It takes two, baby!
Marvin Gaye said it right in his song, "It takes two".
One person can certainly do many things, but there are some things that simply take two people. Conversations are a perfect example. In order to have a conversation, there is a necessity for two or more people to be engaged in it. One person talking simply does not make for a conversation. Then, how do we explain the practice of administrators and observers giving feedback to teachers in which it is simply one-sided? The synonym of "conversation" in French is "head to head". That certainly implies two heads.
I had the distinct pleasure of consulting in the Virgin Islands this week. After teaching administrators some solid observation practices a few weeks ago, this week was spent on pairing up with administrators, going in and conducting observations, then coming back and deciding how best to coach the teacher on his/her practice. What a treat! Throughout the week, I watched a Kinder class reading a story, a small engine repair class working on their individual engines, high school algebra, adult education algebra, 4th grade science, 1st grade science, and so many more. The one common theme was working with administrators who were used to calling the teacher in, after the observation, to tell them what they had observed (I like the way you asked questions; You should have made a copy of the Venn diagram; You did a good job.....). This week, I got the chance to model for the administrators some new ways to conduct post-observation conferences, to include many questions that would get the teacher thinking about their practice.
Here is a sampling of some questions I asked:
1. Looking at the data we collected for Questioning and Discussion Techniques, what are some patterns you are noticing?
2. Based on the questions asked, what types of student responses might be typical?
3. Given the importance of student responsibility for their own thinking, what might be some strategies to increase student-to-student responses?
Throughout the week, we got to watch teachers do some pretty heavy lifting about their own teaching. Were they frustrated by this? On the contrary. We continually heard remarks like, "This has helped me understand my own teaching so much better." "I never realized I shushed the kids so much! I can't wait to work on this" "Working on this is not that hard because it is what I do."
Truly, the results are every education leader's dream: teachers are doing the work themselves, comparing/contrasting lesson successes, seeing plans to improve certain strategies, and being grateful for the help.
Conferencing with the administrators, afterwards, was where the real change was evident. After all, they needed to be able to watch someone else model what they knew was the right thing for teachers but still felt tentative about their own skill.
After modeling the post-observation conferences (10 different ones, this week), the comments from administrators included:
"Thank you kindly for your professional coaching and feedback to my teacher, Ms. ________ and I. Your assistance has been greatly appreciated. It has helped me to be more focus on my feedback approach. It also reminded me to allow the teacher to do some self-diagnosis. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and experience with us."
After having group training on the process, one administrator said of the coaching sessions: " follow-up training is in an important component. I believe that deep learning occurs when individuals have multiple opportunities to engage in an experience. "
"We thought it was so worthwhile and truly forces us to look at the evidence closely to support instruction."
What an amazing process observations can be if they are channeled the right direction----towards teacher improvement and growth rather than towards punitive appraisal. In addition, this process becomes a mirror for what we want teaching to look like in every classroom we visit: helping students to grow, one lesson at a time.
If we continue to work toward collaborative inquiry, we will very likely see the same thing I saw this week: deep satisfaction from teachers and instructional leaders, alike, as we work together to improve education!
Why She Wants to Teach
I'm stealing Kearston Connelly's blog about teaching. What a great way to start off the week!
Did anyone else ever whistle the great Bobby McFerrin song while driving? A couple of years before my mom passed away, she and I were driving and singing and laughing to this song. She no longer had a voice box but she still got into it with great fervor. Check out the memoir I wrote called "Finding Mother's Voice" to hear more about the devastation, humor, worry and love involved in living through my mom's laryngectomy.
I am a huge fan of quotations, especially those that are great analogies, as well. I heard someone say, "Worry is like paying interest in advance." What does that say to you? For me, the caution is to not waste time worrying about something that might not ever happen. When thinking about this topic, I remembered being nine years old and finding out that I had a really bad cavity in one of my teeth. My parents and I guessed the dentist would give us options: fill the cavity, get a crown, or even have a root canal. I fretted for days (at 9 years old, it felt like forever), so much so that my mom asked a friend of hers to do some praying or healing thoughts over me the day before we were to go in to the dentist. I was terrified of the needle, having never had any dental work done. My mother's friend said some words, asking for me to not feel any pain and not even see the needle. The next morning, we went in and the dentist said, "Oh, this won't be any problem. We just need to pull the tooth---it is a baby tooth anyway." Wait, what?? Within minutes, I had been given nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and I was "out" just long enough for them to pull the tooth---I never felt a thing and there was no pain afterwards. All that worry...for nothing!!
Working in the education field has always produced issues and things to worry about: What ifs that may or may not have ever come to fruition.
I know this to be true: Worry never helped solve any of those issues.
This is another quote that rings true for me:
What can we do, then, to combat worry?
1. Get into action---do something that either takes your mind off the worry or moves to resolve something you can take care of. Either one is better than futile worry
2. Volunteer or help someone out. A wise soul and spiritual advisor once told me it was almost impossible to be self-centered in worry while reaching out a hand to help someone else. In fact, some of the least worrisome times in my life were when I was doing mission work or helping other people. Getting outside of ourselves is a great cure for what ails you!
3. Be grateful for what you have! Gratitude seems to simply be incongruous to worry. One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from none other than Helen Keller. She said:
Say what?? Helen Keller had no time to ponder over that which had been denied?? Then how in the world can I spend my time worrying? When I, instead, take time to tell God how grateful I am for all that He has given me, namely the best husband in the world, the cutest and most loving pups, an amazing career, and so much more, I am too busy to worry about the little stuff.
Just for today, if you are feeling a bit worried, perhaps you can take one of the suggestions from above and get out of the worry. You'll be glad you did.