In a garden-variety classroom, there are about a million different things going on at any given moment. They’re all important, right? So what draws our attention? What do the best teachers focus on? The answer is so unambiguously obvious it might startle you:


That’s right, the most effective educators shine the majority of their 98,000 lux (lumens per square meter) on the ultimate goal of their work: whether or not (and to what level) each of their students is learning. With that in clear and consistent focus, everything else falls deftly into place.

Student learning is the teacher’s raison d’être. Success from the teacher’s perspective is not about mastering various instructional strategies, though they may lead to learning. It’s not becoming a proficient planner. Or management. Or the curriculum. Or collaborating better. It’s not a higher ed degree, either. Or about accumulating experience. All those are helpful and contribute to the goal, though: ensuring that all students learn at high levels.

Often, our focus is on the inputs rather than the outputs. Choosing the proper strategy – or continuing to use a certain strategy – should be predicated upon whether or not it leads (or led) to student learning. That’s what great teachers focus on. Reflect on this: what are you focused on?


Pete Hall is an educational consultant, former award-winning principal, speaker, and author of six books (including Lead On! Motivational lessons for school leaders (Eye on Education, 2011) and Teach, Reflect, Learn: Building your capacity for success in the classroom (ASCD, 2015). He shares his perspectives in 212-word entries every month or so. He can be reached for speaking engagements, professional development, or other queries at