I absolutely followed that line.
When I was ready for my principal to make his first sit-down observation in my classroom, I ticked every box on the lesson line. Mr. Shelton was not impressed. After the lesson, I sat in his office and the first thing I remember him telling me was, "That was not a lesson; that was an assignment."
I was shocked.
I had followed the lesson line. I had told students what we would be doing. At the end, I had told them what we just did. In my opinion, every piece was there. Still, Principal Shelton asked, "Hasn't anyone ever taught you how to put together a lesson?"
"I guess not," I answered. And the bearded man took me by the hand and guided me through what he expected to see.
At the next observation (He threw out the first.), Shelton saw me take every piece of his advice and actually teach the lesson. My next office visit was quite different. This time, he was the one who was shocked. He was so impressed that I had mastered all of the skills he had given me, and he started to "tweak" me - my teaching, that is. He taught me about scattering questions around the room. He showed me how to make use of overt and covert questioning to include more students. We worked until I knew more and more about asking higher-order questions.
Still early in the year, Mr. Shelton challenged me to "play with" the old lesson line. "You're ready," he said. "Now, you can move things around. Don't always tell students what the objective is. Sometimes it's better to let them find it for themselves."
So I started to play, move things around, mold lessons to fit my own teaching style. And I found the magic. Finally, I had permission to do things my way - to optimize everything to make it work, instead of forcing myself to follow somebody else's map. I quickly relegated most of the textbooks to a shelf and called them reference material. If we needed to consult them, they were available; otherwise, I would take students to another level and into unknown realms. And they succeeded with the highest test scores and the best behaviors in the school. All without modern technology, I should add.
I was reminded of that first year when as I listened to John Antonetti speak at last week's MSTA state convention. In a section of his speech, Antonetti talked about posting objectives at the beginning of a lesson. He likened it to being pulled over by a police officer.
"Do you know why I pulled you over?" The question every cop asks when he approaches the driver. Personally, I don't answer that question; I don't want to give him any ideas - just in case I give an answer different from his original reason. Obviously, Antonetti said, the speed limit is posted for us all to see, and yet, we often ignore is. That's the same concept as posting an objective on the board.
Yes, we have heard that posting objectives increases understanding, but "dig deeper in the research," he said. "It only helps the Melissa Sues in your class." He had already explained that Melissa Sue represented that prim and proper student in the classroom - the one student who is always there with every answer, every assignment, every point of extra credit. Melissa Sue will always heed the objective and prepare herself for the tasks ahead.
But what works for Melissa Sue does not work for Bubba. Bubba is the guy who needs to see something, grab ahold of it, squish it around for a while before learning about it. Posting the objective does little to nothing for the students who sit on Bubba's end of the scale.
In fact, rigor, that elusive expectation, only happens when students bring their own meaning to a task or an object. Rigor is not when a teacher spews on and on about the material, but when students speculate, infer, and predict. This is not to say that a teacher should never post objectives, but there is something to consider about when and how to do so.
And I realized...Shelton and Antonetti agreed! In fact, Shelton was ahead of his time. He taught me about cognitive rigor and student engagement long before those terms were coined. Much of what I have done for the years in between has been the development of those terms in my classroom. It brings meaning to 29 years of my own professional development. I may not be the best at what I do, but I've made it a point to keep searching for ways to play with my lessons.