“You’re in the wrong business, man. You need to be in planning” -fellow teacher
“You had to have been in a frat[ernity] in college. You don’t just pick up skills like that on the street.” -Colleague at Teach for America
Over the past several months, Teach for America has bestowed upon me many wonderful strategies associated with highly effective teachers. As a part of my journey with TFA, I have been exposed heavily to Teaching as Leadership. The TAL rubric, one of TAL’s most powerful documents, can be used to help teachers run their classrooms in a very purposeful and efficient manner. Teaching as Leadership emphasizes that excellent instruction can be achieved through setting big goals, investing students and their families, planning purposefully (which is always done backwards, instead of forward), executing effectively [best achieved with moderate (not excessive) amounts of caffeine], continually increasing effectiveness (CIE), and working relentlessly. The TAL rubric is lovely in the classroom (although it is quite a bit of work to accomplish, trust me). However, I have learned that the TAL rubric can be slightly modified and adapted for everyday use outside of the classroom as well. Consider the following two examples:
Daily summer planning
Big goal: Begin planning for the upcoming Mock Trial season, run errands (drop off dry-cleaning, return items at Target, grocery shopping), continue working on new mentor program, etc…
Investment: I will not waste today. Additionally, if I succeed in completing these tasks before the sun sets, I can enjoy the pool (delayed gratification)
Planning: Create a list of all items that need to be completed. Split items into categories for easy organization. Make separate Post-It notes or Remember the Milk lists for each category.
Execution: GO! (Check items off list as they are completed)
CIE: Milk will spoil if I go to Trader Joe’s first. Postpone and go to Target to exchange bicycle pump first.
Working relentlessly: GO, GO, GO!
Big goal: Enjoy one of the greatest ‘Murican traditions ever to the fullest extent possible.
Investment: Skip this step since investment is not needed for NASCAR (it only comes around twice per year).
Planning: Create list of essential NASCAR items [tickets, chariot, epic campground space, American beer, sunglasses, sunscreen (optional), plywood, designated drivers (or tents), spare cash for funnel cakes, Five-hour energy shots, obnoxious wig(s), redneck accent, camera for documentation, cell phone, etc…]
Execution: Once at NASCAR camp site, open first beer. Consume. Recycle can. Repeat.
CIE: Beer remains in oversized cooler at campground site (fail). Find soft cooler and carry into race (winning).
Working relentlessly: Don’t stop believing.
A dear friend and legendary teacher (I would say legendary human but the general consensus is that he is actually superhuman) took on the challenge of increasing the Teach for America corps member happiness quotient in Charlotte (CIE-ing, if you will). I have been fortunate to experience and benefit from the epic events that have occurred over the last calendar year. As a result, a few other 2nd year corps members and I have committed ourselves to CIE-ing (note: CIE can and oftentimes should be used in verb form) the mission to improve the Charlotte corps member happiness quotient, especially for incoming corps members. In doing so, an internal social calendar has been created. While working on this calendar, the TAL rubric was really put to the test. The big goal is obvious. Investment is easy. Long-term planning has occurred but event and daily action plans still need to be generated (e-mail lists work wonders for event planning). Execution will be glamorous. Events will be CIE’d as they are in progress and second (and third) year corps members will work relentlessly towards the big goal. Throughout the year, this magical calendar will be released to the necessary individuals to make sure that each event can be a huge success. Consider the social calendar for 2012-2013 CIE’d.
A teacher at my school posted this as her Facebook status yesterday: “Balance is my new goal.” Using the summer to plan out social events for the next school year is the ultimate way to achieve a work/life balance throughout the school year. A better work/life balance will lead to increasing the corps member happiness quotient. In turn, this will result in successful corps members who can lead their students to success. Let’s close the gap.