The Stories We Tell

"Story Road"

So I am really starting to enjoy my Twitter PLN (Professional Learning Network); a few weeks back I read the following tweet:

…seems pertinent for the time of year when we traditionally make resolutions to attempt to be better and do better.

Speaking with colleagues, reading the headlines, hearing educational leaders at national and local conferences…it is interesting the stories that we choose tell about our schools, our teachers, our students.

When we observe the current state of education in our nation we typically see exactly what we are looking for.  Governments and legislators can view the most recent results from PISA and remark how the US has dropped below the OECD international average in mathematics, reading, and science.  Some will go on to claim this as an impetus for reform in teacher evaluation, assessment, and education funding.

One could look at the same data and realize that the achievement results have a direct correlation with the status a nation places on the education profession.  Many of the highest performing countries on PISA hold educators in high regards…on the equal professional level as doctors, lawyers – with corresponding preparation and compensation.

Local educators…we are just as guilty.  As a former statistics teacher I realize that the same data can be used to tell a number of stories – each accurate, each with a different purpose.  At all levels of schools, educational professionals choose to see what they are looking for and choose to tell the stories that they wish.

School district leaders can easily look at typical school performance data and tell a number of stories.  We can quickly pass judgment on the effectiveness of building administrators and help them transition out or we can give those same building administrators an encouraging pat on the back and help them identify additional areas of improvement.  Principals can observe classrooms of energetic and enthusiastic students.  They can then cite their evidence of teacher effectiveness by choosing to note either the number of students who were actively engaged or conversely the numbers who were not – glass half full or half empty.  Teachers can look at their classrooms of kids through whichever lens they choose.  Through the lens that sees the unfortunate baggage that some students are burdened with or the lens that sees only the “good students” who already know how to do school.

Questions to Consider:

  • What do you see when you look at the people you most interact with?
  • What are looking for?
  • What stories do you tell about your district?  School?  Colleagues?  Students?

In the end it comes down to an individual choice.

In this new year will you choose to see the good work that people do and the challenges they have already overcome?  Or will you choose to see inadequacies and areas of needed improvements?

I believe the difference makers in education see all people – students, teachers, parents, and administrators – where they are and strive to help them all realize their highest potential.

Those are the stories worth telling.

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