Friday, April 17, 2015

I'm trying to be objective about the, you know, objective.

Today’s objective is learning what an “objective” is.  Really. We’re talking about the letter O in the A-Z blog challenge, so I thought my objective should be, you know, THE objective. 

When planning a lesson, good teachers always ask, “What’s the goal for the day?  What am I hoping the students learn? What do I want students to be able to do by the end of class?” The answer to these questions is the objective.   

If I’m teaching a lesson on compound-complex sentences, my objective is for students to be able to recognize this grammatical structure and use it in their writing. My stated objective for a lesson on the use of photography in news stories might be for students to explain how reporters use photos and videos effectively.  A side benefit, of course, is I get to show graphic, Pulitzer-prize winning photos that horrify the kids into silence, attention, and maybe get them thinking about what’s going on in the world outside of their zip code. 

Every school I’ve worked at insists that teachers write the day’s objective on the whiteboard, along with the relevant state standard.  Administrators and trainers must imagine that students come to class every day, desperate to know how they can prepare for the day’s lesson.  Tired of kids climbing on top of desks before the bell? Are sick of girls yelling at each other from across the room? Have you gone hoarse telling boys to stop throwing each other into headlocks? Worry no more, dear teacher. Five minutes at the beginning of the day, writing your objective on the board transforms these hormonal, puberty-stricken sparrows into mature, disciplined scholars eager to learn.

I don’t buy it.

Planning the lesson with a clear objective in mind is critical for successful teaching, but writing said objective on the board for students? That one is just for the administration.  My last principal said she wanted to walk into any teacher’s classroom, read the board and know what the lesson was about. “Learning is our business,” she declared, “and I want to see what you’re in the business of teaching on any given day.” So I wrote the objective on the board every day. Only once did students ever bother to look at it.  That was when Treyvon used a permanent marker to turn the “O” and the “b” in “Objective” into a particular part of the male anatomy. But were any of them better able to use compound-complex sentences in their writing? Nope.

Not surprisingly, I quickly discovered that administrators don’t read the objective either. 
In my yearbook class, I’ve kept the same objective on the board for three months.  The objective IS pretty general, so some days one might see connections between the board and the learning in the classroom.  But I’ve had the principal walk through my class on three occasions and positively note that I had my objective on the board, even though it wasn’t remotely related to what we were doing that day.

So either the principal doesn’t understand what I teach (which is true), or he doesn’t really care what’s on the board and just wants something to check off his list (true again.)  So why do I continue writing the objective on the board? I can tell you exactly why. My objective is to keep my job. And the principal’s objective? I’m not sure. I’ll make sure to ask him first thing tomorrow where he’s written it down because that would make all the difference in the world.