Approximation & Mastery

Last week we worked as a team to set a SMARTR goal (yes, in my district we’ve added another R to the end – overachievers, that’s what we are) in literacy. We discussed how to make this goal meaningful for us and something that would be genuinely useful for us as teachers and for our students rather than a hoop we have to jump through. I think we had some really great discussion and landed on a goal that will push us in positive ways. We’ll see…

Our discussion and the things we struggled around together have been in the back of my mind since then. On Saturday, this tweet popped up as the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project held one of their big PD days. (Someday I’m going to attend one of these. Someday.)

While the second half of the tweet resonated with me because I often think I need as much time for planning and assessing as I have for teaching, it was the first half that really struck me in that moment.

“Minilessons are meant for approximation not mastery.”

I think this gets at the struggle we were having as a team last week. We are, of course, aiming for mastery. I don’t think our administration would accept a SMARTR goal that didn’t. As a result, I think we see ourselves as needing to teach for mastery. Big picture, we do need to do so. Lesson by lesson, day by day, conference by conference, group by group, we don’t. We need to teach for approximation. That’s the only way we move to mastery.

But we hold ourselves accountable for mastery and it makes the day to day exhausting. We have to find a balance between accepting approximation and aiming for mastery.

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