Over the last few years, I’ve come to realize that my greatest duty as a teacher in any capacity is to create the conditions that enable relevant (or at the very least meaningful) and engaging learning and work. These words possess a distinct and critical meaning, too.

This conclusion led me to another important discovery:  I need to become very critical of my own practices and processes as well as those that are imposed upon me. More and more often, I’m finding myself stepping back, slowing down, and thinking very carefully about how I might coach, teach, plan, problem-solve, and even parent in the “least invasive” way possible. What does this mean?

Well, for one thing, it means that while I rely on data to drive many of the decisions I make, I must be careful not to capture that data in ways that might feel invasive to the learners I’m working with or others I am serving. For instance, photos like the one above (taken during last summer’s Studio sessions) can provide me with very meaningful information relevant to our outcomes, but I don’t have to disrupt student-centered learning in order to capture it. In fact, I’m realizing that I rarely need to be invasive in order to assess learning. I also don’t need to stand at the front of the room or direct the train. If meaning and engagement are priority number one, then those things can’t be sacrificed to the gods of assessment or data-driven instruction. We’re losing too much time to this. We’re losing too many kids. I truly believe that we can’t improve what we do not measure, but I also know that the way we measure must be improved if we’re to truly create and maintain conditions for learning.

Many years ago, I actually thought this might be an either-or proposition. I’m realizing that it isn’t though and that in fact, skilled practitioners are often quite stealthy in their approach around assessment and the collection of meaningful data.What they learn enables them to be even less invasive teachers. It empowers them to put learners and learning at the center of their work rather than themselves and their own stellar but still teacher-driven plans. This has been one of the most exciting discoveries I’ve made, as it’s provided a lot of resolution around issues that have always seemed to plague me.

Teachers and leaders who get this give me so much hope, and more and more of them seem to be.

We’re teaching in profoundly exciting times.

I’m interested: how do you teach or lead in quiet and less invasive ways?

I’d like to learn more from others who are striving to seek resolution here as well, particularly literacy coaches, teachers of writing, and those charged with leading assessment initiatives. Who can you recommend?


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