Monday, February 03, 2020

Teachers: Sometimes we don't have the answers

It's okay not to have the answer as an educator. We are met everyday with situations that are new to us. No matter how long you teach, you will always come across new challenges--events you simply don't know how to respond to. The key is knowing what to do when you don't know what to do.

Be honest
It is okay to say to a colleague, parent, or student, "I simply don't know what to do in this situation. I want ____________________ for you or your child or this situation, but I don't know how to get there. What do you suggest?" Typically beginning by questioning the stakeholders involved is a terrific place to start.

Make a plan to find out
Work with students, colleagues, and family members to figure out the situation beginning with what you know, "We know that. . . ." And then, once you've collected the knowns, then work on the vision statement--what is it that we want to achieve and why. Make sure your desired outcome and rationale are solid and agreed upon by the team. It is likely that the first problem in getting to the place you desire is the fact that the team of students, family members, and educators do not agree on the vision. After you know what works and where you want to go, then fill in the steps from what is happening now to where you want to go.

As I think of a situation I'm working on now. The knowns are students' abilities, curiosity, good supports, and positive health and energy. The desire is to help the children become full members of the classroom community in positive ways that include the child's choice and voice. The steps ahead include greater modeling, teaching, and support for the many ways the children can more successfully be included in the classroom community. The challenge is to list those ways to gain greater inclusion specifically and then to figure out with the team how we can provide greater modeling, teaching, and support for those efforts.

Chart your efforts
It is easy to forget your efforts in areas that are challenging or unknown, so it is important to clearly document your efforts. The documentation help you to look back at where you started, the missteps, and the progress you've made. The documentation can be helpful to future, similar situations too.

In teaching as in life, we will continually be met with situations that are new, confusing, and unknown to us. The worst thing we can do is pretend that we understand the situation well when we don't. The best steps we can take are to acknowledge the mystery of the situation, work with the team to make a plan, and chart the efforts. That's a good way to move from unknowing to knowing in ways that benefit our students well.