Invisible Targets

Objective-based teaching is something I’ve internalized. Students need to know the desired outcome and how to get there before we can expect them to perform. Whether we call them learning objectives, learning goals, or (now, apparently), learning targets, these roadmaps for students are a crucial part of learning.

But are they the only part? German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wrote, “Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.” It makes me wonder a certain wondering that has been creeping around my brain for some time now…. If we make learning targets too simplistic and explicit, are we drawing students away from those invisible targets that lead to true innovative thought? Is there room in a learning target for experimentation? For discovery? I think there can be, if one writes and explains the target with care and intention. But I also think that there is more to learning than “hitting targets,” and there’s more to understanding than performing a certain skill like a circus pony pawing the air for a sugar lump. I tell my students, “You are not a parrot. Don’t just say what I say and do what I do. Show me something that is 100% you.”  It can be frustrating to attempt to nourish 21st Century skills such as creativity and adapatability while simultaneously breaking lessons down into dry, compartmentalized goals of various sizes.

This whole conundrum prompted some off the clock thinking. As teachers, we are trained to ask ourselves “What do I want my students to learn?” as a starting point when crafting objectives/goals/targets. So I sat and asked myself, “What do I *really* want my students to learn? What do I wish for them, to be able to do by the time they leave my class for the year?” I came up with the following list.

Things I Wish for My Students, for Them to Be Able to Do

Notice details.     Write outside of class, to express and discover.     Extract thematic ideas from texts–ideas that are unique and insightful.     Observe life and share realizations about it.     Stand up straight and speak out.

Bring things in to class that relate to what we’re learning.     Revise–truly revise–their own writing with a ruthless pen in search of perfection.     Use language that is fluent, beautiful, and complex.

See education for the true opportunity that it is.     Become comfortable with quiet and solitude.     Search for truth.     Be able to adapt to an ever-changing world.     Think with fierce independence.

Know what CREATIVE is/be it.     Get past the “right” answer.     Put their energy to use.     Tell stories.     Ackowledge the beauty, genius, and talent in one another.     Fight for the changes they want to see in the world.

Believe in their own power.     Overachieve.     Push themselves.

Know, as Tolkien did, that not all who wander are lost.

All of this is my target, really. This, and a whole expansive field teeming with invisible ones. I just hope that I manage to express this to my students, alongside the daily learning targets we shoot for together.    

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