Mom and I were heading to the movies this morning – for the first time since last winter when we went to see Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – to see an early show of The Silver Linings Playbook.

We were heading out of her comfort zone by heading to a theater she doesn’t usually drive to. But that was the one with the early show…and it happens to be close to where my inlaws live.

So she brought the brand new GPS to use.

And we still ended up bickering about which way to go.

Okay, she was driving, so she decided to go her preferred route instead of what the GPS and I had initially suggested. The GPS recalculated the route and all seemed to go fine.

Until we pulled up at the last intersection and that’s when it happened.

The theater was right in front of us. Big sign and everything.

But Mom started to get into the right turn lane.

“What are you doing? The theater is right there!” I said.

“The GPS just told me to turn right here.”

She looked up and realized that I was right and decided to go  – not somewhere down the road that decidedly was NOT our destination.

I’m not giving her a hard time – I love my mom and I’m just as guilty of over-relying on my GPS and not enough on the reality of my surroundings.

While standing in line for popcorn, it struck me how this same thing happens in teaching.

There are many paths for our students to arrive at Success.

There are so many programs that are cropping up already to help prepare to help teachers navigate the Common Core State Standards – offering a set of GPS directions designed to help us help our students to arrive at Success.

And those automated directions cause us to pay less attention to where we are and where we want to be – and I worry that it makes it far to easy to realize too late that the destination those programs have in mind for our students doesn’t necessarily match the one we desire.

After all, I know my definition of “success” is not limited to these programs’ definitions of “success” or  the some reformers’ and politicians’ definition of “success.”

Passing the standardized tests or even demonstrating growth on the same standardized tests should not be the only thing I want my students to achieve.

I want them to recognize the power and beauty of words. I want them to know what it is like to get lost in the pages of a book or how to communicate clearly whatever is on their minds to whomever needs to hear or read it. I want them to know how to find the answers they seek – which sometimes means knowing how to ask the question first. I want them to know that it’s okay to fail sometimes – as long as they know this isn’t bad or wrong or a reason to give up. I want them to know we don’t always succeed the first time out – with finding meaning in a poem, with writing anything, with understanding big ideas.

I want them to grow up being lifelong readers and writers and questioners and thinkers.

I don’t think the tests measure any of that with their associated definitions of success.

I thankfully don’t have to follow the directions from any program to do any of this for my students. It’s an UNprogram like Teri Lesesne describes on her blog.

I pay attention to my students, I notice what they need, and I try to steer us in the right direction on this stretch of their journey to lifelong Success.

I’ll continue to put books in hands, present opportunities to learn, investigate, question, answer, share, read, write, puzzle, and plan.

I’ll continue to learn as I go, with my teaching mentors and friends by my side (in books on my shelves, in blog posts, on Twitter and Facebook, down the hall, at conferences, in comments here) encouraging me to keep our destination in mind realizing that wrong turns might happen but that they won’t necessarily keep us from where we want to go.

Know where you’re going, pay attention to what’s around you, and trust your eyes and ears can recognize that you’re on the right path.


6 thoughts on “Directions

    • Thanks! I was worried that it might sound too…I don’t know. I was worried it didn’t make sense, but I have been fussing with this on my phone all day. I was glad to finally put it out there with my fingers crossed AND get to see a nice comment like this. :)

      • It was so perfectly said that I am astonished that you worried about it all. So, first, relax, uncross your fingers, and enjoy the weekend now; secondly, thank you for writing it; thirdly, thank you for saying something that finally causes me to trust and believe in myself as a teacher after 21 years (!) of teaching.

  1. Well stated and love your intro and analogy! You speak the truth. There are many times teachers (including myself) over rely on the programs or interventions. We forget to stop and think about the students sitting right in front of us and what they need. Thank you for your reminder!

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