Planning for Misunderstanding

Over the three day weekend Amy and I flew up to Jakarta to stay with some friends of ours.  Getting from the airport to their house required a ride with a Grab driver who, seemingly, was very helpful and polite.  However, the next morning I received a phone call from a Grab representative inquiring about some extra charges that the driver had added onto our fare (I paid with credit card.)  I was very impressed that this huge company was being proactive about something they could’ve easily just missed or decided to ignore.  It became clear to me that they’ve spent time anticipating potential problems or trouble areas for their clients and can now respond proactively when situations arise.

Recently I’ve been listening to a really interesting podcast by Craig Barton, a Math teacher in the UK.  On the last episode I heard, he interviewed former teacher and author of Teach Like a Champion, Doug Lemov.  During their conversation they discussed the idea of planning for misunderstanding, as I was reflecting on my interactions with the Grab representative I realized that this was a very similar situation – Grab had planned for my misunderstanding.

While we’re planning units and lessons for our students it’s important that we take the time to stop and think through their potential misunderstandings before we teach the lesson.  By taking the time to process the material from our students’ perspective we are able to proactively trouble shoot the challenges our students may face as learners.  By anticipating potential problems we move from being responsive teachers to proactive facilitators of learning, a huge step forward on behalf of our students.  

Over the next two weeks you’ll be very busy writing comments, marking assessments, and providing quality feedback to your students.  However, when it comes time to think about those first units of semester two, take some time to plan for misunderstandings.  Grab had the foresight to realize that extra charges added onto a ride need a little investigation and dedicated time and effort to ensure that my experience was the best it could be.  What can you do as an educator to make the experience of learning in your classroom the best it can possibly be for your students?  

Planning for misunderstandings might just be the most effective strategy you can use to help your students, take the time to do this before teaching a lesson.

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Planning for Success

The Fine Arts Festival this past week was a tremendous display of the awesomeness that we have here at AC.  Our students, teachers, and staff did an amazing job of sharing the learning that is happening in the arts each and every day.  From music to arts to drama, it was an amazing display of the wonderful work being done in the arts.

One of the highlights of the Fine Arts Festival (one of the many) was the drama performances happening each day.  At the end of day one I heard a lot of people talking about the amazing 9th and 10th grade drama performance, I knew I couldn’t miss it!  The reviews were spot on, the production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime was impressive beyond my expectations.  More importantly perhaps is that I learned something from this performance, or rather I made a big connection to something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently.

Christopher, the main character in this story has, as is stated by the book jacket, a “condition”.  Throughout the scenes in this performance Chris finds his own way from a small town outside of London into the big city using the train.  The “condition” Christopher learns to manage in his life is unnamed in this performance/book but it appears similar to Asperger Syndrome or a high-functioning version of Autism.  My learning doesn’t come from the details of Chris’ character but I beleive the background knowledge helps provide understanding for my connections.

See, Chris has a lot of trouble making his way in the world.  Certain tasks that could be simple for you or I might be extremely scary or difficult for someone like Chris.  However, he manages to accomplish his goals, but how?  Well, Chris has strategies, steps that he takes to meet his goals.  Sometimes his goals are as seemingly easy as crossing a busy courtyard to reach a ticket office or cash machine.  Chris considers the challenge, stops and assesses his plan/strategies, and moves successfully into action…left, right, left right.

All of us had the privilege of attending TTT on Friday and the takeaways were many.  We walked away with all sorts of new ideas, strategies, and tools.  Perhaps you gathered so many great ideas that thinking about implementing them when you get back to your classes seems overwhelming.  Perhaps it’s like Chris in the metro station; it’s loud, intimidating, and scary.  However, you CAN work those strategies into your practice…it requires the strategies (which you now have) and a plan to carefully and successfully infuse them into your work.

Whenever we have a big undertaking ahead of us, whether it’s Chris getting to London, rewriting a thematic unit to be more student centered, or leading a shift in school culture, it takes time and a carefully thought out plan to successfully achieve your goal.  Chris needed some special tools, things that he knew worked for him but may not have been helpful to the rest of us…what are your special tools for success?

Where do you want to go and where are you standing?

Now, how will you get there?