SMART Goal Book Reviews

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It was the summer before my second year of teaching. I remember sitting in my apartment on my secondhand maroon futon with a middle-school chapter book in my hand and a notebook in my lap. As I read each chapter, I thought about the questions that would get my students to think deeply and respond to what they were reading with empathy. I logged all these questions, and then typed them into a document…which ended up being about 30 pages long. Now, did the kids end up enjoying the book? Perhaps. Was it because of this gigantic packet I had made? Most certainly not.

Looking back, if I would have had a professionally trained mentor or instructional coach, my capacity would have been built more successfully. This is not to discredit my administrator at the time, who was diligent in checking in with me and helping me reflect on my practice. The tools that are available through the New Teacher Center and programs like New Teacher Induction through Martin Luther College have been invaluable experience to me as I’ve thought about my own teaching practice while I’ve supported beginning teachers.

Why this matters right now

In my full time role this year, I have the opportunity to support teachers with all kinds of experience. As our district pushes innovation by laying the foundation for a personalized learning environment, the administration has put two coaches in place to support teachers’ progress in implementing personalized learning in instruction, assessment, environment design, and learner profiles.

We have defined personalized learning in our district as an individualized, learner-centered, teacher-guided partnership. This gives kids what they need when they need it and how they learn best. This reframing of learning will help students meet the goal of being ready for life beyond our school in a world where their skills will be in demand. Graduates from our school distric will be strong in academics and equipped with skills like critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, communication, and global citizenship.

"We want students to have empowerment, agency, and the drive to continue learning their whole life through." #L4ALedu Click To Tweet

Seymour Papert said (in 1998), “The one really competitive skill is the skill of being able to learn.” On top of that, Will Richardson’s quote in Why School? says, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write. The illiterate will be those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” These quotes are driving my thought process. We want students to have empowerment, agency, and the drive to continue learning their whole life through. The students are the foundation and the reason behind this.

What’s coming next?

In the next few weeks, I will be reflecting on my exploration and study of instructional coaching, leadership, and supporting teachers. The first book I chose is Everyday Instructional Coaching: Seven Daily Drivers to Support Teacher Effectiveness by Dr. Nathan D. Lang-Raad. Lang-Raad is the Chief Education Officer at WeVideo. You can follow him on Twitter at @drlangraad or visit his website,

Want to join the discussion? Join us in our Facebook group, or use the hashtag #L4ALedu on Twitter.

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