The world is networked. We are more connected today than ever before in our history. As educators, this connectivity represents an amazing new frontier in our journey of preparing students to be successful citizens. Re-read that last sentence. Now, ask yourself the following question: what if teachers and administrators do not embrace the connectivity that the Internet provides? Can we lead something we do not understand, let alone model?
Professional athletes often cite a person who “believed” in them as a driving force for success. Likewise, educators have postulated for many years that expectations regarding student achievement do affect teacher behavior, and in turn teacher behavior affects student achievement. Educational literature is full of information motivating us to understand that we must believe in our students and the power of education to change our world, one young person at a time. In fact, the impact of teacher expectations on student achievement is one of the most widely researched areas in education. “Expectations regarding student achievement do affect teacher behavior and teacher behavior then affects student achievement” (Marzano as cited in Umphrey, 2008, p. 17). The following question seems to be at the heart of the reflection we need to engage as educators: what behaviors are exhibited on a daily basis in your realm of experience, which exemplify high expectations and a belief in all students (and here is the kicker) AND are yielding higher levels of student achievement and a culture of excellence?
Motivation and work ethic are keys to success. Educators must motivate the unmotivated and teach students how to set goals and work toward accomplishing goals. A research study conducted by the ACT found that “academic discipline” accounted for 61 percent of the predictive strength of academic behaviors (ACT, 2008). The study defined “academic discipline” as “the skill component of motivation, such as the degree to which a student is hardworking and conscientious” (p. 26). The implications of these findings indicate that teaching students how to be “conscientious” and engaging students so that they are “motivated” and “hardworking” is essential to successful career and college readiness (i.e. effective citizens). According to the ACT study, “college and career readiness does not occur at a single point in time but is the result of a process extending throughout the K-12 years” (p. 36). As educators, we constantly remind ourselves that we prepare our students to be effective citizens by believing in our students and our abilities to reach them – and then actualize those beliefs through sound teaching practices each and everyday.
Do your students contribute to your learning and the learning of others? How do you differentiate instruction and assessment for your students? How do you lead for differentiation and student success? Do students apply their learning?