As we face a new school year, it's useful to realize that big ideas, initiatives and directives come and go. How will you decide what to do, what to integrate to what you already do, and what to let go?
Directives come in all sizes and limits. Some have legal implications such as those that affect license. These will require attention and may even require attention to detail. Those that are cultural, that is school or district-based, either explicit or implicit, require attention and decisions on your part. Were you part of the process for determining the directive? If so, you will be expected to support it and help others do so. Does it seem arbitrary? Ask the questions that will help you to support or work for change. What makes sense for you and your students based on what you know and research?
Initiatives often come in instructional strategy or behavioral strategy guises. Do they match your classroom/school/district goals? How do they fit with your professional goals? Will they very likely improve student achievement or school climate? Are they based on research? If so, do you know and understand the research? Will implementation be easy or difficult and will you need help to do something well?
Big (bright) ideas often come from websites or colleagues. Many are just a repackage of something that may have been interesting or fun in the past. Given the precious few hours we have with students, it is especially important to bring a critical eye to these ideas. Are they research-based? Will they add quality to the students' work and achievement? Will they broaden the cultural perspectives of students and increase the positive climate of the classroom or school?
As teachers we know a lot. As teachers we question a lot. We want to put our knowledge and skepticism to good use. Find ways to seek out the research base and evidence of success for big ideas, initiatives, and directives. Be an active participant in decision making and in developing your own action research with students. Be a model for your students who will be using research consistently throughout the year to know, to verify, and to learn.
Use your expertise and grow your expertise for a success-filled year!