in this episode.
After listening to this episode you’ll feel reassured, but definitely empowered, without a shadow of a doubt that you as the educator in the room are THE number one influence on student academic achievement in your classroom, above all other aspects and influencers.
And as the school year is about to ramp back up it’s so important for you, teacher-friend to keep this fact in mind, because when a teacher feels hindered or somehow that their autonomy is overshadowed by the one million other aspects influencing their students (most of which being outside their control), if they remember their impact, they can rise above those other aspects.
Economists Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman of Harvard and Jonah E. Rockoff of Columbia conducted a huge study, and as this article states, found "the long-term impact of teachers based on their 'value-added' ratings."
Their research shows us that teachers with quality value-added scores, meaning their students show a year’s worth of growth, have greater average impact on their students lives overall, not just on their academic success in the classroom. In fact, students who have teachers with high value-added scores also end up with higher chances of attending college, increased earnings over their lifetime, and less likelihood of teen pregnancy.
That’s pretty monumental.
Heck, even you believing you have an impact on students matters! That's right, research done on eighty high school teachers shows that if teachers believe they will have an impact, meaning to your core, you know that you have an impact on your students’ success, then you are more likely to show more success than students with teachers who don't believe in their impact.
This means that you, YOU reading this article, YOU who will have anywhere between 30 and 170 new students starting in August (or September you lucky dog), YOU who are making plans to revamp or somehow improve your classroom, YOU who is working through some sort of professional development whether that be a class, some graduate level courses, or just reading a book on pedagogy, YOU are number ONE when it comes to impacting your students.
Not that class you're taking. Not the masters degree you're working your butt off for. Not that new strategy, not even that book you're reading.
It's YOU taking that class. It's YOU earning that masters degree. It's YOU learning that new strategy or reading that book, and YOU believing that you have power to influence your students. It's YOU knowing your content. It's YOU knowing your students. It's YOU having the confidence to step into the role as the number one influence on your students' learning.
So how do we improve education and make sure we are developing our students to compete in this 21st century world and enter that world as well-rounded adults???
We invest in teachers being able to focus on their students. We invest in developing teachers to step into that role as the number one influence on student learning.
And that right there is my mission.
The role as number one is not easy. There's a ton of pressure just in that persona, let alone when the government piles on expectations, evaluations, and tests.
My mission is to empower teachers to step into that role as the number one influence on student learning in ways that keeps them there for more than a few years. In ways that allow them to focus on just that role and nothing else.
Given the impact and importance of teachers, although it may be obvious that we need to invest in them, what’s the best way to do so?
The first answer might be to increase salaries. And that may be so, but I’d like to offer some other, maybe more possible options in today’s episode, one’s that are a bit less obvious.
If research shows that teachers who have higher value added scores have greater impact on their students’ academic success, then we need to consider investing in how to increase the value added scores of teachers. We should do that by identifying exactly what that is.
A value added score indicates a students’ growth - if you’re a teacher listening, you already know this, but hang with me for a second.
Here’s what it all means - if you’re distracted, come back to me for a second, this is the biggest takeaway of today’s episode - a teacher has more impact on students when each of his/her students show a year or more of growth while in his/her classroom.
So the better question to be asking is how can we invest in teachers so that they can focus on individual students' growth?
I don’t know about you, but when thinking of how teachers focus on student growth, strategies and best practices that come to my mind right away are:
These are the aspects of our classroom that allow us to focus on our individual students' learning and growth. And I would even argue that focusing on these aspects is what helps us to see our impact, and in turn believe we have impact, and in turn then have more impact because we believe we have it (relating back to the research I referenced earlier, all of which by the way is linked in the show notes where you’re listening).
On the other hand, things that don’t come to mind right away when thinking of how to help our students reach one year of growth are:
And, no, not even the flipped classroom.
That’s not to say that these techniques aren’t fantastic. Seriously guys, I offer a 50 hour online professional development course on the flipped classroom - I believe in the results of many of these strategies, especially the flipped classroom, but they aren’t the first thing that comes to mind because all of these are a means to the end. All of these are the strategies that help us accomplish the ones that came to mind first.
You may have heard me say this, but I’ll say it again, and again - we don’t flip our classrooms for flipping's sake, or because it’s the cool trendy thing. We flip our classrooms because it allows us to more sustainably differentiate, enrich, remediate, and respond to the needs of our students.
And so teacher friend, as the school year is about to ramp back up, and all the work to prepare for back to school begins, I have one huge question to ask you.
Do you believe that you can have an impact with your students this year?
Your answer will determine the actual influence you have in the classroom more than any other strategy or technique you implement, and the best part is that it’s all in your control.
No one and no thing has control over your belief in your influence other than you.
Often times in education we are stifled by the thousands of factors that influence our effectiveness in the classroom that are completely outside of our control. Many of these factors are ones we can focus on, but many others are like swimming up current if we attempt to make change.
So I hope you feel some peace and relief in knowing not only that you very much are the number one influence on student performance in your classroom, but that your belief in your ability to have that impact is something that you have complete control over.
Now before we go, I have to acknowledge the “but” that you may be in your mind right now. It’s very healthy to recognize a but or two in our professional lives, and on this podcast.
The “but” I’m talking about here is this…
Ok, I get it. Let’s just say that, sure, I’m the number one influence on student performance, and my belief in my impact is what determines the amount of influence I have. But that does not reduce the amount of work I have to do to reach my population of students, especially compared to populations other teachers work with where they seem to have no barriers.
You are so right.
And here’s my response to that. Your work with your students in overcoming that thousands of other aspects that influence their performance in school whether it be poverty, slack of parental involvement or even neglect, transient populations, language barriers, you name it… your work in overcoming those with your individual students is exactly what you should be focusing on, and should be the area where you believe you have impact.
And here’s another but… But I still have to learn, prepare, and then teach the content on top of reaching each of my students.
And that my friend, is exactly where I would like to change the narrative around how teachers are supported.
You’ve felt it before where you’ve finally reached year three or four of teaching course, and you are in somewhat of a groove. You probably even noticed your scores go up, and that you knew your students better. Know why???? Because the content of your course had virtually been taken care of in your first three to four years of teaching the course, and now you had time to focus on your students.
I want to decrease the learning curve teachers experience when they are teaching a new course. This doesn’t just apply to new teachers either. Raise your hand if you’ve ever had to switch what you teach or add another course or subject area to your schedule.
When teachers are given new courses to create or teach, it takes away from their ability to fulfill their role as number one, from their ability to focus on their students. That doesn't mean we can't give teachers new preps, but it certainly doesn't mean we have to invest in some big textbook company to tell us what we should teach - no! We find other teachers who can support those with new preps, bring them up alongside them.
When teachers have to focus on connecting with kids AND developing the curriculum they teach, it takes away from their ability to fulfill their role as number one. That doesn't mean a teacher can't develop their own stuff, but to keep teachers in this business for the long haul in healthy, balanced ways, we've got to take something off of their plate.
This is my mission. I want to support you. I want to empower you to fulfill your role as the number one influence on student learning.
Now, as one person who taught a certain number of courses, I can only support the teachers in areas that I am qualified to do so.
And that is why I am so honored and proud to welcome on three content coaches to team Teach On A Mission to support teachers in three different content areas. Oh, and here’s a little secret - I believe in only biting off what I can chew, well, most of the time, so if you don’t teach any of the courses we offer support in, stay tuned because we’re growing.
If you scroll down to the show notes right now, you will see three links to the three areas we provide content coaching in - that’s AP® Psychology, AP® Biology, and high school English Language Arts.
You can click on those links below and you will be signed up to receive the FREE 3-part content coaching series in that content area which starts next week. I’m so excited for Rachelle to offer support in AP® Psych, Adriana to offer her expertise in AP® Biology, and Emily to share her passion and organization in high school ELA. Please share this episode/blog post with teachers in those subject areas, especially ones who are new to teaching it, and let’s change the narrative around how teachers are supported so they really can be the number one influence on student performance.
Now, what if you don’t teach a course in any of these areas?? Well, I want to hear from you. As the founder of Teach On A Mission, I am listening to teachers and working to support them in new, comprehensive ways, and I can best do that by knowing the areas where there is the most need. A fourth link is in the show notes where you’re listening, and it is to a Google Form where I ask you to tell me what courses or subject areas you need support.
Although I’m sorry I don’t have a program for every subject area right now, it is absolutely my goal to eventually get there.
So don’t wait - get signed up for the free training series in any of those 3 content areas or tell me what content area you’re needing support, and also know that no matter what you teach, I’m here to help you reach more teacher-life sustainability.
Until next week, teacher-friend.
Bye for now.