I’ve learned that data aren’t necessarily the engine of a powerful inquiry team.
The team is, and teams are often comprised of very diverse members, particularly if every teacher serves on a team (and in my experience, this must be the case if we’re aiming for systemic improvement).
When I leverage the diversity of the group and promote it as a strength, our work becomes very productive. When I allow my personal beliefs and passions to get in the way of this, the work becomes painful and little progress is made.
This is my greatest struggle: reminding myself daily that I’m not there to convince people to care about what I care about, teach the way that I teach, lead the way that I lead, or do things the way that I think they need to be done.
Service providers like me aren’t hired to fix broken teachers or students. We aren’t about transforming teachers into our ideal or inspiring them to transform kids into their own. If we’re doing it right, teachers and kids come into their own by unearthing new ideas, processes, and solutions together. As they do? Well, people like me disappear.
I try to remember that I work in service to teachers and kids…not my own ideals. I’m called upon to facilitate their learning. I help them figure out what others are good at and what they need. I support them as they work hard to help one another. This works best when everyone acts in alignment with their own passions and their own convictions, which are sometimes very different from mine.
Honoring this vision has helped many of the groups that I support gain traction over the last several years. For instance, I’ve learned that when very different people examine the same set of data, they bring very different perspectives and interpretations to the table. They see different–and often–very powerful solutions that I did not conceptualize. They get excited about testing them. And when they realize they aren’t going to be shamed or judged for doing it differently than others might, they are far more motivated to take risks, apply new ideas, and seek better solutions.
Over the years, I’ve learned that data don’t tell us anything, and it’s a big old waste of my time trying to manipulate teachers into doing it my way. Buy-in isn’t something I hope to achieve. It’s something that great data work creates. In my experience, improvement isn’t the result of being “driven by data.” It happens when data are informed by teams of teachers who are wonderfully and powerfully….diverse.