Investment as a Matching Game

Jun 23, 2014 | by Janice Smith

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I hope this post finds many of you in the first weeks of summer, enjoying some much needed downtime to catch up on pleasure reading, see family and friends, travel… all the good stuff!  That said, if there’s anything I learned from my time in the classroom, and years since spent working with teachers, is that there’s really no such thing as time ‘off’.  We know that while perhaps your alarm is set a bit later, and daily schedules are a little less rigid, your mind has not (and probably will not) leave your school, classroom and thoughts for next year.  Hopefully this does mean you get to live a bit in Quadrant 2, and focus on those important, but not always urgent, items on your to-do list.

Investment often fell into that category for me.  Daily I felt the ramifications of not intentionally planning for it enough (yet), but found it hard to make time on a Wednesday night to create a new investment plan amidst grading unit tests, calling parents, and planning several lessons for the next day.  Summer is the perfect time to plan intentionally for how you can invest all of your students next year.  This, perhaps, is one of the reasons we’ve gotten such positive feedback on the last two weeks where we discussed first Rigor, and then Relevance, as important pieces of any investment plan.  This week we move on to the third, and last, R- Relationships.

Let’s start with another clip from an incredible interview with Keith Starr, the Dean of Instruction at KIPP Pride High School, where he talks about investment as a matching game.  Then keep reading for some ways to maximize your summer time to act on all three R’s and build a investment plan for next year!

Why we love it so much…

(Prepare yourself… while it’s only a 60 second clip, there’s lots to love!)

  • There are definitely multiple parts to the Relationships piece of the 3 R’s.  Part of it is genuine relationships with your students, where they constantly know that all of your actions and decisions come from a deep place of love and commitment to their future and ultimate success.  Another piece of that is that the more we get to know our students are people and learners, the more we can adjust our investment plan for all of our students.  Here Keith emphasizes that it’s not as easy as having one big investment plan for everyone, but that we must adjust and adapt for all of our students.  (Yet another great reminder of how hard this teaching thing is…)


  • The way he changed students to people in the first 20 seconds.  The way we think about our students is the same way we need to think about our teams of teachers and how we’re investing them in professional growth and school culture that we know will ultimately impact students the most.


  • The point that students are motivated differently in different classes at different times.  Collaboration with other teachers on your team is important- sharing ideas for what has worked with individual students.  It is also important to acknowledge the differences, and while it is certainly worth trying those ideas, it will also be important to think outside the box specifically for your own content and class.


  • Keith references Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development, and how his school uses this to think about student investment.  (If you’re not familiar, it’s certainly worth a look, and you can find more information HERE.)  I think this can be both an incredible and tricky tool at the same time.  The idea that we’re always using investment strategies to push students higher (so they eventually reach a place where they’re driven by a whole lot more than just punishments or rewards), but there also needs to be acknowledgement that we don’t get there right away.  Here Keith talks about how in his class he does both at once.  Having relationships with his students tells him where each kid is at, but that doesn’t mean he leaves out the higher levels- he just pairs them with tangible incentives at the same time.  The conversation and transparency is the important part to eventually get all students higher.  Excited to talk more about my thoughts on Kohlberg’s in a future post.


  • “Casting a broad net of investment strategies, and revisiting it often.”  While we are certainly thinking about and developing our investment plans this summer, Keith makes a great point at the end here that it will never be just one strategy at one time that will hook all kids.  A broad net of strategies, revised on a regular basis, is what will eventually hook the largest percentage of students.

Action Steps

  • As a culmination to their 3-week series talking about Investment, here’s a thought for how you can apply it all.  This summer think about creating a ‘backwards plan’ for your classroom culture and investment.  Similar to a unit plan, but scoped out for the entire year, focusing on things like (but not limited to):


    • How will you hook students at the beginning of the year?  What will the first week look like where you’re introducing systems & routines, setting the tone for academics, and also intentionally building investment in the content and your class?  How will you build in time for this and what will it look like?
    • How you will engage students in the content as a whole?  What kinds of EU’s and EQ’s can you use throughout the year to build meaning and curiosity around what they will be learning?  How can you do more than just display them on the walls, but integrate them meaningfully throughout the year?
    • How you will push them up Kohlberg’s?  How will you be transparent with this, and explicitly use this language to help students understand where they are now and where they want to be?
    • How will you hand over ownership of the class to your students (regardless of age) to help them do more of the work?  How can you make them feel the important role they play?
    • How will you carve out time to build relationships with students early on so you know more about each one of them?  This could start with student surveys, and build from there.  How could you pair this with an incentive system?  (Rewards that include time spent with you, the teacher, often allows the added benefits of learning more about your students.)

Make sure to comment below and share your own thoughts and ideas for how you do this in your classroom!  Collective wisdom is the best, and I know how many incredible teachers are reading this…  Join the conversation!

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