Robyn Jackson says...

"Mastery teaching is not about the time you put in. It's what you do with your time that counts." - Never Work Harder Than Your Students & Other Principles of Great Teaching, p.2
I will be starting my sixth year of teaching high school math this fall. As I look back, a brief time line comes to mind illustrating some of the challenges of the profession and how I've attempted to tackle them.
  • Classroom management (years 1 & 2) was addressed through building a positive rapport with students. Reading The First Days of School and implementing a series of procedures helped immensely, too. I feel like I have a relatively good handle on this area right now.
  • Diversifying instructional strategies took some time as well. Questions such as "When should students work in collaborative groups?" and "When is direct instruction most appropriate?" were common thoughts in years 3 & 4. This is an area I hope to improve on this year. More in later posts.
  • Last year, I took a deep look at my assessment practices. Reflecting upon formative assessment and standards-based reporting were at the core of this blog. DuFour and his colleagues asked several questions that sum it up best
    1. Exactly what is it that we want all students to learn?
    2. How will we know when each student has acquired the essential knowledge and skills?
After talking with colleagues and sharing my success stories this past year (with the underlying hope that they, too, would "buy" into these changes), I realized procedures, instructional strategies and changes in assessment were not the true hurdles to be jumped. Each of these aspects of teaching and learning were related to my classroom culture. In an earlier post, I lamented on this very topic.
Emphasizing the importance of what we do and why we do it on a frequent basis is a first step...
As I begin to revise my assessments as well as classroom syllabus and communication blog, I realize that it's not about the time I or my students put in. It's what we do with this time that counts. How will I best use the first few weeks of the academic year to entrench in the minds of the students that in Mr. Townsley's class "it's about learning" above all else?

Robyn Jackson also said...
"...I believe you don't become a master teacher by simply doing what a master teacher does. You become a master teacher by thinking like a master teacher thinks." (p. xiv)
I believe I'm at that point in my teaching career where I want to start using my time to do more than check papers and create new homework assignments. Jackson suggests several principles to build upon this mindset. I plan to blog about each one individually over the next week or two to keep my mind focused on making the most of my preparation time for the rest of the summer. The principles are as follows:
  1. Start where your students are.
  2. Know where your students are going.
  3. Expect to get your students there.
  4. Support your students.
  5. Use effective feedback
  6. Focus on quality, not quantity
  7. Never work harder than your students
Based on the self-assessment provided at the beginning of the book, my strengths lie in principles 3, 4, and 6. I need the most help in improving on principles 1 and 7.

I hope you'll considering joining me on a quest towards better "thinking like a master teacher thinks."