My inspiration and how it all began
On May 25, 1961 President John F. Kennedy announced his goal to the world. He said that by the end of his presidency, he would put a man safely on the moon. Before the end of the decade in 1969, Neal Armstrong set foot on the moon for the very first time! What I want you to understand from my story is that this great accomplishment started from one man’s goal. I knew how powerful goals and goal setting could be. I have always been a person driven by goals, but that passion and drive was not visible with my students. It seemed that year after year, the students coming in through my door were lacking that drive and instead were mastering the bad habit of learned helplessness. In the beginning of the school year 2017-2018 I was shocked to learn that of our total 4th grade students, only 28% were proficient in ELA and 25% were proficient in math. I could not believe that only about a quarter of our students were mastering the content and the rest were not. After all the work teachers were doing, the results were not mirroring our hard work and effort.
I gave them the responsibility
I knew it was time to pass on the baton, and pass that responsibility over to our students. This was a life long skill they needed to acquire fast. Don’t get me wrong, my students did have responsibilities at home and they were very good at carrying them out. Responsibilities like taking care of their siblings and helping out with the chores, but, I needed to help them transfer that sense of responsibility into their education also. By giving them this, I began thinking about goals and goal setting, and I realized that when we work on goals, they are more powerful if they come from us and if we can see the results fast.
I gave them the tool
With the need to become 21 century ready, I decided to use Google Calendar as their goal setting tool. In the past, I had used Google Calendar personally and it served as a great reminder for scheduled meetings and appointments. I loved the feature of being able to get reminders or alerts. Furthermore, Google Calendar was free and could be accessed from any device with WiFi.
I gave them the choice
I wanted my students to feel responsible, feel successful, and competent. I began giving them all their homework at once on Monday morning, and told them it was up to them what they would do, and when they would do it, as long as it was all turned in on Fridays. My class would organize and plan out their work tasks on their Google calendar in form of goals. Pretty soon they were setting other academic and personal goals on this platform.
I gave them the voice
As my students began exploring different tools, they began researching more. As we read or learned in class, questions would pop up. I would always say, “Let’s investigate that further”. The more they questioned, the more they read and wrote. My students were excited to share their findings this lead us to Google Slide presentations and story writing using "Story bird". It was evident that my students were enjoying their learning because their enthusiasm and achievement was visible through their creativity and knowledge. This enthusiasm began to spread out to other classrooms as teachers and students wanted to learn what my students were learning.
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