Sunday, February 22, 2015

Bigger Picture Teaching

"Humility leads to strength and not to weakness.
It is the highest form of self-respect
to admit mistakes and to make amends for them."
- John J. McCloy

Sometimes you don't know, what you don't know.  

Years ago when I was teaching 5th grade I had a young lady in my class.  Her name was Cassidy. Cassidy was a sweet girl, she got along with pretty much everybody, but learning didn't come easy. She had to work for everything she got.  In today's classroom she would likely be a student that received additional support from tutors or RTI Specialists.  Unfortunately for Cassidy, those layers of support were not available years ago.  Instead, I was fortunate to have limited parent support during the week that would help Cassidy and others.

As I reflect on Cassidy and others I think I failed them.  I remember looking at Cassidy's work in Math.  We were working on Order of Operations.  I remember looking at her paper and analyzing her answers.  In almost every wrong answer I noticed a problem.  Cassidy was making errors in multiplication.  More specifically she knew how to solve the problems, but the errors were small...yet in Math, small errors are still errors.  

The error I made was that the curriculum just kept going.  I carved a bit of time to practice with Cassidy each day, but the 3-5 minutes practicing didn't truly cut it.  Cassidy needed me to put the brakes on the curriculum and help her with foundational support.  We all have students similar to Cassidy.  What I'm getting at is this, as a teacher I should've been looking Big Picture for Cassidy. Instead I focused on the now and the not so distant future.  My mistake was not building her for long term success.  

I get it, sometimes as a teacher we focus on the immediate...the now...the standard or the skill. Sometimes we lose focus of the base.  Without building a strong foundation our students will struggle over time.  This was my mistake.  I knew what flaw Cassidy had and I tried to remedy it on the fly. In hindsight I should have differentiated my teaching and built her up from the foundation.  

Looking back and reflecting on the past is something I do often.  I fully realize my intentions were good.  I tried as hard then as I do now.  But what has happened over time is that I've gained valuable insight and perspective.  I see the big picture and I see that students need strong foundational skills to be successful.  I'm grateful for our RTI Specialists, Literacy Coaches and Support Staff.  These are the invaluable layers that allow us to work on Foundational Learning.  I encourage you all to focus on the long term gains instead of the short term band-aid.  Keep one eye on the Big Picture!

This Week's Big Question:  Is it acceptable to admit mistakes in education? 


Monday, February 23rd:  6:30 Community Forum on Balanced Calendar
Monday, February 23rd:  February Luncheon
Monday, February 23rd:  3:45 String Team
Tuesday, February 24th:  9am Admin Meeting
Tuesday, February 24th:  5:30 Board Meeting
Wednesday, February 25th:  8:45am K-2 Assembly
Wednesday, February 25th:  12:15-3pm Standard Based Report Card Meeting
Thursday, February 26th:  CD Federal Credit Union 2pm
Friday, February 27th:  8am Staff Meeting in Mrs. Sopers classroom

*  Reading Month Photo's are this week!
*  Next Week is Conference week, I designated Tuesday & Wednesday as dinner nights.
*  Next week is also Book Fair Week!
*  Next week we also have Donuts with Dad.

Articles Worth Reading:

Dear Governor Cuomo @TonySinanis

Each of Us Holds Value @TechNinjaTodd

Videos Worth Watching:

Selfie Proposal (1 min)

Dog walks other Dog? (1 min)

On the Road with Steve Hartman (3 min)

Man Re-Unites with Family (3 min)

Adorable girl on Ellen (7 min)


  1. Ben, this is such an important post! Building a strong foundation is so critical for students' future successes. We are getting more and more students at our high school who are lacking a strong foundation, some because they transfer in from different school systems. We at the high school level have to think about the "world" in which we are about to send them... we can't just prepare them for the "world" we know from our experience at their age. We must prepare them for the Bigger Picture - THEIR future "world."

  2. I too wish we had more time to slow down and provide the foundation needed for many of our students. Not just academically, but more important, the social and emotional foundation needed for our students. Maybe the time is there and we just aren't using it the way we should. I worry most, not about our students' ability to add, subtract, multiply or divide. What I worry most about is their ability to function, adapt, encourage, empathize, love, etc. As always your post pushed my thinking. Thank you.