Coming Full Circle – Focused on Student Learning


Yesterday in a conversation with a colleague, the statement was made “I am just scared and overwhelmed and afraid that I’m really not a good teacher at all, deep down.”  It saddened me at first because from what I know and have observed, this teacher is amazing – bringing a variety of experiences, travels and ideas to enhance teaching in their classroom.  This teacher is very strong collaborating with others – sharing ideas, using both research-based and practice-proven strategies, with one sole focus – student learning.  This person is a passionate learner, which in turn leads to a passionate teacher. 

A teacher, who is flexible and willing to adjust based on the students in front of them at that point in time, is a good teacher.  If your plan doesn’t produce the learning you intended, you step back, reflect and move forward with a new plan of action.  I believe all teachers at heart question whether they are “good” or not along the journey.  Accomplished teachers truly focus on student learning and consider how their choices will impact student learning. 

Good teachers realize teaching does not always equal learning.                                                                                   

While thinking about this past year’s experiences as a Teacher Leader for my district in Kentucky’s Leadership Network (KLN), I am starting to see it coming full circle.  It reminded me of National Board for Professional Teaching Standards’ Architecture of Accomplished Teaching Helix

While searching for a graphic of this, I stumbled across a report Measuring What Matters and absolutely lovedEllen Holmes’ My Copy Machine Epiphany (page 35).  She wrote “As I sorted the originals into the feeder, I had my teaching epiphany:  How did focusing on what I was going to cover for the next six weeks in any way match up to what I was learning about accomplished teaching as a National Board candidate?”  

This past year in our KLN meetings, we have focused on:

Characteristics of Highly Effective Teaching Learning (CHETL)
Assessment Literacy through work with Stiggins’ Classroom Assessment for Student Learning (CASL)
Deconstructing the new Common Core State (K-CAS in Kentucky)
We know our students. (CHETL)
We know our content and set the goals (KCAS). 
We determine how to assess. (CASL, SBG)
We deliver instruction. (CHETL)
We assess to evaluate student learning and reflect determine if the goals were met. (CASL)
We take the next step…sometimes its looping back through with the same content if students have not met goals, sometimes, it’s moving through the helix with our next unit of study… 

At times this past year, I have been frustrated.  It seemed like SO MUCH STUFF to consider.  I felt bombarded and could not figure out how it all tied together.  I felt I would cave in at any moment.  How was I supposed to be a teacher leader in my district when I could not get a grasp of it all???      

The purpose of KLN is to provide quality PD resources to EVERY district in Kentucky, allowing teacher leaders to return to our districts and share, working alongside our administrators and helping plan and provide training.  The idea is to ensure EVERY teacher has the resources to grow, bringing quality instruction and learning opportunities to EVERY classroom, so EVERY student has a chance to receive the highest quality education possible.

Now that I have made a connection with each component of KLN’s process to something I already know and understand, the Architecture of Accomplished Teaching and I can move forward.  I can encourage others who are feeling the weight on their shoulders – helping them realize our destination is still the same…it’s called student learning.  The goal is to realize every student may need different paths of arriving – and it’s up to us to make sure they get there. 



One response »

  1. Pam, this is a wonderful piece and I loved reading your reflections and connections. It has always been about student learning, but somehow we lost our way in the name of high stakes testing. Your friend and colleague you wrote about in this post has to be an outstanding teacher from your description. The fact she questions and ask “am I a good enough teacher” tells me she is a superior teacher who is always trying to improve. Your connections were right on target and the more connections we can make as educators certainly makes the overload of new information manageable. I enjoyed reading this piece and am glad I found it in my search in cyberspace to research Stiggins. Leslie Hart years and years ago once said, “There are no new ideas, only new patterns.” If educators look closely enough they will find that is so very true of all the magic bullets out there–what was old, is now new again, thank goodness it puts the students at the center of it all. It is about improving learning and has always been. Good luck as you start a new school year.

    Joyce Jackson
    Thoughtful Classroom

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