The Joys of a Teacher Exit Ticket (27/365)

It’s an academic coda to a lesson where everyone played their part. It’s turning getting to the last page of a novel and realizing the plot is resolving itself in a way that is both exactly what you wanted as well as nothing you’d ever expected. It’s getting home from a first date and receiving the perfect text message. It’s finding out a meal you loved comes with a complimentary dessert.

I love a good exit ticket.

That love is why I spend so much time thinking about authentic, helpful, meaningful uses of this after dinner mint of learning.

It is also why I’ve started thinking about what teacher exit tickets might look like. I’m not saying exit tickets from professional development (though those are good too). Teacher exit tickets are in concert with student exit tickets, but they are the questions teachers must answer about what has happened over the course of a lesson. When schedules drown out professional reflection, teacher exit tickets can be moments where we get our heads above the water and survey the ocean around us.

Specifically, two questions stick with me as shaping thoughtful practice and looking for student progress:

  • What were students in this space curious about?
  • What did students leave knowing or able to do that they couldn’t do at the beginning of class?

For each, there is the implied, “And how do I know?”

A teacher exit ticket can act as the link between today’s enacted lesson plan and tomorrow’s aspirations. We know what we’re setting out to do at the top of a school day, but we rarely take the time to allow what actually ended up happening to directly and thoughtfully affect what happens tomorrow. Teacher exit tickets allow for this connective tissue to form.

What other questions would be wise to consider as teacher exit tickets? Add them to the comments below.

How We Tell Students Stories of Gender (26/365)

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I don’t follow sports. I can tell you the name of the Eagles’s backup quarterback, but I’ll be completely unaware when he’s replaced by the guy who is their usual quarterback. I know there are divisions and conferences. I know baseball has leagues, but I can’t tell you which team is in which. When watching the Super Bowl with friends Sunday, I knew the play immediately following a touchdown could result in two different point amounts being awarded, but I had no idea which plays got to which points. I cannot tell you how many points a field goal is worth.

I was supposed to get this information at some point in the growing up process. I graduated high school in the only state in the Union that requires four years of physical education. I remember when I realized I was missing a piece of being a guy when Mr. Allen set up stations during the basketball unit of P.E. and explained that Station 1 was where we practiced layups and every other guy around me knew what he was talking about and what to do. I was clueless.

At this point in life, I’ve done some things – some very cool things of which I am very proud. Still, I can feel the moment in conversations with new groups of other men where the conversation is about to turn to sports and I’m either going to have to admit I know nothing about sports or stay as quiet as possible while nodding along until the topic changes.

I hate this expectation.

I hate the other half of the expectation as well.

I hate the fact that I can throw out that I’m a queer man and it will absolve me of others’ expectations I’ll be able to hang in conversations about sports. It’s playing into a stereotype suggesting being queer means I’m not going to understand or have any interest in sports. Outing myself as queer and outing myself as sports illiterate feeds a social construct I’m not here for.

This is the story I bring with me when I look at assessment results along gender lines within our district and nationally. On average, our boys’ reading and writing scores are below our girls’. It starts in elementary schools, and leads me to wonder what stories we’re telling and perpetuating about boys as readers and writers. When sitting with teams of teachers I am often asking how they make sure boys see the men in their lives as textually literate. What strategic ways are they working to make sure boys see reading and writing as ungendered?

I worry in similar ways, at the other end of the spectrum, about the gendered stories we tell about math and science. What is it we are doing to uncouple these disciplines from male and masculine perceptions? Setting aside for the moment the pernicious structural and institutional biases at play in tech and STEM workplaces, how are we stealing identities of scientist and mathematician away from girls? Where are they seeing the women in their lives as capable and engaged science-positive members of society?

So, if we are to tell these stories better with a fuller set of voices, how might we proceed?

  • Avoid assuming someone’s already told the story. Whether it was Mr. Allen assuming all the boys in our class knew what a layup is or how to shoot one or assuming all girls in a class understand that just because their math teacher is male that doesn’t mean math is for men, examining and addressing our assumptions is a first step to broadening the learning narratives our students hear.
  • Prompt students to listen to how others tell the same stories. This means practices highlighted by people like Sunil Singh in this post. Singh mentions math teacher Peter Harrison who “used to give out these insanely hard math problem sets. However, he encouraged students to get help from any teacher in the school — or even outside the school. You just couldn’t ask him.” What might be the power of taking ourselves out of the narrative in order that students might write their own?
  • Remember language matters. In my own work with teachers and students I’ve been striving to eliminate a simple phrase from my lexicon – you guys. While I realize the shorthand is largely accepted as gender neutral in intent, I can’t believe it is neutral in how it is heard. Every time we say, “you guys” when we mean everyone, we are challenging anyone who doesn’t identify as a guy to find their way into the conversation. Once or twice it might not matter, but I’m imagining the deleterious effects of a lifetime of having to instantaneously recode your identity to find your place in a conversation.
  • Tell fuller stories. One of the most powerful takeaways I had from C.J. Pascoe’s Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School was the normative language we use throughout seemingly benign examples we offer students each day. How culturally-representative are the names we use in math word problems? How heteronormative are the texts we ask students to read?
  • Open the conversation for adults. My guess would be, if you sat down with your school or district and looked at the results from any assessment, you’d see some trends along gender lines. Fiats and banners about equality will not solve this. Instead, faculty meetings require the space to have honest conversations and to ask which systems and structures might be telling students unintended stories of gendered expectations.

The Danger of ‘Student-Centered’ (25/365)

Photo by Vladimir Kramer on Unsplash

Raise your hand if you’ve said or heard the term “student-centered” in relation to whatever system you’re working in?

Okay. That looks like everyone. Now, let’s stop doing that.

Unfeeling monster that I am, I cringe each time I hear the term student-centered. Lest you start thinking me beyond salvation, give me a chance to explain.

It has to do with the Law of Unintended Consequences. If we claim we want our educational systems to be student-centered, it behooves us to then ask, “What is the worst consequence of our best idea?

Student-centered systems (or worse, student-centered philosophies) will inevitably justify inhumane, uncaring, or incompassionate practices toward non-student members of the system. You’ve been in this faculty meeting. Adults’ negative feelings or alternative points of view are shut down by the gentle but firm reminder, “We are a student-centered school.” No one wants to raise their hand and appear anti-student, so they remain quiet and passive. Or, at least they do so outwardly.

Repeated over the course of several months or years, this anti-adult or myopic view of who our educational organizations must consider as being in their care starts to burn out some of its most caring members because they begin to resent the lack of a reciprocity of care and valuing of well being. When these people leave, they may be easy to write off by leadership as not being able to hack it in a truly student-centered environment. Even if this is the true cause of teachers’ resignations, it is cause for great concern.

Student-centered organizations are naturally incentivized to be harmful to teachers and, in turn, to students. The cumulative effect of being repeatedly asked to set aside one’s own legitimate self-interests and care in exchange for an other is likely to be some level of quiet resentment of the other.

Then What?
To argue against student-centered and suggest nothing in its place could be akin to saying, “Do what feels right” in schools. That’s also not an argument I’m interested in supporting.

Instead of student-centered, let us make decisions based on whether a given choice is learning-centered. More specifically, let us decide matters based on the answer to the question, “All things considered, which choice or action is most likely to improve the learning in this space?”

Asking some variation of this question when considering shifting teaching loads, revising a schedule, adopting new resources, implementing new systems of student or teacher assessment, planning professional development – you get the idea. Asking it in any situation and realizing “all things considered” includes adults and children inside and outside the school is more likely to lead to a decision that is more sustainable than the “Is it student-centered?” question is likely to surface.

Such an inclusive approach to shifting within a system is also more likely to invite input and conversation along the way. An administrator can sit at their desk and more easily make the student-centered decision on her own. To make the learning-centered decision, she is more likely to recognize the factors unknown to her. These realizations are the likely to lead her to seek opinions and input from those who know what she does not.

An example.

I have always been uncoupled in my work as an educator. Single and without kids of my own, I’ve consistently been on my school or district’s go-to team for activities outside the school day. Back to school nights, open houses, coaching, chaperoning – you know the stuff. I and my other single, childless friends have always been not asked, but expected to fill these roles. While I’m always happy to pitch in and help, it’s not always in my best interest. In some of the more frantic times of the year, the rapid fire of these requests becomes deleterious to my ability to perform regular, day-to-day tasks. You know, teaching and stuff.

Having the singles perform these roles is easier for the system and gets the bodies a system needs in the room. (You know, for the kids.) It is a student-centered way of thinking that fails to take into account how repeated asks of a specific group of adults might adversely effect students and learning later.

A learning-centered approach would recognize these constraints and invite input and conversation for how to more equitably meet the needs of all people in the system in service of learning. At the least, it would make room for concerns to be raised. At the most, it might uncover other ways systems aren’t working and re-evaluate approaches to such events.

A final word on the use of student-centered touched on only lightly above. That is the use of the term to incite guilt in those voicing opposition to a view or action. Those who do so are using the term as shorthand for “If you don’t like this idea, you’re probably against kids.” Not only is this mean, it is choosing what is easiest over what is right. Learning is messy work and it is difficult work requiring many voices and uncomfortable conversations. Making choices because they are easy and can be couched in language when we fear or prefer to avoid the messiness builds systems on ideas unworthy of the public good with which we have been entrusted.

Lead AND Get Out of the Way (24/365)

many sheep jammed together

Photo by davide ragusa on Unsplash

So much of last night’s EduCon Educator Panel has me thinking, and I’ll likely be reflecting on it for the next few weeks. One thing, though, was still sticking to my brain pretty tightly when I woke up this morning.

When the panelists were asked what stands in the way of nurturing and encouraging curiosity in their schools and school systems, there was a reference to whatever level or levels of the systems were above them. This won’t be surprising to anyone who’s tried to elicit or spark change in education.

The Feds, the State, the District, the Principal, the Department Chair, the Teacher – each is invoked as the obstruction, preventing the change and the doing of the work. Each level in the hierarchy points to those running the level above as the reason they can’t get done what they want to get done.

What came through in the conversation last night is the recognition that someone is pointing at you in that hierarchy and shining light on the ways in which you are the obstruction to getting things done.

In each of the examples of effective nurturing of curiosity in their educational spaces the panelists offered last night, the move to create that example was preceded by two questions.

In what ways am I an obstruction to someone else’s good idea?
and
How do I get out of the way?

In thinking through how she could help her district team open up professional development as opportunities for teachers to activate their own sense of wonder, Rafranz could easily have pointed to the office and educators a few rungs up the ladder and said, “Here are the dozen institutional policies that are holding back.” Instead, she considered the policies and elements of culture for which she was responsible and found a way to get out of the way of those pointing up at her as the reason they couldn’t do or try X.

The best leaders I’ve followed have done this. They’ve acted as a filter between those above them who were handing down requirements and administrative mandates. They weighed each against the likelihood it would get in the way of those for whom they were responsible being able to do their work. This filtering had the dual effect of giving us have more space to be creative in our practice and ensuring us when something was brought to us from the higher ups it actually necessitated our attention.

It had a third effect as well. It modeled for us the importance of asking, “Whose obstruction am I, and how can I get out of their way?”

To Help Students Read, Be a Reader (23/365)

child reading a book while surrounded by books on a bed

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

At a community event for our school district, a parent raises her hand. She has a question.

“What can we do to know what our kids are supposed to be learning in their classes and help at home?”
The answer in the room is about lessons and unit plans. It includes talking to your child’s teacher about what’s happening in class and taking a look at online profiles.
I raise my hand. I have an answer.
“Please read and talk about what you read with your child.”
From PISA scores and surveys we have evidence that students who come from homes where parents read for pleasure are likely to be better readers than their peers coming from homes where parents don’t read for pleasure. What’s more, there’s some evidence of a positive correlation between students seeing their parents hold books and reading scores.
In the conversation about reading and the reading profiles of our students, we sometimes miss the conversation about reading identities. In my dreams, all students are asked to complete a survey at the beginning of a school year. It would have only two questions:
On a scale of 1-5, how much do you agree with each of the following statements:
  • I am a reader.
  • I like reading.
(I have a few other questions such as whether students read in their spare time, their favorite kinds of books, etc., but I won’t be greedy.)
Midway through the year and at the year’s end, we ask these same questions and we track students’ dispositions as important indicators of their trajectories as both lifelong readers and learners. Simply stated, students are unlikely to keep doing a thing they don’t enjoy and that does not fit with how they see themselves.
We know what this looks like because we have friends and family who say things like, “I’m not a big reader,” or “I don’t really read.” These are not people who say they cannot read, they are saying they do not. Teachers along the course of their educational tenures made sure these people were functionally literate without paying attention to whether they would be literately functioning when they left school.
Yes, comprehension skills are important, and yes, accessing complex texts and tasks is key to preparing students to be engaged and active citizens. We miss the opportunity, though, when we prioritize these and the myriad other standards and skills of reading instructions and leave out considerations of what it means to be a reader and why such an identity is important.
So, when a parent asks what can be done to support students at home, my answer is reading – everyone in the family reading and discussion what they’ve read. To do less than this is to signal reading as something done in school, and given up after.

Tonight’s Conversation about Curiosity (22/365)

Tonight, I’ll be moderating the EduCon opening panel at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Stephanie Sandifer, Antero Garcia, Rafranz Davis, and Milton Chen will join me for a conversation about curiosity with special consideration of how it relates to schools and education.

My hope is for the panel to be a true conversation. With such a varied and experienced group of folks, I’m more worried about how to get out of the way than anything else.
Below are some of the questions I’m considering. Please add your suggestions in the comments.
  • Is curiosity always good?
  • What are you actively curious about at the moment?
  • What key components of curiosity that traditional public education gets right?
  • How might a re-framing of how we think about curiosity along the lines of gender and sex bring equality to those narratives?
  • What are simple moments in regular practice where we could be leveraging the power of curiosity and are not?
  • What might be the effect of streaming and bingeability on the curiosity of children and adults?
  • If curiosity is free and cultivating it is free, why are we less likely to see students living in poverty be encouraged to follow their curiosity than their peers in the middle and upper classes?
  • Jal Mehta’s recent piece “A Pernicious Myth: Basics Before Deeper Learning” makes an argument for giving students bigger tasks or what David Perkins calls “the whole game” what would it actually take to move people in your various systems to embrace such a philosophy?
  • Considering the story of William Kamkwamba as recounted in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, as well as some remarks from this same panel a few years ago, is there an argument to be made that limitations are fertilizer for curiosity?
  • What’s to be done in encouraging teacher curiosity? Are their things you’d argue are most important for teachers to be curious about? What practical steps can schools and school systems take to make this happen?
  • How do we navigate our and our students’ curiosities about darker or prickly topics?
  • How do you keep your curiosity from becoming complacent?

We’re Producing a Season of Television to Help Our Teachers Learn (21/365)

I got to work on one of my favorite projects of the school year Tuesday. Our district is in the second year of implementation of a new set of elementary literacy curriculum resources. This would be enough pressure. Now, add the fact we have 26 elementary schools spread across 13 communities and 411 sq. miles.

Getting folks on a page around deepening their practice is exceedingly difficult. Scheduling professional learning classes after school works for some schools if they’re nearby and creates a hardship for others who might have to drive 30 minutes immediately after teaching.

That’s why, this year, we’re taking a new approach to professional learning, communication, and information sharing. We launched a television show. The fourth Tuesday of each month, we stream a live television show using Youtube live. The show itself is about an hour in length and teachers who sign up for credit then complete an assignment related to the episode’s theme.

In August, we started with an episode dedicated to routines and procedures at the beginning of the school year. Yesterday’s episode was about using mid-year data to form a body of evidence to meet students’ needs. Each episode features news and updates from the curriculum office, a listing of upcoming classes, and teachers from the district.

This month’s episode included a 1-on-1 interview with one of our district assessment coordinators, a taped segment from a kindergarten classroom leveraging student inquiry, and a panel discussion featuring a second-grade teacher, a third-grade teacher, their principal, and the school’s literacy teacher. For 25 minutes we all discussed the practical ways the school works to build a body of evidence for each student’s learning and how they respond to identified needs.

Participants logged in from across the district, including those featured in the tweet below. No one had to get in their car, and those who had scheduling conflicts can watch the episode later. What’s more, we work to catalog each resource mentioned within an episode and link it in the show notes. We’ve started to see resources from one edge of the district pop up in classrooms three towns away.

What’s more, we’re creating artifacts that can be utilized long after each episode airs. Principals looking for resources to use in staff meetings can pull one of the taped segments with accompanying reflection questions. They can zero in on a piece of the panel conversation to push their teachers’ thinking.

Come time for new teacher orientation next year, we’ll have an archive amounting to a full season of television to share with teachers new to the district.

The approach is not perfect. We’re certainly learning from each episode. But, we’re also hearing from teachers across our schools telling us they’re watching with their teams, streaming in their pajamas, and – in today’s case – gathering as a school to have conversations and learn from their peers.

If You’re Going to Do Test Prep, Don’t Be Horrible (20/365)

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We will, at a later date, examine me railing against test preparation. For today, though, let’s take a look at the problem below.

It is not unlike a problem a well-meaning teacher might put in front of their students. Because exposure/preparation/familiarity. Our well-meaning teacher would take this or something like it from a released bank of items on Standardized Exam Ultra and give it to their students to complete. Why not? The items are aligned to standards, the students will see things like this when they take the real Standardized Exam Ultra, so let’s get them started.

Pedagogy aside (and it’s quite difficult not to go off that way), a completed and scored set of these practice items would give the teacher little to no useful information by which he could shift his practice.

Let’s say 90 percent of the class misses question three. What would scoring this question tell our teacher? Well, it would tell him, in a class of 30 students, 27 got the question wrong. What he’d be likely to claim is this shows his students don’t understand verb tenses, commas, and apostrophes. That’s quite a bit to fit into a single question. In reality, there are at least 27 different paths each of these incorrect students could have taken to reaching the wrong answer. Getting this question wrong only informs instruction insofar as our teacher was wondering whether students got it wrong or right.

If our teacher insists on using this form of assessment, I’d point to a few easy tweaks that would provide greater clarity while increasing the cognitive load on students. I’d even go so far as to claim these tweaks would increase the likelihood of the students arriving at the correct answer.

My first alteration is to include a space under each question asking students how they reached the answer they chose. This reveals the paths students took not only to incorrect answers, but correct answers as well. Suddenly, our teacher is able to better understand process. It also moves student reflection into the assessment itself. Rather than asking students why they missed a problem post hoc, we are building a mechanism for students to consider the why of their choices in the moment. Here is the first place I’d argue our group of 27 is more likely to shrink as students pause to think about what they’re doing in ways exercises like these don’t naturally demand. We even put value on answers of “I don’t know.”

What if the shift above isn’t the only move we make? What if we add another space for feedback. This time, though, our students have passed their papers to another classmate and our teacher has asked each classmate to look at the answer and justification of her peer and then reply with her thoughts on the justification? At this point, we’ve begun a conversation, if small, where our students are no longer looking at the answers, but looking at the reasoning and asking if they arrived anywhere worth going.

Think, then, of the information our teacher is working with when he collects these papers. Rather than simply knowing if a given student got a question correct or incorrect, he now also knows how they got there and has given all the class an opportunity to chime in on that thinking at the same time.

The next day, he might pull together students who took similar approaches to reaching the incorrect answer and offer some targeted instruction in correcting their missteps. He might not point out the errors, but put our three correct students in a group with 9 other peers and have them work in small groups to consider how they answered and why they made the choices they did.

It is conceivable our class might grow frustrated with our teacher’s lack of simply telling the correct answer. This is good. I’m assuming these students have computers disguised as phones in their pockets and bookbags. When the discussion reaches its highest frustration, our teacher might say, “Okay, see if you can find help online.”

Here, we’ve taken something boring and inauthentic and built a community around it. We’ve manufactured value to something that originally would have told us if students picked the correct letter or the incorrect letter. While this is not preferable to some authentic, contextualized tasks that would also lead students to practice these skills, it is certainly better than we found it.

My Best Moment of the Week: Getting Students’ Feedback (19/365)

students raising their hands in a full lecture hall

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

Visiting one of our elementary schools last week to drop something off, I used the chance to visit a couple of classrooms. While I was standing in the doorway of one fourth-grade room, the teacher crossed to me.

“They’re just wrapping up their reading groups,” she said and explained this was the second week of the students working through a menu. Each week groups had a selection of Must Do and May Do activities to work through. It was an added element of student choice and a move on the teacher’s part to better recognize students’ agency.

The teacher told me she’d been impressed with what she’d seen in the first couple weeks and she was working to help the students get used to their new control over the learning.

“And what about the kids,” I asked, “Do you have some sort of feedback mechanism built in to get a sense on how they’re thinking about the changes?”

“That’s a really good question,” she said without missing a beat, “Let’s do that now.”

She called the groups back to their spots and asked them to discuss two questions with one another: What was going well with the new structures, and what could they do to improve the class moving forward?

That would have been enough to make my week. Not only were this teacher and her team trying something new based on a drive to get out of students’ way and better honor their agency, she saw value in hearing students’ feedback to such a degree that she was willing to adjust her plans on the fly to give students an opportunity to report out on what they thought of her new ideas. That, alone, would be enough.

But, that wasn’t the best part.

I perched myself amidst a group of four young women and listened as they talked with one another in response to their teacher’s questions. It was an exchange the civility and earnestness of which I’ve rarely seen in a faculty meeting. Their teacher had given them yet another chance to help chart the course of their learning and they were equal to the task.

As their conversation wrapped up, I asked if I could get their feedback on one more query. “Sure,” they told me.

“Well, your teacher is responsible for making sure you’re learning, right? So, how, with this new way of doing things, might she be able to keep better track of what everyone’s doing and what they’re learning from it?”

A pause as four faces with pursed lips considered my question.

Then, they were at it again. A lot of decisive, Wells as they started tossing ideas around, building on and pushing the thinking of those who’d spoken before them.

My favorite idea came from the student sitting to my left. She suggested students could write a couple of sentences as they finished an activity, relaying what they’d done in their groups and what they’d learned from it. Then, she said, they could take pictures of their writing and share it on Seesaw so both their families and their teacher could see their thinking.

I’ve been in 3-hour meetings with teachers where only at the end did we get to an idea as clear and salient as hers.

To anyone who’s been following these ideas for a while, it should be clear why these moves of practice and these ideas brought me so much joy.

What might not be as clear is the joy I took in the ease with which these students had their conversations and shared their ideas. You might not see my joy at how quickly their teacher considered a new idea, modified her plan for the day, and sought her students’ feedback. The ease and comfort of all of this bring me joy because they signal this is the normal for this classroom. Conversations, democracy, feedback, honoring students’ thinking – they were all taken in stride. That is evidence they don’t just happen when visitors are in the room. That brings me joy.

Stop. Drop. Listen. (18/365)

one person taking notes while another speaks

Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

I started a meeting with silence last week. We’re not talking the usual, mildly uncomfortable moment of silence that comes up every once in a while. Instead, I started this meeting with seven minutes of silence.

I’d drafted an idea for a team of teachers at one of our schools and decided to present it for their consideration in a way requiring no presentation.

“Okay, instead of talking this through, without talking, I’d like you to review the document and put all of your questions and comments in the margins as they come up.” A couple of the teachers looked at me to discern if I was on the up and up. I assured them I was. About 30 seconds in, one teacher said, “Well, here’s the thing…”

“Just put it in the margin,” I said, impressed at myself for not taking the bait of conversation.

They typed, I watched.

They typed some more, I watched some more.

I read as they as they added every question and comment that entered their heads.

Maybe two minutes into the process, I noted one of the teachers was inserting comments I’d classify as having a critical tone. From her first comment to her position midway down the first page, each time she hit option+command+m, the result was a reason why what I was proposing would not work. It continued this way for the remainder of the seven minutes. Though I’d told myself I was presenting a draft document and had said aloud to the room that I wanted to show them something we could make representative of the team, I was getting defensive.

As I scrolled through the comment, the voice in my head responded with Yeah, buts and Here’s what you don’t understands. She was missing the point of what I’d created.

By the time we hit the 7-minute mark, it was all I could do to stick with my plan and say, “Okay, now how would you like to proceed?” Others in the room started the conversation and kept driving. While I engaged and listened to their thinking, I was always half-listening for my critic to chime in. It took a while until she added her voice.

When she did, it wasn’t to voice one of the criticisms or reasons why one of the ideas would not work. It was to ask a question and then another to get clarity of the way everything might proceed. In fact, not once in the entirety of the conversation did she give direct voice to the ideas she’d written in the comments. Instead, I noticed she was making each comment into a question, searching for clarity and help thinking through how what I’d proposed might be made to work with their students.

The more I listened to what she was adding to the conversation, the more I realized she wasn’t the foe I’d assumed she’d be as I was reading her comments. She was an ally. She was an ally who’d done exactly what I’d asked and thrown her initial thinking into the document, shared what her gut told her would be hurdles to overcome in shifting the way the team had been doing things.

What I’d read as pessimism and inertia was this teacher trusting me and trusting the process. While I’d been preparing for battle, she’d been preparing to question, think, and learn.

My assumptions – the very same things I’d been asking these teachers to keep in check – almost derailed my ability to hear and understand what this teacher and her colleagues were bringing to the table. Much of my job is to listen. Part of the benefit of having a set of responsibilities different from those of teachers is my ability to come at conversations and difficulties fresh and open. Instead, I’d walked into the process in the same defensive posture I’m often working to help teachers move away from in our work.

I’m glad I caught myself. I’m glad I was able to stop, drop my assumptions, and listen.