Unpacking our educators’ belief systems

Shrugging womanRecently I shared some stories of youth using technology in amazing, empowered ways with a group of educators. One of them asked me:

So you believe that students should be on computers all the time in school?

I was taken aback for a second. It’s an enormous leap from ‘technology can empower students in interesting ways’ to ‘technology should be used in instruction all of the time every day.’ I quickly clarified that, although I surely believe in the power of technology to empower students, I don’t actually believe what she alleged. But it was a good reminder that when we’re having conversations or working with educators in professional learning settings, what we say to them may not be what they hear.

Everyone brings their own lenses and belief systems to the work. We know this. Sometimes we see it in the body posture of our conversational colleagues: head nods, smiles, and lean-ins are easily discernible, as are frowns, crossed arms, and lean-backs. Sometimes they’re just disengaged or disinterested – it’s always a joy to share something that you think is really powerful about student learning – something that you think will really resonate with folks – and then have someone from the group ask you about … the digital countdown timer you’re using. It is what it is.

As school leaders, if we want to effectuate lasting change, we have to meet our people where they are. And that means unpacking their lenses and belief systems so that we can connect with their side of the conversation and their side of the thinking process. This is difficult, complex work but it’s necessary. Otherwise we’re just talking past folks.

One more time: as with our children, just because we said it to our fellow educators doesn’t mean they heard it, understood it, or cared about it.

Image credit: Shrugging woman, koldunovaaa, Bigstock

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2 Responses to “Unpacking our educators’ belief systems”

  1. Hi Scott, Long time no talk. The last paragraph of this post lit me up like a Christmas tree (in a good way).

    I have talked and written about classroom assessment and grading to students, parents, teachers, board members, admin, and other consultants. And the thing we often forget is that we assume that we’re having the same conversation! Often, we are not!

  2. Scott: Thank you for this reminder. I need to make sure that I check in with teachers to ensure that we’re having the same conversation 🙂

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