Things I Know 289 of 365: In teaching, the simple is complex

And so from that, I’ve always been fascinated with the idea that complexity can come out of such simplicity.

– Will Wright

In working toward completion of a final learning task in which I design a learning organization, I’m re-visiting the reading from this unit of study.

In one 2002 Teaching and Teacher Education article from Judith Warren Little, I found this description of a comment made in a meeting of teachers. One teacher, Leigh, has asked her colleagues if the will all be implementing silent sustained reading uniformly across their classrooms. It stuck me that Little’s description of the conversation captures some of the richest conversations a teaching colleagues can have:

Leigh’s questions thus becomes the occasion for revealing differences in the teachers’ instructional preferences, and for negotiating what it will mean for the teachers to work together in “piloting” a new course. These are not mere matters of technique or procedure; fundamental issues of principle and purpose figure prominently in that negotiation. Further, these are no matters that could have been fully negotiated in advance. They arise in and through the work itself. As Leigh’s question is posed and modified, engaged or deflected, individuals find occasion to state their own preferences and intentions, locating themselves in a variety of ways in relation to the collective project of the group (piloting the course, developing this week’s curriculum), past and present relationships in the classroom (student choice), and the group’s way of being (decisions).

A classmate and I were talking today about the perceived disconnect between external perceptions of teaching and the internal complexity of the work. Little is describing four teachers faced with a simple question or whether they will all be practicing the same reading method uniformly in their classrooms, and she describes the complicated nature of the attempt to answer that question quite wonderfully. This is tough work.

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