Principal Impact

A Reflective Journey with Principal Hackett



Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about student learning; specifically new learning. When a student walks into the classroom, how often do they already know what is being taught? When we give them a task, how many students in that room would have been able to do it when they walked in before the teacher presented the instruction for the day? Do our students already have the answers to the questions we are about to ask? And how often are we checking, as educators, how much our students know about a specific subject before presenting a whole group lesson?

Part of the reason this has been running through my head lately is my own kids. This summer, when Adam Welcome was the keynote speaker for all of the Monticello staff, he said, “don’t do for kids what they can do for themselves.” He continued with a story about his daughter making her bed on her own from a young age…because she could. I am 100% guilty of doing too much for my kids at times. I believe in Adam’s words, but I struggle to always follow them like I should. Maybe I’m trying to rush my daughter out the door and I’m zipping up her coat. It could be that we’ve been running to activities after a long day at work and I’m cleaning up toys off the floor when we get home just to get it done. I know I am not doing my kids any favors by doing things for them that they could be doing for themselves. There’s no lesson to be learned from dad tying shoes or clearing the table. As a parent, we know our kids well enough to know when we are enabling versus helping.

Without a doubt, this isn’t as easy to diagnose in the classroom. However, I think we need to try to understand what our students know when they walk in, so we aren’t feeding them information that they already know. I don’t mean to say that themes, routines, ideas, and strategies shouldn’t be repeated in class so they can be committed to memory. Of course, there’s a place for that in teaching and learning.

I would argue that an engaging teacher can present content that has already been mastered by the students, and, from the outside, that lesson can look extremely effective. The students are paying attention and motivated to raise their hands and participate without hesitation or struggle in whole group or small group because they have what they need already in hand. The teacher feels satisfied because the students are participating, engaged, and having fun. At the end of the lesson, the students take a formative assessment on the way out of class and the results show learning….or do they? How do we know what they’ve learned with this process? And aren’t we doing a disservice to our students if we don’t know their preexisting knowledge of the content about to be presented?

I’m not someone who is going to argue for more testing of our students, but I do think pre-assessments have a place in our classrooms for this exact reason. I think if it’s done well, pre-assessment can lead to a differentiated, student-led, highly effective classroom where new learning is the focus. Instead of “one more thing” we could actually be saving time; becoming more efficient in what is being taught. The possibilities to provide a true depth of knowledge can become a reality when we can start with this valuable information. After all, what are our students learning if we do for them what they can do for themselves?


2019 One Word : Growth

Last year was my first year of embracing the One Word movement started by Jon Gordon. Gordon speaks and writes about picking one word for the year that shapes your vision. It’s not a lengthy goal to remember, but rather a word that keeps you motivated; something you take with you everywhere you go. You can see Jon Gordon’s inspirational talk about The One Word That Will Change Your Life here. Regardless of where you work in education, goals are a huge part of your professional life. Everyone in our field has different experiences with goal writing and goal following and goal leading, but it is always there in some capacity. Selecting a word as your focus for the year is much different than writing a SMART goal. I don’t mean that goals aren’t important because I believe strongly in the power of goals to improve and focus my professional and personal life. The One Word movement isn’t a goal as much as it is a mindset.

Last year my One Word was POSITIVE. Having picked a word for the first time, I wasn’t sure how successful it would be for me and now I know I’ll never go back. There were times (several times) that I failed to approach situations with a positive attitude, positive outlook, positive body language, etc, but overall I know keeping my One Word in the back of my mind at all times made a huge difference in how I went about my days. I can honestly say the One Word focus was the best way for me to change my mindset and to improve in an area that needed attention both personally and professionally.

This year I’m excited for the same results as I select my One Word for 2019: GROWTH. I’m hopeful that for the second year in a row my One Word will impact my daily life both professionally and personally. I want to be methodical and purposeful about improving as a father, husband, and leader. I have always wanted to be the very best at what I do. I don’t know if my motivation to get better comes from a background in sports or the leaders who mentored me or maybe it’s just a trait that some people have. The drive to grow and improve is something that lives in me. So why pick GROWTH as my One Word if I’m already seeking out ways to improve? Well, first, because my efforts don’t always lead to results, and I’m looking to be structured in my quest for GROWTH in all areas (this is where SMART goals come in handy). More specifically, it is the ability as a leader to help others grow that needs my focus for the 2019 year and beyond. How do I help staff stay motivated? How can I show them the benefits of staying current with instructional practices and taking risks to deliver meaningful lessons? How can I reveal to students that every day is a chance for GROWTH and positive change? How can we all better serve the kids and families we work with? These questions and so many more are going to motivate me, and hopefully those I work with, into 2019 with a GROWTH mindset.

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