The Need for Teacher Clarity, and Why It’s Missing In So Many Classrooms…

Like in all aspects in life, when there is a clear target to hit, we are much more apt to make progress. If you simply set out to “get healthier”, there is a much lesser chance that you will actually make sustainable progress than if you were to say, “I want to lose 10 pounds, rid my body of toxins, gain 5% muscle, and be able to touch my toes.” Now there are clear targets to hit. But “clarity” actually takes this a step further. It also includes how you are going to get to your target, and it plans for set backs as well.

In our health example, having clarity about your path to your health goals may include something like this:

  • I’m going eat less than 2000 calories per day.
  • I’m going to only eat meat, fruit and vegetables that are natural and organic.
  • I’m going to lift weights 3 times a week.
  • I’m going to stretch for 10 minutes every evening before going to bed.

Now there is a plan, and clear steps to getting to your clear goals.

But remember, with Clarity, you also account for potential setbacks. Having Clarity in your plan may include these considerations:

  • What will I eat when I go to a restaurant?
  • What will I eat and how will I exercise when I go on vacation?
  • What will this look like during Holidays?

By planning proactively here, you set yourself up for success in hitting your target.

But there’s one more element to Clarity – accountability and measurement. How will you know that you are on the right track to your health goals? You measure it! So your measurement may look like this…

  • I will weigh myself once a week.
  • I will measure my muscle mass twice a month.
  • I will try to touch my toes every Friday and have my husband measure my progress.

Why measure? To make sure that your plan is aligned to your goals. If you are not losing any weight after a month, you may need to change your caloric intake or be more intentional about the foods you are eating.

So what the heck does this example have to do with the classroom? Teacher Clarity answers these questions:

  1. What do I want my students to learn? (target)
  2. How will I know they learned it? (measurement)
  3. What will I do for the students who may struggle? (proactive planning)
  4. What will I do for the students who don’t learn it? (adjustment)

Teacher Clarity is crucial for teachers to bring learning to the diverse needs and academic levels of each student sitting in their classroom.

These questions may seem so straight forward, so why is teacher clarity missing in so many instructional practices?

I think there are a few reasons:

  1. A lack of understanding of the target learning (or standard).
  2. A lack of time to plan out for each of these elements.
  3. A lack of intentionality in planning (falling on the activities we’ve done in the past)
  4. Concept planning instead of targeted learning planning.

So let’s take a quick look at each of these.

First, a lack of understanding of the target learning (or standard). This is a huge problem that is found in so many grade levels and content areas. Teachers are asked to take on multiple content areas, move grade levels, or teach outside of their areas of expertise, and often time, adequate training on the standards or time to process the new standards is not given. So many teachers are operating out of a day-to-day “survival” mentality instead of a clear picture of what they are trying to get the students to learn.

Second, a lack of time to plan for each of these elements. Time is a teacher’s best friend and worst enemy. Teachers are pulled in every direction, especially during planning periods, and are often not given the time needed to plan. Also, if teachers have the benefit of a PLC, they are sometimes not run efficiently (again, a lack of training or simply being in survival mode), and these questions on clarity get skipped.

Third, because time and energy is limited, teachers sometimes have a tendency to fall on previous activities or “the way we’ve always taught it” without checking the alignment of the activities.

Fourth, I often see teachers “concept planning” instead of planning for the learning target. In other words, when I sit down to plan with teachers and ask what the students are learning, they will say, “plot” or “food webs” instead of “students will be learning how setting affects the plot”. When we start with concept planning, it’s difficult to get a clear learning target (are they learning what plot is? a plot chart? how character interactions affect plot? plot elements?), and without a clear learning target, the rest of clarity won’t happen.

When there is no teacher clarity, academic gaps continue to grow, teachers get frustrated, and students success is limited.

But teacher clarity takes work and intentionality and practice.

I’d love to help your teachers with this. We have created an 8-month Teacher Support online resource called (surprise!) Clarity. It breaks down one component a month:

  • Learning objectives,
  • formative assessment,
  • aligned questions and tasks,
  • how students impact instruction,
  • student-centered activities,
  • accommodations and scaffolding,
  • differentiation, and
  • literacy

Doors close August 26th for the 2022-2023 school year. Click here for information now! And Coaching Clarity for Academic coaches is now available!

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