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End with the End in Mind

We’ve come to the end of the school year.

The past few weeks have been filled with graduation celebrations everywhere I turn, and I am ready to get in the mix. I start the week addressing a group of graduating seniors at their commencement. Then my own daughter graduates on Friday. I am so excited for her.

But I am also excited to go and celebrate one of her former classmates, a young African American man who I first met when he was in kindergarten. They were classmates all the way through the eight-grade.

I got to know him pretty well when he was in about the second grade and was struggling as a reader. His teachers were talking about placing him in special education. Well, we know how that story goes. Young black boy goes into special education because of early reading difficulties and never comes out.

That’s when he and I started working together. I worked full-time as a curriculum designer, but would put on my reading tutor cape whenever I got a call from a concerned parent.

I became his tutor. We had fun. He caught on quick. There are children who need the structure and services special education teachers can provide. He was not one of them. He just needed some extra support. Now here he is graduating and heading off to study aeronautics in college.

I was so happy to hear that when I re-connected with into his mother recently.

I had to pause. Here we are at the end of his school career, standing in the vision that I held for him. That his two parents held for him. That his church family held for him. I rested in the moment. We’d reached the point we imagined when we came together so many years ago to offer him help to become a strong reader.

As educators, we talk about holding a vision for students’ academic success. Steve Covey, author of  7 Habits of Highly Successful People calls this “Begin with the end in mind. “

My twist on Covey’s principle is “End with the end is mind.”   When we get to the end, we often simply celebrate and move on.  I think we have go beyond just having a vision at the beginning of the journey. We need to end the school year with more robust reflection to see if we ended up where we set out to go. And if we didn’t, determine what went astray.

We have to create an academic trajectory for culturally and linguistically diverse students that lands them college-ready by the end of 11th grade – reading critically and writing analytically.

The question is: what are the protective factors we need to put in place that move African American, Latino, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander students toward academic success?

Protective factors are conditions or attributes (skills, strengths, resources, supports or coping strategies) in individuals, families, communities or the larger society that help people deal more effectively with stressful events and mitigate or eliminate risk in families and communities.

When we “end with the end in mind”, we can figure out what those factors are and how to keep them in place over the long haul despite teacher turn-over or district shifts and shake ups.

Let’s enjoy our end of the year celebrations. Have an extra slice of that sheet cake. Then it’s time to roll up our sleeves and do a post-mortem on the school year.

  • Did our students end up where we imagined or planned they would?
  • Were our lessons responsive enough?
  • How did we help students become stronger independent learners?
  • Did our policies and practices interrupt the predictability of who succeeded and who didn’t?

Make an reflection and review part of your summer learning agenda. (But only a part. Got to have some R & R in there too. That’s Covey’s last principle — “sharpen the saw”)

How are you celebrating the end of the school year? What did you learn about your teaching and students’ learning?

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