Teach them HOW at the end of the year

At the end of the year, it's easy to put the focus on the "what" -- the content and what kids have learned. They're also watching our "how," though. (Public domain image via Pixabay.com)

At the end of the year, it’s easy to put the focus on the “what” — the content and what kids have learned. They’re also watching our “how,” though. (Public domain image via Pixabay.com)

Now’s the time of year when the “what” takes center stage in many schools.

Final exams — and the prep time that comes with them — ask students what they’ve learned.

End of the year projects let students demonstrate what they know.

The end of the school year is that cumulative, summative time of year when we want to use the measuring stick to see what students have learned for the year.

It means the beginning of summer, too. Pretty soon, we’ll have more opportunities to sleep late, stay in our pajamas and be outdoors in beautiful weather.

In light of all of that, it’s easy to keep our focus on the “what” and take our eyes off the “how.” I have fallen prey to this many times.

Several years ago, I was in charge of summer swim lessons for my school district. I had dozens of kids signing up. It was my big summer job, and I was excited about it.

I was making swim class rosters and communicating with parents and logging payments. This was all happening in the last few weeks of school.

At that time, my students were working on end-of-semester projects. And I took my eyes off the “how.”

It was too easy to sit at my desk and let them work on their projects. (And I use the word “work” there loosely … without clear goals and a course of action to reach them, those work days were not very productive.)

I was excited about teaching swim lessons. I got to run the show — set them up and teach them how I wanted. I took too much time thinking, “Oh, they’re fine. They’re working, and I really need to organize this swim lessons stuff.”

The problem? Students were showing me the “what” — what they had learned — through their projects. Teaching and learning of the “what” had already happened.

I wasn’t teaching them “how.”

  • How do you finish strong?
  • How do you show that you’re committed to learning until the final day?
  • How do you make each day count?
  • How do you bring out little learning opportunities, even when the message throughout the building is “It’s time to shut down for the year”?

how we do our jobs what we teachThis is a time of year when students are watching how we do our jobs as much as what we teach.

They know which teachers are checked out and have the beach or the lake — or, in my case, the swimming pool — on their mind.

You’ve probably heard this end-of-year mantra: “Don’t count the days. Make the days count.”

Personally, I don’t care if you count down the days until school is out. In my house, with two educators and three elementary students, we always know how many days are left.

But definitely make those days count. If anything, at the end of the year, show your students “how.”

Because a shining example of how a life is well lived is something that may just stick with them and inspire them well into adulthood.

Question: What do you think … are they watching our ‘how’? How have you kept your focus on your ‘how’? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

For notifications of new Ditch That Textbook content and helpful links:

Interested in having Matt present at your event or school? Contact him by e-mail!

Matt is scheduled to present at the following upcoming events:

 DateEvent / Event DetailsCity / More Info
+ 01/05/2018
Taylorville CUSDTaylorville, IL
+ 01/08/2018
Princeville CUSDPrinceville, IL
+ 01/26/2018
Erie 1 BOCESWest Seneca, NY
+ 01/29/2018
Jackson R-2 School DistrictJackson, MO
+ 02/02/2018
California League of Schools (DBC)Monterey, CA
+ 02/07/2018
Ditch That Homework Workshop (Region 8 ESC)Fort Wayne, IN
 Venue:The Summit
1025 W. Rudisill Blvd.
Fort Wayne, IN 46807
Public Event
+ 02/08/2018
Ditch That Homework WorkshopMishawaka, IN
 Venue:Northern Indiana Educational Service Center (NIESC)
56535 Magnetic Drive
Mishawaka, IN 46545
Public Event
+ 03/07/2018
Delaware Association of School Admin2 Skype Presos
+ 03/16/2018
Lake Shore Central SchoolAngola, NY
+ 06/21/2018
The Suite Life ConferenceWashington, IN
+ 08/09/2018
St. Joseph Grade SchoolSouth Bend, IN
+ 08/15/2018
St. Anthony de Padua Catholic SchoolSouth Bend, IN