We all want our students to grow. We want them to learn. So what do we do? We teach. That is good. Explicit, directed instruction is essential. However, I want to suggest that if we want our students to learn, we must be learners. We must model this for them. And the beginning of a new year is a great time to set some specific goals.
I have many learning-related goals and I am not going to bore you by listing them all here. But I am going to highlight a few. I hope that my goals will be food-for-thought that helps you create your own goals for your context, situation, available time/energy, and personality.
What one thing will I do this year that will make me better as a teacher in general?
One of my ongoing goals during the past few years has been to become a better teacher of reading. Confident, experienced readers are in a powerful position to continue to learn. Teachers understand the axiom that after learning to read, students read to learn. A bulldozer can dig deeper and faster than a spade. I want my students to have bulldozers for reading. I want them to be able to access, understand, and evaluate content. I want them to be excellent readers.
So, I am investigating “Readers’ Workshop” in more detail this year. And I am trying implement elements of it and experiment with what works best. I have long been a fan of the workshop model, but there are specifics about Readers’ Workshop that I need to learn more about. Specifically, as a Bible teacher, I want my students to increase their abilities to read the Word of God for understanding and application. Students who can’t read well can’t read the Bible well.
What is one thing that you can do this year to help you improve generally as a teacher? Can I suggest that advancing as a biblical integrator can be a great goal? Think about reading a good book on integration or academic discipleship. Consider working with a partner to talk through your syllabus or course design.
What one thing will I do this year that will make me better as a teacher in a specific subject area?
I am pressing hard to develop greater proficiency with the biblical languages this year. My biggest goal is to increase my reading proficiency in Greek. As a Bible teacher, it has become increasingly important to me to be able to read the Bible better in the original languages. Since this is a skill, I have designed a system for daily practice. My goal is 400 hours of deliberate practice this year (2022). Thankfully, this goal is not isolated to my teaching. I love reading the Bible. And I love learning about how to do it better. So the 66 minutes of required work each day feels fun to me. Yes, learning/practicing a language is work. But hard work can be fun. This is especially true if it is meaningful personally, tied to vocational goals, and leads to worship.
Now, your goal doesn’t need to take you 400 hours. Four deliberate hours might make a big difference in some areas. But regardless of the time-commitment, you should be growing in a specific subject area. And you should be doing it on purpose.
What’s your goal for growing in a specific subject area? Maybe it’s reading a biography of a person in that field. Perhaps it’s taking an online training or going to a conference. Maybe it’s getting a new certification. The options are endless.
Let me finish this article with a little-known secret: People often like their work better and are more passionate about doing it well when they are good at it. A learning teacher is often a more satisfied teacher. And a learning teacher is modeling growth to students. And a teacher who sees students growing will be an encouraged teacher. Your learning will help you and your students. So plan it. Organize it. And do it. It will make a difference.