While I could share a wildly insightful blog entry about the awesome classes and discussions I got to observe today at Geng Ga Middle School in Yunnan Province where four Teach For China first-year teachers are rocking it out, it seems more appropriate to talk about love today. Or more specifically, a lack of love. Happy Single's Day, everyone - the Chinese holiday on 11/11 that celebrates the un-attached among us.
So in light of this (incredibly commercialized) holiday, I've re-posted an entry I wrote more than six years ago about Life... in Backwards Design. For those of you who aren't yet converts of backwards planning, the basic idea is that you start planning your long term plan, unit plan and lesson plan with your students' end outcomes in mind. While I'm sure Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe had instructional planning in mind when they wrote the ground-breaking "Understanding by Design", I can't help but imagine the life-changing impact if we took this approach to finding love, saving money and shaping policy. (Full-disclosure: The following is excerpted from my wisdom at 24 and does not actually reflect how I've lived my life since then, for better or for worse...)
Recently, I found myself telling a Friend to use backward design when finding a boyfriend: First, you need to really understand what you want and what your priorities are. Second, if your priority is "nice" and "cute", you need to imagine what "nice" and "cute" would look like when you meet someone. What are some examples of what Potential Boyfriend may do to demonstrate his "niceness" and "cuteness"? Third, start planning for it. If one way Potential Boyfriend could demonstrate "niceness" is by volunteering, then you should start spending your Saturdays around the local animal shelter and not the karaoke dive bar (though that is fun as well).
I don't buy $100 shoes, but I'm not particularly budget-savvy either. A month ago, I found myself planning backward to save for the upcoming year. I decided on my goal ($5,000). I figured out how I would "assess" it (I would have $5,000 more in my savings account)). Then I worked backwards from September 2008 to September 2007 to scratch together a long term plan for how much I would need to save monthly in order to reach my goal. (It was a good plan. And then I bought a computer. Maybe I'll write another entry on adjusting our long-term plans to deal with unforeseen changes.)
Back in August, I was on a plane reading The Economist when I got so giddy by an article on a California city that I yelped a little, marked the page and pulled out a Post-It to jot down a note: "Cerritos, CA uses BACKWARD DESIGN!!!" The piece highlights Cerritos' "superb management and geographical good fortune" and described how the the small suburb built beautiful libraries, performing arts centers and parks all while maintaining fiscal success. What I read was that the city managers knew what they wanted from the start (financial stability), they knew what it would look like to get there (lure businesses and investors to set up shop in the city) and had a long term plan on how to get there, which was directly aligned to their goals (first establish pipelines and roads, then business parks, policing and schools.)
Happy Veterans Day to everyone in the United States as well and thank you to all of the many veterans who continue to serve our country through education everyday!
Photo by Jessica Shyu