Jensen’s 7 Most Valuable TEACHING Goals Ever

  • Seven Strategies- Brain Based

(Dream Big, Teach Big and Watch Results Soar)

I am on a mission to help 10,000 teachers become extraordinary this year. Every single goal listed below is a teaching “factor” that ranks in the Top 20 of ALL contributors towards student achievement (sources listed at the end). That is the good news. Now, you’ll want to turn that news into reality.

Take just one of these items and practice it until it becomes automatic. That could take you as little as 30 days or as long as a school year. In either case, once it becomes automatic, you congratulate yourself, and then add the next goal. Here is the list to choose from…

Here they are! Jensen’s 7 Most Valuable TEACHING Goals for this year.

1. Engage, Engage & Engage

Set a high goal for engagement in your classroom. Why? Classroom climate is a top 20 contributor to student achievement. Engagement is also a top 20 contributor to student achievement. Engagement keeps students in school and helps them learn.

Use the 7-minute rule. What IS the 7-minute rule? Engage every student, every day, at least every 7 minutes.

Here are some reminders. Get students up for a stand-up, stretch or activity break (Simon Says, Follow the Leader, have students play an imaginary sport, circle 3 tables, touch all corners in the room, lead a group in dance, etc.). To remind yourself, set your smart phone up front and set the timer for 7 minutes (no buzzer or alarm needed). Every time you engage students, reset the timer. Within 30 days, you’ll have amazing engagement.

You can do this. This will make your class the most amazing class on campus. Kids will go bananas for your class.

2. Set Your Class Achievement Goals Sky High

This year, set goals really, really high. A year ago (September 2013) I invited you to set Gaudy Goals. Did you set them? If so, it might be time to renew them.

Student expectations are a very strong predictive factor in how they’ll actually do. Start with Day 1 and raise every student’s expectation of how well each one can do during this new school year.

Tell them that you’ll guarantee them an “A or B” grade as long as they do just 3 things (stay out of trouble, help another student get an A or B, and focus class time on the goals). Or, create your own “3 Top Conditions” for your kids.

Also create a one page, simple agreement that states the terms. Tell them what you mean by staying out of trouble and how much “slack” you’ll cut them. Tell students how they will help another student and what to do if that student is struggling. Finally, tell them what “focus on goals” means in the classroom. It will mean learning to pay attention, self-assess and ask questions to reach the goals. Ask students to share each week how they are doing, so you stay in touch.

Now, for your own goals: think HIGH! This year, make it your objective to help your students get 2 YEARS worth of gains. Why? For many kids, they won’t graduate unless they have multiple teachers who do that for them. Can you do it for your kids during this year? If you don’t think you can, keep reading my newsletters and I’ll show you how.

3. Get Buy-in Every Time, Everyday

Memorize this scientific fact, straight from the peer-reviewed studies in neuroscience: “If the brain’s not buying, the brain’s not changing.”

Make it a goal to get buy-in from your students to 50% of everything you do this year. Tired of re-teaching? Here’s a secret; it’s up to you to develop learners who remember more and stay engaged. Why is that? Most teachers think re-teaching comes with the job. But HOW MUCH re-teaching is needed is up to you.

Remember, if the brain’s not buying, the brain’s not changing. Minutes and hours of irrelevant information almost “force” the brain to “tune out.” Focus on building relevance for everything you teach. For those subject areas in which you see less relevance, use other strategies to get buy-in.

Examples of “buy-in” include temporary strategies to build curiosity… “How many of you would like to learn something really bizarre about…?” Or, “Wow, this is going to be amazing. Here’s how it works…” Or, “My last class only scored a 72 average on this. I looked at your scores and think we can beat that by at least 5. Ready to give it a go?”

4. Use Empathy, Not Sympathy Or Indifference

Make it a goal this year to go “Covey.” Based on Steven Covey’s first of 7 habits, remember to seek first, seek to understand. Take a deep breath before you assign blame to a student. Hold the judgment about any of your students.

Kids have far less control over their home environment than you do at your home. They didn’t choose their parents, their home, their neighborhood or their school. Many did not get taught manners, proper behaviors or how to carry themselves. Don’t forget that within your everyday classroom discipline.

Better discipline strategies include: be more engaging in your teaching, listen more than you talk and redirect energy instead of trying to suppress it. When kids get listless and slumped over, use an energizer. When students seem to squirm a lot and are overactive, get them up to stretch and then use a quick energizer. When they’re late for class, welcome them, and later ask them what happened. You may be surprised at how hard they worked to get to class, even if it’s late.

This year, make it the year of empathy.

By the way, that does NOT mean you lower your standards for academics or behaviors. It simply means you put people first, before policies and rules.

5. Variety in Instruction

Every student has a unique personality, character and list of preferences. Help make your class more fun and one that reaches more students. Make it a goal this year to add one more consistent source of instruction. For every student who struggles in your class, there’s a new strategy waiting to be used.

a) Vary social structures: solo, partners, small group, teams, cooperative learning and whole class. No matter which one you use, students will get a bit bored with it. Use novelty; switch your social structure every 20-40 minutes. You might still have a “base” structure; one that students stay in for the bulk of the time. In fact, that should be a given. But ensure kids don’t get stale. Shake things up now and then.

b) Vary source of content: online, hard copy texts, each other, personal experiences, interviews and of course, you! In today’s world, the possibilities are endless.

c) Vary activities for learning: case study, projects, inquiry, presentation to be made, mapping, pre-test, problem-solving, student based quiz, product to be produced and projects to be completed (video, posters, documents, journals, pictures).

d) Variety in Transfer: You know the feeling-when you work hard to get students to buy-in, then you deepen the learning… and now, it’s test time. So often at test time there’s disappointment because you thought for sure your students would do better.

Sometimes the issue is transfer.

In sales, if you make the sale, then forget to bill the client for the money they promised you, you don’t get paid. In the classroom, “getting paid” is when students perform to the best of their ability at test time.

Transfer means: 1) Do your students really understand the content in the form that it will be on the test? and 2) Can they show what they know under the conditions of the test?

This reminds us that you’ll need to ensure with formative assessment that the students really DO know what you hope they do. Give students plenty of practice opportunities to show that they know the content under the stressful conditions of a test.

Transfer ideas: Students submit potential test Qs on cards, and every student picks a card. They pair up and each student will quiz a partner with a time constraint (e.g. 30” or less), depending on the type of question. Additionally use small group quizzing where students take turns playing the role of team leader, calling on the other students, using the basket of potential Qs as the content. Create Game Show formats where every answer must be completed within a certain time frame.

6. Relationships of Empathy and Caring

The goal for you is 3 in 30. In a moment I’ll tell you what that means.

Getting to know students often comes second in a busy, fast-paced teaching environment. But, you’ve got to prioritize your minutes, and relationship building is important. The more likely a student has instability at home, the more they need a stable adult relationship with you. The greater the likelihood that a student will act out, disconnect or get in trouble, the more important the relationship is between you and him (or her).

Yes, make it a priority.

Not every student needs a second “mom” or “dad” at school. I know that I sure did as a kid. I had instability and danger at home, so the teachers that connected with me were rock stars. I worked my tail off for them.

Remember that the next time a student is not giving you the effort you’d like to have. The voice in your head will say, “Oh yeah, I remember the newsletter that said this would happen.”

Relationships require MUCH more than an occasional, “How ya doing?” Make it a goal to know 3 things about your 30 most “needy” students in the first 30 days. That means learning about a hobby, their family, their favorite music, their dream, a favorite sport, the TV show they like, or their dream car. When you care about them, they’ll start caring about class.

7. Let it Go

Your goal is to reduce your own stress by 50% this year.


There is no stress “out there” in the world. It’s all in how your own unique brain processes the experience. You stress you out. That’s as simple (and truthful) as I can get.

That’s why 50 people in a room will have 50 different responses to a local stressor. You can choose to live with dignity, serenity and balance.

YES, some problems DO need to be dealt with. But, your brain gets fooled a lot. Not everything that excites you or stresses you is actually a REAL and RELEVANT problem that has your name on it.

For example, every day a kid may say something that may be unfair to you; let it go. Kids may accuse you of playing favorites; let it go. They may complain you don’t offer enough time; let it go. They may wish they could work with their best friend instead of a stranger; let it go. They may complain of too much homework; let it go. They may not like tests; let it go. They may wish they could surf all day on their smart phones, but you won’t allow it; let it go.

Life is not fair.

It’s not fair that one kid is born better looking than another. It’s not fair that some are born in poverty. It’s not fair that some go on summer vacations to fun places and others don’t. It’s not fair that one may get a scholarship while another (who deserves one, too) may not get a scholarship. It’s not fair that some kids are not liked as much by their peers as others.

Life’s not fair.

The question is, “Who are you?” Are you going to wake up every day and show up as a “bag of complaints” or are you going to either 1) do something about it, or 2) let it go? Life is WAY to short to be miserable. Make this year the most joyful year of your life.


Make a choice every day that if you can’t do something about the issue, just let it go. Otherwise you get stressed and carry the weight of all the world’s wrongs and problems in your heart. The more stress you generate within your brain and body, the less effective you are. If you can’t do something about it, you’ll feel better and regulate your stress (and probably live longer) if you Let It Go!

Just let the daily problems go.



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Hattie, J.A., (2003). Teachers make a difference: Building teacher quality: What does the research tell us? Paper presented at the Australian Council for Educational Research Annual Conference in 2003. Retrieved on 3/18/12 from:

Hattie, J.A., (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. London, UK: Routledge.

Hattie, J.A., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77, 81-112.

Marks, H. M. (2000). Student engagement in instructional activity: Patterns in the elementary, middle, and high school years. American Education Research Journal, 37, 153-184.

Marzano, R.J. (2000). What works in the classroom. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Development.

Marzano, R.J. (2003). What works in the schools. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Development.

Marzano, R.J. (2007). The art and science of teaching: A comprehensive framework for effective instruction. Alexandria, VA: Association for Curriculum and Development.

Marzano, R.J. (2009). Setting the record straight on “high yield” strategies. Phi Delta Kappan, 91, 30-37.

Marzano, R.J., Pickering, D. & Heflebower, T. (2010). The highly engaged classroom. Centennial, CO: Marzano Research Laboratory.

Marzano, R.J., Pickering, D.J., & Pollock, J.E. (2004). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Curriculum and Development.

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