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Defining Your Mt. Everest-level Goal

Teaching towards a higher objective

by Dr. Rod Berger

Dave Stuart Jr. is a very good teacher. But as a rookie educator, he put so much of his heart and soul into his classroom that he burned out hard after three years in front of the chalkboard.

He left teaching for a year, and when he came back, he resolved that his approach was going to change, even if his passion was undimmed. “I knew teaching was for me,” he said. “I just had to find a way to do it in a more focused and sustainable fashion without destroying my health, my marriage, and my enthusiasm.” His new book These 6 Things: How to Focus Your Teaching on What Matters Most came out of that journey of discovery. “I've learned through trying to have a drastically more focused impactful approach to teaching that it can fit within human working hours,” he says.

Although the cliché of the tired old teacher just trying to make their pension is trotted out and cited time and again by education opponents, Dave has yet to actually meet such a teacher. “Every single person I've ever met who has gone into education has a higher objective,” Dave states. Even the grizzled veterans of many decades of chalk dust and stacks of textbooks had enthusiasm and hope for the next year’s incoming class.

It’s long been a standard and a classic ed-school assignment to create your own personal philosophy of education, but Dave thinks it may be more practical to reduce the ed-school assignment to the creation of a personal Mt. Everest sentence. “What is your objective of the school year in a single sentence,” he asks? “What's your ‘I’m going to climb Mt Everest’ level goal this year?”

This, says Dave, is a sentence that you could hang on the wall of a classroom. While the educator needs to root the Everest exercise in the bigger, broader, all-encompassing objectives of the long-term flourishing of kids, it helps to focus attention on a daily basis inside a classroom full of students.

Unlike an actual “I’m going to climb Mt. Everest” proclamation, a teacher’s “Mt. Everest statement” is more complicated. “Take a hundred people familiar with what teaching is, familiar with what you do in your work as a teacher, and ask them to reduce it to a sentence and sum it up,” Dave laughs. “You're going to get a hundred different distinct sentences.”

So even though it's hard to reduce all of an educator’s complicated daily work down to a simple sentence defining your education goal for the year, Dave Stuart believes that having a clear goal you can articulate and achieve sets the standard for your year and your career.

About Dave Stuart Jr.

Dave Stuart Jr. is a husband and father who teaches high schoolers in Cedar Springs, Michigan. His blog on teaching, DaveStuartJr.com, is read by over 35,000 people each month. He writes about literacy instruction, student motivation, and the inner work of teaching. He speaks about his work through keynotes and workshops at conferences and school-based events around the USA, and over 35,000 people read his blog and articles each month.

He has a new book, These 6 Things: How to Focus Your Teaching on What Matters Most, and an all-online, schedule-friendly professional learning experience, the Student Motivation Course. Follow Dave Stuart Jr. on Twitter.

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