“What do we need to eliminate or stop doing?”
It feels like this year more than any other year educators have been placed under a burden of stress and mandates like no other year. I don’t think there is anything “new” being added in the sense of new policy or reform. Rather, I think it is just a culmination of year after year of one more thing being added for us to do, expect, figure out, deal with, etc.
As an instructional coach I have felt frustrated in myself the last few weeks in struggling to come up with possible answers and solutions to the needs of teachers. I have been reading, researching, and looking for answers. What I find is the same old conjured up ideas that sound great in theory land, but hold no practicality to a school of my size and a staff so diverse and large.
And then it hit me and a huge burden was lifted off my shoulders and has me moving in a different direction.
I need to stop LOOKING FOR ANSWERS
That is the problem. We live in a society where we expect answers. We expect someone else to solve our problems for us.
What I need to do is start asking questions. This mindset had me visit a book that BLEW MY MIND! I read the book
What I realized is that I was not asking the right questions. So that is what I am doing. Besides asking, “Why are we doing ______? I took a different approach of asking, “What should we stop doing?”
What is it that we are doing that is really not needed or making the impact we want? This is so important. Some things that we work on in life we hope convert to daily habits and just become par for the course. I get that and it makes sense. However, in education how many times have we implemented new policy, new PD, new reform, but we never really measure if it is working or no longer working? When do we pull the plug on something that is not working?
A lot of this goes to the much bigger picture of multitasking. How much research is there that shows multitasking does not work? Just recently Clay Shirky wrote a magnificent piece about this topic in regards to banning tech in his classroom. It makes sense, but here we are trying to multitask so many ideas, reform, policies, etc. because administrators and people in charge have to show and prove that they are making change. This is not a blame game. Rather, this is an eye opener. We pressure students to multitask all day long in often boring classroom scenarios, teachers are being pressured to multitask all the requirements of teaching, admin are multitasking their duties as a leader, sitting in meetings, and dealing with the top down agendas. Folks at top are being pressured to show that tax payer money and ideas are working and the tide continues all the way to the top and is seen in all aspects of life. I am not here to point fingers, but to demonstrate that this multitask problem is everywhere and not just in education, but in our daily life.
So, take a breather and ask, “What should we stop doing?”
When we take time to pause and ask this question and take it a step further to then ask why we are doing what we are doing, we finally start to have real conversation. We had this moment just last week. Working with instuctional coaches in our buiding and our budling admin we started to question and figure out why we were asking teachers to do _____ and ______ and ______? As we vented, talked, and debated we started to see that perhaps we should change our school goals. Our admin is amazing in that they listen. They do take collaboration serious and we can have open honest conversation. This is not easy and not something that everyone likes to do, but it is necessary.
Because of those questions and conversations we made a change in our approach to project based learning. The end result is yet to be determined, but the goal is to provide a narrower focus on goals that will elevate the quality of learning taking place and providing more time to really analyze and refine our ideas and projects.
This example is a small step, but a very important one. We need to continue to ask these questions. More is not always better. The education world tends to think more is better, but at what point does the base of greatness collapse? The system is not broken, it just need tweaks and in order to do that we must ask better questions and question those questions.
Like Warren Berger states in his book “Moreover, if you can’t figure out what you should stop doing, it might be an early warning sign that you don’t what your strategy is.”