Not too long ago, at a district administrative meeting, we were discussing the tools of measuring what we consider important in a school environment. Like a lightning bolt, three rhyming words popped into my brain: measure, treasure, and pleasure. ** As I reflected, the words began weaving into an axiom:
"Measure what you treasure, and don't forget your pleasure."
What is most important to me or us? When thinking educationally, it might be difficult to narrow to just one "thing" and we must settle for a distilled list of bullets. But be careful: if the list is too long, then priorities become muddled, the progress will be difficult to track, and the result will be frustration and disappointment.
Administrators may ask: What skills, dispositions and/or knowledge do we want a graduate from our school/district to have?
Teachers may ask: What must a student have when they leave my classroom? After learning my content, what is the one thing I hope they will know or will be?
Students may ask: What do I want to be when I grow up? What am I passionate about? What skill or knowledge gaps do I need to most "fill" by the time I graduate?
In what ways will you ensure that you are on track for achieving your treasure? It is human nature to do what you are held accountable for, but if what you do seems to have little or no impact (lack of monitoring, no consistent feedback, expectations are unclear, etc.), you'll drop it in favor of more "important" stuff. For example, you may see the need to examine "social and emotional learning," but by which systemic metrics must you ensure SEL is tracked and addressed? You may value digital citizenship, but in what ways can you guarantee that stakeholders engage in maturity-appropriate high critical thinking lessons over a consistent period of time?
Administrators may ask: In what ways am I creating a culture of compliance rather than a culture of change, and how can I reverse this? How are my walk-through tools beneficial and timely to teachers? Do I spend more energy on celebrating risk taking and growth opportunities, or are you more concerned about staff sticking to the rules? Are teachers analyzing data gathered from integrated blended learning, or are they merely "using" digital tools? How are you personalizing staff learning in the same ways you hope they are doing for students?
Teachers may ask: How do I make sure each student feels they are a valuable part of our classroom and community? How do I know which students have "it"? How will I help those that don't, and those that already do? How can my assessments be for student learning as much or more than a summative declaration of their learning? How am I allowing multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate their mastery?
Students may ask: How do I know where I am at? In what ways will I achieve what I want? How can I reflect on and use "artifacts" as evidence of my mastery of competencies and standards?
Last but not least, our journey must have a sense of play and joy. Without positive encouragement of taking risks, without fostering curiosity and inquiry, and without a sense that what we do is for the betterment of self and of others, the rest becomes moot. It is the difference between a journey of "academics" (with all the dry, stuffy connotations that word dredges up) and a journey of authentic learning.
Administrators may ask: How do I help our staff feel fulfilled and energized? What mechanisms makes sure teacher voices and desires are given a fair shake? How do I foster collaboration and teamwork and avoid staff feeling "silo'd"? Knowing that overwhelmed teachers may be faced with "cherish or perish," how do I celebrate them and help them avoid burnout?
Teachers may ask: What inspired me to become a teacher (and if necessary, how do I reconnect to reignite my passion for teaching)? How can I feed my aspirations and need for growth? How do I find a balance of personal and professional demands? In what ways today can I laugh and smile with my students and colleagues? How can I allow myself to play and take risks without the pressure of perfection? How can I bring some of this play and joy to my students?
Students may ask: Do I have a voice and choice in personalizing my path in learning? How is my learning relevant and authentic? How can I make sure what I do impacts the world? Where is the sweet spot in my learning that is between "too challenging" and "too easy"? What are ways I can collaborate and make learning a social activity? How do I continue to grow in what I'm good at while also filling my learning gaps?
If done well, what we do in school has ramifications for years to come in ways far outside the classroom walls. In that way, the grandest legacy of our "eternal impact" will be transforming administrators, teachers and students into lifelong learners.
**Editor's note: while Google searches didn't turn up this idea of "measure, treasure, pleasure" in academic settings, it did reveal phraseology in a similar vein a few times in, of all things, religious reflection (such as this blog entry). Perhaps this should not be surprising, as the secular "eternal impact" I discuss above would be analogous to the spiritual "eternal impact" of religious belief-centered choices.