Legend has it that when Steve Jobs returned to Apple eleven years after his ignominious** ouster, he streamlined the struggling company by drawing a chart on the board and telling employees that Apple would now only be focusing on exactly four areas.  And yes, you can thank that chart for your iPhone.

Recently, I decided it was time to make my own chart. Overwhelmed by state standards, mandatory testing, NCLB, and more recently, the Common Core fiasco, I wanted a simple, effective way to list my priorities and to stay focused on what really mattered, regardless of what new “solutions” blew in on the wind.

My four boxes are:

–Passion (mine and theirs)

I have a few bullet points under each heading, and there are a handful of things so obvious as to not need charting (speaking and listening, for example.  They will practice those skills as a matter of course), but I’m hoping that if I learn to focus on these four areas, that my students will learn and I will stay sane in this age of education “reform” (please note second use of snarky quotation marks).  In short, new circuses will always come to town, but it won’t matter because I already know what skills my students need, where my focus will be, and what the learning should look like.

An old teacher friend of mine talked about the importance of going “narrow and deep.”  And Steve Jobs made simplicity nothing short of a religion at his little “start-up” company.  Inspired by both, I made a chart with four boxes–a living and dynamic document–that will guide me through what remains of my career.

What would your chart look like?  TZT

*This is an embarrasingly bad pun, not a typo.  Important distinction.

**Ignominious was on my senior vocabulary list over thirty five years ago, and I haven’t needed it until now.  Thanks, Ms. Barton! You were right about me needing that word!