Friday, May 23, 2014

Working With High Tech High - Part 1

Several months ago, we hatched the idea of a school of unique and innovative teaching and learning.  The driving vision for this school is “Sa-Hali Secondary School will be an exemplary learning environment for students, teachers, and future teachers. Through innovative educational practices, we will design and implement meaningful, problem-based learning tasks that, through their real-life application, require learners to demonstrate and apply our collaboratively-developed attributes that will prepare them for an ever-changing future.”  As a staff, we have been working towards realizing this vision on a variety of fronts:  we examined the importance of deeper learning, we have been crafting our attributes, and have begun the process of increasing our understanding of task analysis, ‘learning to see and unlearning to judge’ and the collection of descriptive observational data to allow us to scale up innovative deeper learning practices in our building and our district.

Inasmuch as we have made great strides, naturally there have been many questions and concerns about what our journey to create this environment of deeper learning could look like.  To help us along this pathway, our professional development committee determined that we needed some exemplars of learning environments that modeled deeper learning.  After a great deal of planning, we were able to bring High Tech High teachers Chris Wakefield and Anthony Conwright to our school this past week for our May Professional Development day to introduce us to the practicalities of PBL.  And if there was one word to describe the session that our staff had with Chris and Anthony, it would be ‘outstanding’.  

The session was incredibly dynamic.  There were ice-breakers, followed by short instructional bursts and demonstrations interspersed with small and large group activities.  There were exemplars of projects and ‘beautiful work’ throughout the library for each of us to touch, pick up, and examine.  There were multiple opportunities for reflection.  And ultimately, small groups were taken through the process of creating and tuning projects that we will use in our classrooms.  We learned the work by doing the work.

Personally, I had several takeaways from our session, including:

  1. We need to give students training in giving critique and multiple opportunities for revision.
  2. Our collaboration model needs to evolve to utilize the expertise of multiple departments.
  3. The tuning protocol used by HTH has multiple applications, especially for administrators.
  4. We have numerous artificial constructs that inhibit creativity.
  5. We are limited only by our imagination when it comes to PBL.

Over the next couple of weeks I need to unpack each of these separately.   But I am going to start with the first one.

We need to give students training in giving/receiving critique along with multiple opportunities for revision

When I was a teaching senior biology on the Copernican timetable, we did a lab nearly every day.  Within those labs, students would have to do a practical, hands-on piece such as a dissection, document the process they used, and explain their findings using a combination of drawings and written description.  The students would do these lab write-ups using a template that I had given to them at the start of the year.  Armed with a big new red pen, I would pick a night during the week and strap myself in with a big pile of student work and begin marking.  And much to my chagrin, I would often see work that was messy, inaccurate, and often times incomplete.  I would find myself making the same comments over and over--’where is your evidence?’, or ‘you labelled this incorrectly’, or ‘it’s “gizzard”, not “blizzard”’.  

I would return the work with a big “10 out of 15” on the front, and to my surprise, a large percentage of students would look at that big red mark on the front, shrug their shoulders, fire it in their binder (or the trash), and move on to the next lab.

And make the same mistakes again.  And again.  And again.  And guess who was to blame?  


Guess who was getting better at giving specific feedback?  Guess who was getting the benefit of looking at great (and sometimes not so great) drawings and insightful answers?  Truthfully, guess who was getting better at doing labs?


One of the things that Chris and Anthony from High Tech High stressed was the importance of public critique and providing students with multiple opportunities for revision.

They began by showing a video called “Austin’s Butterfly”:  this video shows Ron Berger (Chief Program Officer of Expeditionary Learning Schools and a leading advocate for ‘beautiful work’, working with primary and intermediate students on the concept of kind, specific, helpful feedback and multiple revisions.  Take 6 minutes and watch this (if you haven’t seen it already).

Then, Chris and Anthony gave our staff multiple progressions of a project, and had our staff practice giving kind, specific, helpful feedback that would make the project better and better.  The small groups discussed each progression and saw first hand how their feedback could make the project better and better.

This process was powerful in a few different ways.  The small groups saw the project getting better as a result of the feedback, as one might expect.  But these critique groups learned together--they learned about giving kind and helpful feedback, they learned from each other’s comments, they saw their comments build on themselves and get even more specific and meaningful, and they learned that by giving students multiple opportunities for feedback in a public setting, the products and producers improved immensely.

I look back now on my time as a biology teacher and shake my head at myself.  Wow, could I have done things differently.  I could have had the students working in small groups (and then larger ones) to give each other this kind, specific and helpful feedback.  They would have been able to improve each other’s work in a kind and non-threatening manner, and would be able to look at their own work more critically at the same time.  And in the end, when their work came to me, it would have gone through multiple revisions and a couple of dozen different sets of eyes.  

If we compared the consistent quality of work that students would produce using this approach to the work from the “one and done” (set of eyes AND opportunity) approach that I used, well, there would likely be no comparison.

As a staff, we need to design and implement activities that utilize multiple revisions and public, kind, specific and helpful feedback for our students.  As an administrator, I need to use a similar approach to the things that I do with staff.  We have great collaborative team leaders and a very knowledgeable faculty.  Like our teachers, I need to ensure that I use the collective knowledge of the group to give me kind, specific and helpful feedback on multiple iterations of projects that we will undertake as a staff so that in the end, we have ‘beautiful work’ of our own.

Part 2 Next Week - Our collaboration model needs to evolve to utilize the expertise of multiple departments.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Administrators Must Model Deeper Learning

Right now in British Columbia and a number of other provinces and states, the concepts of deeper learning are moving to to a higher level of consciousness for educators. And while inquiry-based and problem-based learning ideas are common in some schools and jurisdictions, I don't believe this to be the norm.  After participating in the #DLMOOC and following the traffic on Twitter it is my perception that for the most part (for a variety of reasons), many of us are still in the investigative or design phases rather than in full implementation of these sorts of approaches to our courses. Furthermore, many of us are still looking for ways to get started, or at least to find multiple entry points for teachers in our schools.

Recently, Ross Cooper (@RossCoops31) wrote a very useful post called "Project-Based Learning: The Easiest Way to Get Started".  The thrust behind the post was to provide a bridge for educators between what they already do in their classes and lessons that are founded in the principles of Problem Based Learning (see the graphic from Ross' post).  Yet as I was reading the post and the examples given in the graphic, it struck me that we should be thinking the same thing for administrators. While I believe it is essential for teachers to use strategies and tasks that require deeper learning such as PBL, I also believe that in general (and there are some notable exceptions), administrators do a poor job of modelling activities that require the deep learning that they hope to see in the classrooms in their schools.  If are an administrator and you don't believe me, here is a quick self-test, and it is one simple question.

If a staff member did everything that you asked them to do in each of your faculty meetings of the course of a year, upon the completion of the last meeting of the year, what would they be able to do as a result?

From a personal perspective, if you stand at the front of me at your staff meeting and talk?  I would have learned how to sit passively.

If you asked for volunteers to answer questions that you ask?  I would have learned to wait, and someone else will answer the question.

If you put up a Powerpoint?  Again, I would l have learned to sit passively, and I that if I waited long enough, I could watch you to do all of the work.

If you ask a question and then provide a solution that you have already created that you believe will work, and simply want my approval?  Thumbs up.  Send me a memo that I will try to remember to read.

The list goes on.  And these examples are not criticisms of the participants.  They are a result of the tasks that the faculty has been asked to do.

When studying the Instructional Rounds course at Harvard last year and again earlier this spring, we were asked to do a task, and then share our results with a partner, and then with the rest of the small group that we were with.  It was called "They learn best when...", and it was to share and compare our responses to three stems, "Students learn best when...", "Teachers learn best when..." and "Administrators learn best when...".  I have done this exercise with participants at Rounds sessions as well as my own staff, and here is an example of the responses that I have gotten.

"Teachers learn best when...." responses
Are these the characteristics that typify the learning environments administrators deliberately create and model during faculty meetings, team leader meetings, collaborative sessions, professional development days, and other gatherings of educated professionals?  Without question, some Principals do....and some do not. Regardless, I believe administrators at every level (myself very much included) can get better at creating an interesting, meaningful and appropriately challenging learning situation for faculty members and for themselves.  If we truly believe in our 'learn best whens', why not apply some of the principles from the graphic that Ross created to what administrators do in their meetings?

In faculty or district level meetings, we frequently need to deal with issues and solve 'problems'.  Often times, we put these problems into the form of a question, such as

  • How do we get students to adhere to the attendance policy?
  • How do we implement the new math curriculum?
  • How best do we enforce the dress code?
  • Where can we trim costs to meet next year's budget?
  • What are effective ways to deal with students that are failing?
  • How do we create time within the timetable for teachers to collaborate using the existing structures in the school?

To model the first example in Ross' graphic, if we considered the last example of 'creating time within the timetable for teachers to collaborate', an administrator could choose to approach it in the following way:

Approach A: "In small groups, create a model that gives teachers time with their departments to collaborate using either our Friday morning independent reading block or our Tuesday study hall time."

This approach seems sensible enough, and would not be entirely uncommon (I used a similar approach several years ago).  Yet upon close examination, by setting the problem up this way, we would have made several pre-suppositions.  The first one would be that we only need teachers to collaborate, or to solve this problem.  Secondly, we assume teachers need to work in their departments.  Third, we postulate that this collaboration has to take place during Friday morning reading or on Tuesday afternoon, without exploring other possibilities.  And finally (and perhaps most importantly), we have made the broad assumption that we have any reason to collaborate in the first place!  As a result of this task, one could predict that a couple of slightly different models might be suggested by a group or two, one of the times would be selected, the departmental groups would be set, and beginning next year, we would have collaborative time for the faculty. And once this time was embedded, teachers would start to look at curriculum, instruction, assessment, and other pieces around student achievement.

But what skills would a faculty have learned from doing this? By laying out the task in this way, we artificially set very clear limits on the level of thinking and the subsequent engagement that will be required by the group. The times are already laid out.  The groups have basically been set--we already know for the most part who is in each department.  Really, it is a matter of creating a schedule and perhaps a vote.   Typically there are a couple of people who like creating schedules (bless those logical folks), and if one so chooses to be ambivalent about Tuesday or Friday, a simple hand up at the right time and the investment in this process has ended.  What we will do during this time?  Well, let's figure that out when we get there.

But what if the Principal went about it a different way?  What if the Principal used the principles of PBL and, with the help of the faculty, co-created a driving question (using tools like the PBL Tubric to help), such as...

Approach B: "How can we as educators engage students to deeply learn outcomes across content areas and demonstrate their learning in interesting and unique ways?"

Hmm.  That's a bit different.  But what about collaborative time?  The short answer is YOU DON'T NEED COLLABORATIVE TIME.  Well, that's not the complete thought--you don't need collaborative time UNTIL YOU HAVE A PURPOSE FOR COLLABORATIVE TIME, which may or may not come out of the driving question that has been framed for (or more ideally BY) the group.  Think of all the different facets to this problem...
  • What is new in the curriculum?  How is it different than the old one in each of the content areas? Is there crossover?  Who can help us figure this out?
  • What does it mean to learn deeply?  How do we define deep learning?  What types of tasks require deep learning versus more surface learning?
  • Do we look at lesson design?  Do we look at teaching strategies?  Who can we talk to/observe? What might groups look like if we are looking for learning from students across content areas? Might there be different groups for different tasks?
  • How do students currently demonstrate their knowledge?  Do these assessments truly reflect what students know?  How else might students demonstrate their learning in a more authentic way that gives them flexibility and choice?  What platforms can we use to support students presenting their learning?
  • How will we organize ourselves to work through these questions?
  • Wow, this sounds like a lot of work, and there is no more time in the day.  How can we find time within the day to get together to do this work together?
By working with the group to create a driving question and then subsequently posing this question without what the product might look like, the Principal will have created a task that requires the collective expertise of the group. The task requires the group to think deeply, to ask more questions, and to organize in ways that make sense. The group will have to research, look for exemplars, collaborate with each other and with others outside of the school.  They will have to present ideas, evaluate them, and re-tool them.  They will have to come to consensus.  And in the end, they will have implemented a product that will make a difference for the educators and for the students in the school.  

They will have come up with a solution to an authentic question, not a 'question' to which we already have an answer--something that I believe we pose to learners far too often.  

Approaching a problem in this manner is often challenging, messy, and requires time (much like it did when we created our Inclusive Staff Meetings and Staff Meeting Commitments).  It requires scaffolding and multiple entry points for peoples interests and different skill sets.  It needs to be in a supportive environment where there are a variety of activities that require individual and group participation.  People need to be relaxed and in flow.  And sometimes, the products that come out of a process such as this will need small modifications and refinements, wholesale changes, or to be completely re-vamped.  But in each instance, the learning that will take place by the faculty will be deep.  Far deeper than if we limit the level of thinking, challenge and engagement required by asking questions to which we pre-suppose the answer.

If administrators want to see deeper learning in their districts and in their schools, they need to model the use of tasks that require deeper learning and co-create driving questions.  Each of the 'problem' questions above can be tweaked ways that do not pre-suppose answers or limit creative thought.  However, this requires a commitment by Administrators to ask questions without 'answers', and to be comfortable with the idea that the solutions that a large and diverse group of educators come up with may be different than what they would have come up with on their own.  

And that's a good thing.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tying it Together - PLC with a Twist

Our Staff Commitments
My first year has in my new school has been an eventful one.  In the span of eight months, we have created a model for inclusive staff meetings,  co-created a set of staff meeting commitments, asked the shortest questions possible in making our collaborative group modeldeveloped a common vision, co-created a method for understanding our Pyramid Response to Intervention modelbegun to embark on our model of creating a school of deep learning, and have begun to investigate classroom observations through task analysis and "learning to see and unlearning to judge" with the goal of doing Instructional Rounds in our school in the fall.  Not to mention, we sent a group of our department coordinators to the Professional Learning Communities summit in Phoenix in February, and they have subsequently helped to train our entire staff on effective collaboration at our last four full-faculty collaborative sessions.  And today, we tied it all together at an evocative and engaging professional development session that our PD committee put together to consolidate our 'attributes of a graduate' that we will finalize by the end of the year in order to guide our next fall and in the future.

I know what you are thinking.  Just like me.  Enough already.

On Thursday, I made a promise to our faculty.  No more. No more initiatives. No more programs.  As much as it is in my control, there will be nothing further coming from my desk for the staff for the next couple of years.  This is not to say that we will be standing still, in fact quite the contrary: the hard work is just about to begin.  However, I believe that it is time for us to start filling in from the edges.  To borrow the analogy from one of our teachers (@MrJdeVries), much like a large and complex jigsaw puzzle, we have put most of the edge pieces together, and it is time to see how it all fits together for us.

I believe that we now have the key elements to move forward, to co-create, to innovate, to observe, and to reflect.  And I believe that our focus comes through the lens of the four questions of the Professional Learning Community...with a bit of a twist on each one.
  1. What is it that we want students to learn?  In working with our staff, students and community, and in conjunction with the changing curriculum from the BC EdPlan, we are looking at a narrower and deeper set of content standards.  The Twist:  we will be focusing on creating compelling, driving questions and inquiry-based/problem-based tasks that will require students deeper learning in demonstrating these content standards through the attributes that we want for our graduates. Furthermore, beginning with our Grade 8s, we will involve students in the co-creation of these questions and the problems associated with these questions using tools inspired by those such as the High Tech High Project Tuning Protocol so we can maximize student engagement in their learning.
  2. How will we know that they have learned it? We will be augmenting our existing assessments with collaboratively developed formative assessments in our content areas using our collaborative time. The Twist:  We will design and implement rubrics that measure our attributes (such as those from the Buck Institute) and also co-create structures for our students to do presentations of
    their learning.  By doing this, we can more accurately assess student and instructional strengths and weaknesses in both our content and attribute areas to help better meet the needs of our students and provide feedback to our staff.  And furthermore, by having students present their learning, we will develop transferable skills using 21st century tools, provide meaningful accountability, and allow students the flexibility and choice to be creative in demonstrating 'what they know'.
  3. What will we do when they have not learned it?  We have spent a great deal of time on our Pyramid Response To Intervention model, and we continue to assess its effectiveness and brainstorm ideas to change it so it best meets the needs of our students who are not able to demonstrate content
    The Sa-Hali Support Network--PRTI at work!
    outcomes or our attributes.  The Twist:  Using our classroom observations, 'learning to see and unlearning to judge', the Instructional Rounds concepts, and reflection time during our collaborative meetings, we will continue to develop the culture that uses multiple sets of eyes to give us descriptive feedback (our staff, other teachers, pre-service teachers) on departmental and attribute-based 'struggle points' to improve student achievement and pedagogical practice. The one thing we will will not do? Expect less from our struggling students in terms of their ability to do high quality work that requires deep learning.
  4. What will we do when they have learned it?  Honestly, we hope that our students have never 'learned it'--we hope they will have applied their learning in a way that contributes to existing knowledge and creates new solutions.  We hope to have our students as co-authors of curriculum and co-contributors to our knowledge of how students learn best through their being partners with our staff--models such as that used at Farmington High School in Connecticut.  We hope to push our students farther into the community to provide real-life experiences and internships that make the transition from school to post-secondary less of a leap and more of a stride. Perhaps that is not such a twist after all.
We are finalizing our attributes which will guide us.  We have collaboratively developed structures in place to support student learning and educator learning, and a set of co-created commitments that will allow us to work together, as a team.  With this framework and a movement toward deep learning and innovative pedagogical practices, I feel our school is ready to tie all of this together and fill in the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle from the outside to in.  And with a very positive Mid-Year Review from our School Board Office, we are ready to go.

And while things may and will change over the next few years, it is time for us to do the heavy lifting and consolidate our ideas.  

Exciting times are coming!  And we will make this happen together.

Monday, March 24, 2014

"Rescue" Less, Learn More

This week, I had the opportunity to work with and learn along side of a group of teachers, learning coaches, curriculum and instruction coaches, and administrators in facilitating Instructional Rounds in Fort Worth, Texas. And while this was my second time doing Rounds at Richland Middle School, it was my first time working with this particular group of observers; I was eager to take another group through the process of ‘learning by doing’ at the school.

In and of itself, the concept of Rounds from City, Elmore, Fiarman and Teitel (2009) is intuitive: ideas such as ‘task predicts performance’, giving descriptive rather than judgemental feedback, observing through a specific lens, and even ‘staying low on the ladder of inference’ are quite readily understood. During the first session, the group gets time to work through these types concepts together, to contextualize them, and to apply and discuss them in a number of video simulations. As much as there is a great deal of ground that is covered, group members typically leave the initial session eager, confident, and ready to dive into classroom observations the following day. From my perspective as a presenter, groups seem happy with the approach that we have taken. I often get smiles, thanks, and a smattering of “looking forward to tomorrow”-style comments from the group.

On Day 2, that changes.

After doing a number of classroom observations, the groups return to a central gathering area and begin the process of vetting the data they have collected on their own, with their small group, and then with other groups. Through this process, circulate amongst the groups and smile when I hear comments such as “I don’t think this one is specific enough”, or “How does that relate to the problem of practice?”, or “stay low on the ladder”: participants respectfully challenge each other and stretch the thinking of the other members of the group. At this point, I notice the mental machinery starting to heat up, especially when group members say things such as “What is it that I am trying to say here? I just need a WORD!”. Heads get scratched, temples are rubbed, and people begin to pace. I will hear a “YES! Wait, what did you say? Someone write that down!” followed by a short sprint to find a sticky note and some form of writing implement. Inevitably the group struggles to remember a key piece of what was just said, or another person walks by and asks the playfully dreaded “What is your evidence for that?” followed shortly after by a collective groan as the group heads back to the drawing board.

After that, the learning gets even messier. The small groups start to make patterns of the observation data that they have collected. And while they are given a few samples of pattern statements, the questions begin to come:
“Is this right?”
“Should we be organizing our stickies this way?”
“Are other people doing it like we are ?”
“In which part of our diagram do you thihk this sticky fits?”
“Can you help us? Does what we have done make sense to you?”

Questions such as these are common from each table group. And much to their chagrin, groups are usually directed back to their work with questions like
“What does your evidence tell you?”
“How does that method of organization help you to find a pattern?”
“Why you feel that piece of data should be in different parts of your diagram?”
“Are you making a pattern and looking for evidence, or having your evidence lead you to a pattern?”

Without failure, the frustration level of each participant begins to increase. Red X’s are put through sentences, sticky notes are taken down, and papers are crumpled up. The smile frequency decreases. The amount of coffee and chocolate consumed is much higher. And this time, in one of my all-time favorite moments, one of the participants said “don’t call Cale over here, he’s just going to ask us what our evidence is!”. I laughed so hard I actually snorted.

This type of struggle continues for the remainder of the day, espcially as time runs short and the stakes get higher for the group to produce patterns and predictions that will guide the work the following day. And at the end of Day 2 when I do a survey of how the day went for them, there is a predictable number of comments that are less glowing than those on Day 1. Not specific to this latest session, these comments include things such as:
“this would have went faster with more examples”
“it would have been helpful to have more specific instructions”
“it was hard to know exactly what we were supposed to produce”
“we needed more guidance on how to…”
“my brain hurts”

In order to learn from the group that I am working with, I read and reflect upon every comment that is made on my presentations. And although it is getting less and less each time I work with people on Rounds, inevitably I have a nagging feeling as a presenter on Day Two.


As a teacher in the classroom, I was used to asking students questions that I already had the answer to. Or assigning problems that I could quickly flip through a textbook and direct them to where they could find the solution. I would give students assignments, and after an arbitrary level of struggle (determined by me, of course), I would jump in and rescue them. My lessons were much like an hour long sitcom: there would be an introduction to set the stage, an antagonistic problem with which the protagonist would wrestle, and then, since the hour was coming to an end, a neat and palatable solution just in time for the credits at the 58 minute mark. In my classes, I would get a couple of “See you later Mr. Birk”s and the occasional “that was kinda cool”, and I would feel quite good about myself as a teacher because the kids left happy. Bully for me.

The kids also left my classroom without really being pushed to their capacity. I had rescued them, and although personally I might have gotten a good feeling because the class came to a neat and convenient solution, I look back now and realize that I could have pushed them much farther than I did. I could have stretched them by responding to their questions with probing questions that would help them reflect on what they were doing and guide them to dig deeper. But instead, likely because it felt better for me, I would throw them a motorized life-ring that not only saved them from their struggle, it required very little effort on their part.

As Principal at my own school, I am working with our teachers and teacher leaders to bring deeper learning strategies to our classrooms. I am asking our staff to find and build upon ways to require students to stretch themselves in their thinking and demonstrate their learning in a variety of meaningful ways. We are going to collaborate to find essential questions to which we do not always know the answer to, or at the very least that have no single correct solution. I am excited that as a group, we are going to get messy with learning.

But I also have to be sensitive to the fact that we are going to be putting students into learning spaces where they are going to struggle. In some cases, they are REALLY going to struggle. And most would agree that when confronted with struggle, much like our students, most of us are not always happy about it. We push back. We want it to be easier. We want someone to help us, and for the solution to become evident as a result of our efforts. We don’t always want to truly push ourselves, only to realize that we have been digging an educational hole that is six feet deep but also six feet away from the place where we should have started. We want someone to tell us the hole we dug is 'good enough', or that some sort of backhoe is coming to dig ‘the real hole’. Like our students, we will get frustrated, even mad. And at times, our teachers will leave their classes feeling the same pangs guilt that I did leaving the Rounds session in Fort Worth on Day 2. Because they did the right thing by not rescuing their learners.

I want to help our faculty with that. And the best help I can give is to tell them about Day 3 in Fort Worth.

On Day 3, the group reconvened with their prediction statements ready and waiting for them at their tables. The participants rolled up their sleeves, did a “5 Whys” analysis, and began to create their ‘design and implement’ statements to determine the next level of work for the host school. They debated over words, looked back at their evidence, challenged eachother on ideas, and looked back at their evidence some more. They refined their statements, and then presented them to the rest of the group for a final round of vetting. And then it happened. People began to nod. People whispered and pointed in agreement. They elbowed eachother and smiled and said things like "we saw that too!". The results of their work were becoming clear. And when they finally presented their findings to the host team at Richland Middle, there were more even more smiles from the team and more nods of acknowledgement from the hosts. They got it.

In the de-brief with the observation team as we concluded, team members admitted they were frustrated, and that the process was incredibly challenging and intense. Yet we all had a good laugh when we looked at some of the recommendations for the next level of work that the team had made for the host school--things such as “designing tasks that require students to come up with multiple answers with built in wait time so students to can work through them”. We laughed because the very thing that the group wanted for the students--to be given complex tasks and the time to struggle through them--was exactly what the group of observers themselves found most challenging!

The observation team stayed after to congratulate the host Principal, Dr. Leeann Bartee. They commended her for the evidence-based, tangible actions she had taken on the recommendations for the next level of work from the last rounds session just five months ago. And in one of the most touching moments of my career, with tears in eyes, the group expressed their gratitude to Dr. Bartee and her staff for having the courage to lead their district in modeling Instructional Rounds. The group witnessed powerful and deep learning for the school and for the team. And so did I, the one who felt that tinge of guilt when the observation team left the session on Day 2.

When we see people struggle, we want to help. Inherently, I believe we feel good when we help others. And while sometimes it feels good to help learners, struggle is a good thing, even when we see learners getting frustrated with the task and sometimes with the teacher. With the right scaffolding and high expectations for the success for the group, I believe that we can push through that struggle and truly experience deep and meaningful learning.

And there is nothing more satisfying for a teacher than that.

A special thanks to Staci Hammer (@stacihammer) for inspiring this post, to the tremendous group of observers from Birdville ISD, and to Richland Middle School Principal Leeann Bartee (@LeeannBartee) and her staff for being so willing and eager to receive and act upon feedback from Instructional Rounds observation teams.