Pythagoras suggested that the beginning is the half of everything. Anyone who has been facilitating ELA work around the Common Core Learning Standards this fall knows this, because David Coleman makes reference to it  here as he focuses on powerful ways to begin the act of reading. Pythagoras was clearly on to something, and I can’t help but think that the way we begin the work of Race to the Top will be worth half the whole as well.

Last summer, Joanne Picone-Zocchia, coached the fellows of my learning community through a process intended to help us uncover our personal frames for teaching and learning and facilitating change. I found this process so powerful that I decided to re-purpose it for my work with teachers this fall.

This was how we began our Race to the Top, and this tool helped to facilitate our thinking and conversation.

Joanne helped me remember what matters to me most. She helped me remember where I come from as a teacher, who my greatest influences have been, and what kind of difference I hope to make within the field. As I reflected on these questions, I couldn’t help but think of all I’ve learned along the way and how it solidifies what I know and what I’m capable of right now.

Think of all you’ve learned about powerful practices during your career. Think of what you’ve taken away from your personal and professional experiences. Who have your professional heroes been? Who inspires your learning? Who are your mentors and guides? Who challenges your thinking most? What perspective has been gained from your mistakes? What do you still need to learn and accomplish for kids?

These are fundamental questions, and if we don’t ask them at the beginning of this work, we stand to lose a lot as we move forward. This is much of what I’ve spoken to in my most recent posts.

I also think it’s critical to consider how our answers to these questions limit us too, though.

Our vision, our passion, our expertise, our years or even decades of experience—all of these things empower us to learn and work and support others well. They can also limit our potential too. They can be blinding.

Maintaining this awareness can help us keep our minds open. It can also prompt us to seek out and consider the perspectives of those who are very different from us as well. How can we listen and learn how to help those who truly need something from us that our personal vision, passion, expertise, and experience hasn’t prepared us to give? These things don’t always serve us well.

This realization dawned on me the first time I began investigating learning styles and considering how my own might get in the way of my success as a teacher. It returns to me every time I begin strategically planning or facilitating an initiative for teachers.

It’s a lot of what I think about as we begin the work of Race to the Top.

It’s what I invite the teachers I am working with to consider as well.







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