Friday, December 2, 2016

Ask Permission or Seek Forgiveness?

And if the answer is no, what are you waiting for? Permission?

It's an interesting paradox in education that we teachers don't like to be told what to do, until we do want to be told what to do. We often do not grab the agency that is right before us, and just start doing. There are lots of reasons for that, and none of them get us closer to where we want to be. Use an inquiry cycle and just start somewhere. 

As  Bill Murphy's Jan 2016 Inc. article on the origin of the permission/forgiveness dichotomy informs us:
So next time you're on the fence--wondering whether to take a small risk that could propel you forward in whatever endeavor you care about--just do it.
Teacher-led, job-embedded action research to improve practice for the benefit of student learning doesn't need permission. Professional learning to support that endeavor doesn't need permission. And even if they somehow did, I would much rather be in the position of seeking forgiveness for my team or school acting on what we thought was best for kids as opposed to doing nothing.

In our district this year, teacher teams are working in iterative cycles under the umbrella goal "to improve instruction every day for every student through collaborative and continuous learning for all educators." The iterative inquiry cycle guidance is:
  • teams identify essential learning standards
  • teams develop and use a formative assessment process
  • teachers utilize research and evidence-based strategies to provide high-quality instruction to meet the learning needs of their students
  • teams develop plans to support differentiated instruction
Within those pieces, there is a lot of latitude for teacher teams to grab and run with their agency. For example, my team might be curious as to how to differentiate instruction in a high school math classroom. We could seek out learning from a variety of both internal and external sources without any need to ask if that is okay. Of course, we also might need to touch base with our principal if we need either time or money to make some learning a reality, but we don't need permission to learn and try. That is just an inherent part of being a professional.

I'll leave you with one more image, inspired by a Pablo Picasso quote:

Join the conversation...
What small risk are you willing to take today to improve student learning?

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