“The main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing.” –Stephen Covey
In the flurry of day-to-day lesson planning and teaching, the emphasis on standardized testing and the increasing social/emotional demands placed on teachers (and I’m not even mentioning remote learning!), it is easy to lose track of what the “main thing” is in terms of teaching. Administrators, standardized test developers, even parents tell us what the main thing is, but until you fully define if for yourself, it is easy to get off track. Is the main thing grades or test scores? Is the main thing completion of homework or perfect papers? Or is it getting kids excited about and in charge of their own learning? Is the main thing teaching a specific set of facts or is it teaching kids how to access and synthesize information on their own?
After I read Covey’s quote, I started thinking about my own classroom and tried to articulate what I believed the main thing, in terms of my job as a teacher, really was. It was a valuable exercise and I suggest that you do it too. Because, when you are torn and with a limited amount of time and a limitless number of tasks to complete, knowing what the main thing is might just help you figure out how to use your precious time.
It is also important to remember that, as you grow and learn as a teacher, and let’s face it, we are always growing and learning, your main thing will grow and change as well.
If you work with younger or newer teachers, this might be a good exercise to do together. I would love to see the school administrator share his or her list of their main things with the teachers in the school. Also, as a back-to-school exercise, it might be fun to have parents write out their lists of main school things for their child.
As you generate your list of educational main things, it is important to remember that this list is aspirational. I didn’t always attain my main thing in my day-to-day teaching, but I kept it in front of me as I planned and as I taught.
Here is my list of my main things.
Of course, one of the main things is teaching the content.
But there is so much more.
I need to remember that exactly what, and how I teach depends on the student.
For some students, the main thing is reaching the student’s mind.
For some, the main thing is reaching the student’s heart, because if I don’t, I won’t get to the mind.
The main thing is to help my students realize their own potential, to help them see the value and result of effort.
The main thing is to grow their self-confidence, not only as a student but also as a person.
The main thing is to reignite, or keep ignited, their curiosity and love of learning.
The main thing is to push them intellectually.
The main thing is to like them and to respect them.
Now it’s your turn. What are your main things?