Decisions Have Consequences

“Decisions have consequences…” or so we say when we are encouraging our students to reconsider and hopefully reset. But how often do we as educators think about the consequences of our decisions?

One educational thought-leadership site promotes the statistic that, on average, the typical teacher makes somewhere around 1500 decisions per instructional day (read about it here). As a former teacher myself, I found that number to be both completely believable and utterly astounding. 

That puts educators in the same category as other high-stress professions like brain surgeons and air traffic controllers. (Depending on the day, I think there is no shortage of comparisons to be made between teaching and those two professions.) 

Fifteen hundred decisions during the instructional day works out to be three to four decisions per minute. Stand here or move over there? Call on Johnny or Suzy? This graphic organizer or that one? This example or a different one? Do these decisions have consequences? We know they do! 

Let’s take this stat further.  We also know that the decisions made before and after a teacher’s instructional day as they plan for and reflect on their instruction also have consequences. Of course, there are the consequences of failing to thoroughly plan (consequences we have all endured!), but the choices made about what resources will be pulled into the classroom, what systems will be implemented into classroom routines, and even who to collaborate or network with about best practices all impact the series of decisions made throughout the instructional day. 

Decisions made at the administrative, board, or state/national level impact instructional decisions. The whole series of choices made by students, parents, and the broader community in response to instruction, school decisions, mission alignment practices, and other events play a role as well. You can’t minimize the impact to which external expectations, preferences, communication styles,  involvement and engagement levels have on the choices a teacher makes in their efforts to teach and communicate clearly.  

Of course, the consequences of these decisions play out in the lives of students we serve, but as educators, we prefer to call  them “outcomes.” That seems more professional and less personal. Maybe thinking of outcomes feels less dire. Some would say, po-TAY-to or po-TAH-to, consequences and outcomes are basically the same thing. 

The consequences or outcomes play out in the lives of students. Their academic success, college and career readiness, and even aptitude for leading a well-adjusted and influential life all hinge on the collection of decisions being made around them by the educational community of which they are a part. 

Others would point to the fact that educators are not solely responsible for student outcomes. There are other influences and decisions (including those made by the students themselves) that play a role in how any individual student will turn out. 

So, in that way, consequences may be a tad too extreme for our context. But, we also know that a student’s educational experiences certainly play a sizable role in their success. Further, the experiences and guidance offered by educators can even help students respond appropriately to the circumstances and influences coming their way from other areas of life. 

Regardless to what extent a teacher will take personal ownership for the outcomes of any individual student, teachers have every reason to believe in the consequences of their decisions. We have every reason to believe in their ability to influence the outcomes of their students. 

Here at Curriculum Trak, we celebrate the influence educators make individually and collectively as an instructional team and recognize the importance of the whole host of decisions impacting their instructional practices. We believe it is important to capture those decisions in clear and consistent ways in order to reflect on, refine, reuse, and even reject as necessary those decisions that are best suited to lead to the specific outcomes we are seeking. 

That is why we seek to promote and support the practices of curriculum mapping, lesson planning, and teacher observation, evaluation, and peer-review. These tried and true practices not only help educators collect and reflect on the decisions they are making, but, through the power of our analytic tools, our platform can also help educators and their leaders evaluate their decisions in the context of school-wide outcomes. 

The Curriculum Trak platform can also provide helpful opportunities to fine-tune the choices that need to be improved even while celebrating those decisions that are proving to be successful. Our fully-customizable platform will allow for any planning style, instructional approach, or teacher or observation plan.

We currently serve over 1100 schools around the world who are seeking to own their instructional decisions and practices for the sake of student outcomes, and we are honored to play a supporting role in the great work being done by educators of every stripe – educators who are seeking to make a difference. 

Beth, a curriculum director in Louisville, KY and member of the Curriculum Trak network of schools recently said it this way: “You can’t change the outcomes if you don’t own the process.”  She was encouraging the educators on her team to realize the power of their choices. She was seeking to address the tendency that educators have to view themselves as merely facilitators of a purchased curriculum or as a less-than-influential educational tour guide separated from a broader curricular journey. 

Beth was challenging teachers to recognize the power they can exercise not only in the hundreds of decisions made throughout their day, but also in their pre and post planning processes. She wanted her teachers to leverage the power they had to make a difference. 

That’s our goal too. Because the decisions you make today and tomorrow can influence the decisions your students make well into the future, and those decisions will certainly have consequences!


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