Uinta County School District #1
November 2018-Newsletter Vol. 34
ESCAPE FROM THE ZERO-LEARNING ZONE
Given the complexity of learning and our own flawed perceptions of ourselves, we shouldn't be surprised if we find ourselves in the Zero-Learning Zone. Ron Heifetz captured our predicament well in his book (with Marty Linsky) Leadership on the Line (2002) when he wrote about adaptive change, a particular form of deep learning:
Adaptive change stimtulates resistance because it challenges people's habits, beliefes, and values. It asks them to take a loss, experience uncertainty, and even express disloyalty to people and cultures. Because adaptive change forces people to question and perhaps redefine aspects of their identify, it also challenges their sense of competence. Loss, disloyalty, and feeling incompetent: That's a lot to ask. No wonder people resist. (p. 30)
But while learning is challenging, perhaps even threatening, it is also essential. To live truly fulfilling lives, we need to be curious. Choosing not to learn is choosing intellectual impoverishment, something teachers cannot afford. Teaching is a learning profession, in part because each individual child is a unique learning opportunity, and also because to ensure students receive the learning they need and deserve, we need to keep striving to be better. What's more, if we expect our students to learn, we need to show that we are learning.
Fortunately, there are many things we can do to move out of the Zero-Learning Zone. Here are a few:
Flip your perspective: One way to move forward as a learner is to gain a different perspective on how you lead and teach, or how your students learn. The easiest way to do this is to video record yourself doing something important, such as teaching a lesson. If you're not ready for video, try the audio record function on your phone. Interview students to hear their perspectives on your teaching. This will force you to see or hear things outside of your own perspective and, yes, learn.
REAL LEARNING ONLY OCCURS WHEN WE CONFRONT OUR FEARS AND MOVE FORWARD
Create specific goals. Well-crafted goals can provide guideposts that nudge you out of your comfort zone. As Heidi Grant Halvorson (2012) says, "Taking the time to get specific and spell out exactly what you want to achieve removes the possibility of settling for less--of telling yourself that what you've done is good enough. It also makes the course of action you need to take much clearer" (p. 6). Our research on coaching at the Kansas Coaching Project at the University of Kansas identified five variables that make for effective goals. We summarize these variables as PEERS goals: Powerful, Easy to Achieve, Emotionally Compelling, Reachable and Student-Focused. Most frequently, the PEERS goals that teachers set are achievement-related (students can write a well-organized paragraph), engagement goals (students demonstrate that they have hope on weekly quick, informal assessments of their attitude), or behavior goals (transition time takes up less than 5 percent of class time).
Utilize design thinking. Design thinking is a methodology for creating and problem solving that applies the strategies of design to real-world challenges and opportunities. A teacher who applies design thinking to achieve a goal in her classroom might, for example, decide that she wants a higher level of engaged conversation during classroom dialogue. Taking the stance of a designer, she might identify the goal to be that 75 percent of students contribute high-level comments during classroom dialogue; try out and adapt various approaches to facilitating discussion, such as encouraging more active listening, using different questions or more provocative and relevant thinking prompts, providing more affirmation of students, or establishing clearly defined academic-discussion norms; gather data each time she tries out a different approach; make modifications based on the data; and continue to test and adapt until the goal is met.
One of the advantages of design thinking is that it reduces the stress and anxiety of attempting change without a framework, and therefore helps to push teachers out of the Zero-Learning Zone. Rather than trying to get things perfect the first time, teachers taking the design approach experiment, gather data (possibly through video), try again, and repeat, learning all the time.
Conduct a hope audit. As mentioned earlier, the three factors that are essential for hope are agency, goals, and pathways to the goals (Lopez, 2013). If we feel that we may be losing hope, we may find it useful to conduct an audit to see if we are coming up empty in one of those three areas. Ask yourself: Do I have a clear, specific goal? Do I have strategies I can use to hit the goals? Do I believe I can hit the goal? If your answer to any of these questions is "no," then you need to identify resources that can help you find hope and reach that goal.
Keep it simple and targeted. Learning may seem overwhelming if we try to accomplish too much all at once. Choose one learning target and stick with is until it is accomplished. An excellent example of targeted learning was described on the now-defunct Teach TV web site in the United Kingdom. The video showed an elementary teacher explaining how each Friday she made a list of all the students in her class. For the students whose names she forgot or had to struggle to remember, she made notes about their unique strengths. The next week she took special care to think about the students she'd forgotten and reminded them and herself of their strengths so that she didn't forget those students the next Friday.
Treat yourself with compassion. Teachers are often hard on themselves than anyone else would ever be, and certainly harder on themselves than they would ever consider being with a friend. I believe educators need to be more compassionate toward themselves. Daniel Pink (2018) offers a simple way for doing that. He suggests that when we are disappointed by something we've done, we should write ourselves an email expressing compassion or understanding, imagining "what someone who cares about you might say" (p. 143). When we step out of the Zero-Learning Zone we will have times when we screw up or experience fear. To keep learning, we need to adopt what Pink refers to as a "the converse corollary of the Golden Rule:...to treat [ourselves] as [we] would others" (p. 143).
Leading Our Own Learning
Teacher-led learning has great potential because we can influence and inspire students when we model our own learning. When we improve, we have greater impact on students' achievement and well being.
Additionally, when we lead our own learning, when we see more and learn how to act more effectively, our lives improve. Learning is our lifeblood, and we live better when we learn more.
To experience that learning, however, we need to step outside of the Zero-Learning Zone. We need to demonstrate the courage it takes to watch ourselves on video, interview students, experiment with prototypes and iterations, stay hopeful, draw on the resources that already exist, and forgive ourselves when things don't work out. What matters is that we intentionally keep learning. When we do, our children's lives will be better, and so will our own.
-Jim Knight, Nov. 2018 Vol. 76 No. 3, Educational Leadership ASCD, Pg. 20
Substitute Training @ ESC Boardroom
Monday, Nov. 19th, 7:30am
537 10th Street
RSVPs are enabled for this event.
~OPEN POSITIONS AT UCSD#1~
Contact Kristine Hayduk at 789-7571, ext. 1023 with any questions.
Cheri Dunford, Supt., Board Exec. Assistant Ext. 1021
Dr. Joseph Ingalls, Assistant Superintendent K-5 Ext. 1026
Doug Rigby, Assistant Superintendent 6-12 Ext. 1025
Alicia Johnson, Instructional Services Admin. Asst. Ext. 1024
Kristine Hayduk, Human Resources Ext. 1023
Matt Williams, SPED Director Ext. 1040
Diana Olson, SPED Admin. Asst. Ext. 1041
Bubba O'Neill, Activities Director Ext. 1060
Dauna Bruce, Activities Admin. Asst. Ext. 1061
John Williams, Business Director, Ext. 1030
Jaraun Dennis, Facilities Director, Ext. 1075