Timeless Practices to Improve Student Learning

Supporting educators and leaders in their important work of helping every student become a confident and successful learner




It’s been my joy and privilege to serve education for nearly 20 years as an author and consultant of effective practices to use with standards, assessment, curriculum, and instruction. I love seeing PK-12 educators and leaders across the country experience “lightbulb moments” while going through the Common Formative Assessments 2.0 and Teacher Clarity workshops I created for Corwin.

As important as these “timeless practices” continue to be, I’m now bringing a new—and vitally important—connection to my ongoing work with educators: inspiration.

The word “inspiration” comes to us from the Latin verb, inspirare, meaning “to breathe into”. In Middle English, it signified, “divine guidance.”

Inspired teachers—those who know why they teach and are motivated by that passionate purpose to help their students succeed—can effectively impact student learning even more than they may realize. How?—by infusing heart-felt inspiration into their teaching practices. When teachers apply research-based practices in an inspired way, they are interweaving heart and mind. A powerful combination that cannot help but improve student learning dramatically!


Teaching is a very tough job. I know; I was a classroom teacher for 24 years. For the conscientious teacher who cares, it’s a job that’s never done. You’re always aware of more that needs doing, always thinking about your “kids” and what else you can do for them.

And sometimes you drive yourself crazy. It’s what I call the “curse of the conscientious”. The positive aspect of this is that you care deeply, which is noble and pure. But because you care, the downside is you bear the weight of that concern every single day.

Teachers need support, mentally and emotionally, to continually keep giving of themselves and to keep going day after day—no matter how they may be feeling or what they might be dealing with in their personal lives.

Knowing the effects all of this can have on our nation’s dedicated teachers, I hope this post will:

  • Remind you about why you are an educator
  • Ignite and renew your passion, commitment, and enthusiasm
  • “Refill your well” of hope and resilience so you can “keep on keeping on!”


I chose as the title of this post the inspiring words of Christa McAuliffe, the astronaut- teacher who perished in the Challenger space shuttle explosion in 1986. Christa touched our entire nation and left a lasting legacy of inspiration with her now-famous words, “I touch the future; I teach.” She had personally realized the lasting impact teachers have on their students.

I subtitled this post, “Teaching as Selfless Service”. To me, service is the essence of what teaching is all about. Selfless service means giving without thought of receiving anything in return. You give simply for the joy of giving; it brings its own reward.


If one’s motive is right, service can be thought of as a kind of “unselfish selfishness”. These two words may at first seem contradictory. How can unselfishness also be selfish? When I teach, I do so because I like it! It makes me feel good—especially when I see the positive effect it has on my students—whether children or adults. The inward satisfaction this brings is the best kind of gratification—the gift that keeps on giving!

When I serve others unselfishly, I’m happy. When I don’t serve in that way, I’m not happy—it’s as simple as that. Understanding this has changed my life.

This quote about selfless service by Yogananda, the father of yoga in the West, has inspired me throughout my education career:


“Life should be chiefly service. Without that ideal, the intelligence you have is not reaching out toward its goal. When in service you forget the little self, you will feel the greater Self in all.”


For years I’ve wanted to do something more for education, to touch the hearts of all educators and to affirm how tremendously important their roles are in the lives of their students. So when I decided to rebuild my website (www.larryainsworth.com) this summer, I added an Inspiration page. I knew this provided the perfect opportunity for me to fulfill my heart’s desire to remind educators that what they do every day matters so very much—by connecting their own teaching experiences to those of others.

On the Inspiration page of the website, I have begun gathering from teachers a collection of written and video responses to these three questions:

  • Who or what motivated you to become a teacher?
  • What inspires you? What is it you love about working with students?
  • Can you share an instance from your classroom teaching experience when you knew you had made a positive impact on a student’s life?

In thinking how to better serve and support all teachers, many who face very real challenges every day in their classrooms, I am adding these related questions:

  • What’s especially challenging about your teaching role? When you’re trying to constructively deal with a particular challenge, what have you found that works?
  • What help, support, and/or advice from other teachers would personally benefit you?
  • What advice would you offer other teachers to help them “keep on keeping on,” particularly when the going gets rough?


The impact you make on students’ present and future lives can never be truly known, for it is limitless. I hope you will visit my website’s Inspiration page at (www.larryainsworth.com/why-teachers-teach/) and join me in my efforts to uplift other teachers everywhere by briefly sharing your own story—either in text form or on a short video.

If you’re willing to do a video using your phone or tablet, begin with your name and what you teach. Then just be yourself, conversational, without formality, as if you were sitting down with another teacher to talk about your responses to any or all of the questions listed above. Take two to five minutes to share your thoughts with colleagues you may never meet but who are sure to benefit by knowing from your words that they are not alone!

And always remember that Christa McAuliffe’s inspiring words that she realized from her own teaching experience, can also be said of you: YOU touch the future because YOU teach!

Thank you for all you do for your students, now and in the future!

About Larry

Larry Ainsworth is the author or coauthor of numerous published books, including: Common Formative Assessments 2.0 (2015), “Unwrapping” the Common Core (2014), Prioritizing the Common Core (2013), Rigorous Curriculum Design (2010), Common Formative Assessments (2006), “Unwrapping” the Standards (2003), Power Standards (2003), and Five Easy Steps to a Balanced Math Program (2000 and 2006). His Corwin workshop, “Teacher Clarity: Learning Intentions and Success Criteria” (2016), is a step-by-step process PK-12 educators use to bring clarity to student learning targets.

Currently an independent education author and consultant, Larry served as the Executive Director of Professional Development at The Leadership and Learning Center in Englewood, Colorado, from 1999-2013. Throughout his career as a professional developer, Larry has delivered keynote addresses and breakout sessions across North America and in Latin America and regularly worked on site in school systems to assist leaders and educators in understanding and implementing powerful standards-based practices.

Drawing upon 24 years of experience as an upper elementary and middle school classroom teacher in demographically diverse schools, Larry brings a varied background and wide range of professional experiences to each of his presentations. His primary goal is to help all educators and leaders positively impact student learning using proven practices with standards, assessment, curriculum, and instruction.

You are welcome to visit Larry’s website at www.larryainsworth.com to learn how “Timeless Practices Work Together” to improve student learning and to connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.