Monday, January 6, 2014


"Why bother creating our own goals," a student asked me once, "when we're already told what it means to succeed in school?  Aren't we just supposed to get A's?"

Being able to set and achieve goals is important in every endeavor: sports, organizations, self-improvement, emptying the dishwasher before your mother gets home.  Even though they know their roles and agree on the idea of winning, for example, Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski requires his players to set goals for themselves and the team each season.  In Coach K's words, “Mutual commitment helps overcome the fear of failure—especially when people are part of a team sharing and achieving goals. It also sets the stage for open dialogue and honest conversation.”

When you share your goals you're sharing ideas that inform and inspire your colleagues.  These goals will form the basis for your Learning Plan over the spring semester, so please read this post and get the job done.  Knowing more about each other will also be important because none of us will prepare for the AP exam alone. 

Keep something else in mind.  Unlike players on a basketball team, you are being allowed, encouraged, and required to change the game itself.  Why not analyze a Russian novel by comparing it with its modern film adaptation?  Watch Anna Karenina and then think about how to demonstrate what you know in such a way that it will help us.  Huh?  You'd rather build a robot that writes, reads, interprets, and explains Russian novels to irritating teacher types?  Cool.  You can do that too.

If you are still thinking of this as a high school course to be gamed, please immediately find your closest friend and ask her to roll up a newspaper and smack you on the nose with it.*  (*If this doesn't work the first time, ask a friend who reads the newspaper on a computer.**) [**In this day and age, I should probably point out that this is not an actual instruction. Hands are not for hitting. Baseball bats are, but that isn't really relevant or appropriate here and now I find myself wondering how Montaigne ever righted the ship once he got off on one of these tangents.] If you're one of those people who cut corners last semester and thought we didn't notice, she will be doing you a favor.  It's better that you get your act together in private before we get started, before everyone sees what you do all the time, before 70% of your course grade is determined by your learning network.

Last semester was rehearsal.  This is showtime.

More on how to achieve your goals and develop your community of critique tomorrow. 

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