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Dr. Janet Pilcher began her career as an educator in the late 80s as a high school mathematics teacher and tennis coach at Woodham High School in the Escambia County School District (FL). This was the same school she attended as a kid growing up in Pensacola! She reflects on this time connecting with her players and students both on the tennis courts and in the classroom:

Every day my excitement grew as I entered the practice courts with the tennis team. Together, we engaged in drills with very specific outcomes. When players were practicing a drill they had a target to achieve. Their peers and I provided feedback to help each player improve. Even more we clapped and hollered with joy and praise when players hit one target at a time.

In my math classes the students failed to exhibit this type of engagement and excitement. Unlike on the tennis courts, in class I felt frustrated and disheartened. One day walking from the courts back to my classroom something dawned on me – What would occur if I apply the same strategies as a teacher that I did as a coach? My students may become more engaged and achieve at levels above their own expectations. From that point on, I changed my behavior to walk out of my classroom each day asking what Coach John Wooden promoted – How well did my students learn, rather than how well did I teach?

After 4 years of coaching and teaching, Janet took a leave of absence to enter the doctoral program in Measurement and Evaluation at Florida State University. The question she asked herself at the end of each day, “How well did my students learn, rather than how well did I teach?” followed her through completion of her dissertation and through her professional career as a university professor and administrator and now as leader of Studer Group’s Education division, Studer Education.

Yesterday, Dr. Pilcher was interviewed on The Daily Brew, a show on BlabTV. In the interview, she discussed the changing landscape in education, including the implementation of more complex assessments. As it relates to these assessments, Dr. Pilcher encourages school district leaders and teachers to:

Look at what’s most important… and at the end of 1-year, 2-years, 5 years, [determine how you will] define success in your school district and how do you define that success that relates to students…

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In her book Who’s Engaged? Pilcher writes, “Here is what we know. Students emotionally experience assessments” (p. 35). What does this mean for teachers and parents? We are responsible for knowing where, when and how these emotions occur.

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As teachers and parents, our goal is to place students in winning situations where they are eager to learn, take on challenges, and own their learning. It’s a return to Pilcher’s original end-of-day question: We shouldn’t judge our effectiveness as educators by how much we teach, what we teach, and how we teach. Rather, we make a positive judgement if we’ve approached students every day knowing that our success depends on how well students learn, especially students who struggle the most.

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