Inquire first before jumping into action

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There are lots of things that we would like to improve in our schools. At times, being an educational leader feels like being in a whirlwind of change; there is never any let up, as school improvement occurs at a relentlessly fast pace. Despite what can be seen as a manic level of effort, a number of the changes that we try to make actually stick, or they fall way short of the success that we envisioned.

One of the limits to us being successful with our efforts in bettering our schools, is that we are in this constant rush that we do not take the time to do things properly. We need, on occasions, to go slow and be thorough in order to make greater gains later on. We need to take the time to really understand the problems that we are trying to solve or fix.

Taking the necessary time to diagnose a problem and comprehensively examine its root cause takes patience in that we gather the available evidence to make informed decisions that help us to improve. This can be frustrating, as educators can too often lean towards their experience in making the decisions about what needs to be done next. Relying too much on our experience, can see us jumping too quickly into action, seeking quick fixes and never really solving the problems that we are faced with.

It is strange that, as teachers, we want our students to inquire and wonder, yet we do not always have the temperament to do this ourselves. Instead of allowing time for research and discussion, we can go straight to the decision that we think ought to be made.

A great example of this occurs when teaching teams review assessment data and immediately use gut instinct to state the reasons for the learning gaps. A better approach is taking time to write down everyone’s observations about the assessment data before any wonderings are allowed to occur. Then, as the team begins to wonder why the assessment data presents as it does, time needs to be set aside for an open minded approach to list all possibilities, not just what a dominant few think it to be, based on experience alone. Then, come the actions in response to the wonderings, taking the time to consider each one on its merits and having the necessary restraint to research the best possible action(s) that can take place to remedy the situation, as opposed to diving in based on prior experience.

We have to remember that experienced does not necessarily mean expert. We should always be open to learning and researching, even if it leads to affirmation of what we claim to know and understand. Moreover, we are not happy when students rush work leading to poor performance. Similarly, our students are not deserving of rushed decisions and quick fixes from their teachers and school leaders.

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