In sports, it is said that unless you’re getting better you’re getting worse.
It’s true in education as well.
Homeostasis doesn’t exist, nor should it ever be your goal. Your push for continual improvement keeps the intrinsic fires burning.
It keeps misbehavior at bay and allows for unlimited academic progress. It also keeps students focused, happy, and purpose-driven.
One way to make this daily push for improvement easy is to maintain what I call a like/don’t like list.
It’s a simple strategy to ensure you’re reaching for more, higher, and better each day.
Here’s how it works: Take out a fresh sheet of paper before your class or period begins. You can use basic notebook paper or a note pad. Draw a horizontal line across the middle.
Keep it near you as you go about your day. I like to stash it on a clipboard under the roster I use to track consequences.
On the half above the line you’re going to list three things you like. It could be the way your students worked on their science projects. It could be how they cleaned up or followed a new direction or focused during a lesson.
It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s true.
On the bottom half, you’re going to list three things you don’t like. It could be the time it took to put away their materials after your math lesson. It could be the group work you had to stop midway for reteaching. Anything is free game.
Now, it’s important to mention that you must never put anything on your like list that doesn’t reach the level of excellence you’re striving for. First and foremost, the list is a method of feedback.
It communicates areas of improvement to focus on and areas of success to double down on. It must be accurate. Otherwise, it won’t be clear enough to result in real, daily improvement.
Also important: The list must not keep you from holding students accountable or praising them when called for.
You see, the list is something you’ll share with your students the next day. For example:
“Yesterday, I liked how quickly you formed groups and got down to work. I want to see the same today. I also liked how you focused silently as I gave directions to the writing assignment. Today, I want to see the same attentiveness whenever I speak.
Things I didn’t like, and expect better today: Work production – I want to see more focus and efficiency during independent work time. Better questions – Listen more intently during presentations to have deeper questions for presenters.”
You don’t have to have exactly three for each half of the paper. You may have one and three or two and two. It doesn’t matter. The key is to be honest. Your students need to know the reality of how they’re doing in order to get better.
The truth is, many classes struggle because they don’t know what the teacher wants. The like/don’t like list is an easy way to ensure you’re giving pointed feedback while at the same time providing your students a target to shoot for.
Whatever you cover on your list that morning, or beginning of the period, will nearly always be better than the day before.
It forces improvement day after day and allows you to push for greater and greater levels of excellence as the year goes on.
It’s a mechanism of striving, which is something all great teachers do.
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