Accidentally On Purpose

As a traveling educational consultant, I plan learning sessions for adults who (for the most part) I’ve never met and develop learning goals for teams based on (for the most part) a phone conversation or two. It’s challenging and results in frequent surprises when I actually meet groups face-to-face.

I recently worked with teams in a large county-wide district where the charge was to work with K-6 curriculum developers on the UbD process of identifying learning goals and developing transfer tasks. This is a group that has received significant PD on Understanding by Design and have already spent months identifying priority standards and considering next steps.

A departing administrator decided at the last minute to include a group of secondary folks who had zero PD on the process and little information about why they were sitting in on the elementary work sessions. After Day 1, I quickly realized the need for a re-design to provide a purpose for their attendance (as well as accomplish the original goal for the elementary team). The sessions became a modified fishbowl so that the newcomers could learn from the working teams.

The original sessions were structured for learning and working — and fortunately, this enabled a quick redesign. In the end, feedback from the secondary folks  indicated that there was, indeed, high value in their sitting in with the elementary teams:

  • I used to think that my content was all I needed to teach, now I think I need to use everyone’s content
  • I used to think outside of the box inside of my classroom, now I know I need to think beyond my classroom
  • I used to think good assessments assessed many standards, now I think good assessments assess many contents
  • I used to think my secondary assessments were more difficult to create, now I think that pre-K assessments are incredibly difficult to create
  • I used to think the work I did was more important than elementary school, now I know how deep the elementary teachers build the foundation of learning
  • I used to think that we were doing an adequate job, now I think we need a whole new mindset
  • I used to think that in order to assess my students I had to be an expert in my content, now I think I need to be an expert in all contents
  • I used to think my ELA content was most important (if they don’t know what a simile is, where are they going in life?), but now I know that we are really supporting all the other content areas
  • I used to think that I was preparing my students for the next level, now I think I am so narrow minded
  • I used to think that our system prepared students for their future, now I think we can do so much better with a more global view
  • I used to think middle schools had to teach foundational skills, now I wonder why we aren’t raising the bar
  • I used to think it was a really bad idea to bring secondary folks in with the elementary teachers, now I think it was a really good idea (based on the feedback you gave/asking challenging questions) and the vision of the process

To quote Eisenhower: Plans are useless, but planning is essential.