I’ve Always Kind of Thought Greek History Didn’t Seem Real

Could there be a better time for students to understand the importance of evaluating the sources where they get information?  Not only a common core standard but a valued life skill. One creative hook is to introduce students to an article from “”America’s Finest News Source,” the Onion.  Any satirical source for that matter would work just fine.  One of our favorite articles is titled, “Historians Admit to Inventing Ancient Greeks.”  It was especially near and dear when Percy Jackson books were all the rage.  A teacher might think a students’ precursory examination of the ads on the page, or even the “shop” button at the top, would be a dead give-away.  But they aren’t!  

“Sorry Alexis, being from Greece, I’m sure this is kind of a bummer to find out,” I consoled one seventh grade student this year.


“Ah, it’s okay.  I’ve always kind of thought Greek history didn’t seem real.”

Even greater credence giving to the value of learning to evaluate sources.

5 W’s Introduced
Thankfully questions inevitable do however always surface. In response we take the Onion through the 5 W’s of Website Evaluation.  The following table was built on a Britannica breakdown.

WHOWho wrote the pages and are they an expert? Is a biography of the author included? How can I find out more about the author?
WHATWhat does the author say is the purpose of the site? What else might the author have in mind for the site? What makes the site easy to use? What information is included and does this information differ from other sites?
WHENWhen was the site created? When was the site last updated?
WHEREWhere does the information come from? Where can I look to find out more about the sponsor of the site?
WHYWhy is this information useful for my purpose? Why should I use this information? Why is this page better than another?

Research, Note Taking and Evaluation

After students designed their own research questions and received feedback, peer to peer and teacher, time is provided to research.  Paraphrasing is practiced in note taking form and sources cited. Then, students are tasked with identifying any one source they used and putting it through the 5 W’s to determine if ultimately they should trust where their information came from.

For the Love of It

I would like to say there was intention in how the lessons culminated but it seemed to happen more organically. Careful not to come off as the boasting type, I wanted to review what was learned and what better way to make this memorable than to look at a professionally published piece by their teacher?  One, where at the top the author was listed as “Guest Author.” 

“Sus!” students were quick to blurt, meaning suspicious.

As I scrolled down I asked volunteers to share their observations. They were quick to note how images were credited, the article was recently published, and several active links to find out more were included. The links to reputable sources like the New York Times and Harvard. Then, at the bottom they saw my name and possibly even more surprising to students, was the invitation to click on my Twitter handle.  

I didn’t anticipate any further questions but may have guessed someone might ask, “How did you get your work published?” Or, “How long does it take you to write an article like that.”

Instead, the only question was an expected one.

“How much do you get paid to write those articles?”

Remembering back to more than two decades ago and my Masters work, the teachable moment seemed to scream in my ear.

“Get paid?” I quizzically asked.  Honestly disbelieving in a sort of way,  

As if artistry and joy are any less meritable than money. Base but also aligned with the experience of many students. The “is this on the test” mentality perverting the wonder and excitement of learning.

“I don’t receive any compensation in the form of money.  Instead, I write because I love it,” I imparted.  Finishing with such a message seemed like the perfect closure. To share out of generosity but also in gratitude for the one reader to whom my words might resonate. 

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GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

The sounds of science – these are all brand new picture books that deal with science: the science of sound and light. Share these books during science but also during social studies or just before music lessons.

Sounds All Around, the Science of How Sound Works by Susan Hughes, illustrated by Ellen Rooney. From natural sounds like the buzzing of a bee or the clap of thunder, to instruments and sirens – this book looks at how sounds happen and what they communicate. A nonfiction book for budding readers. ISBN 978-1-5253-0250-3, Kids Can Press

Listen Up! Train Song, by Victoria Allenby is a board book for toddlers, turning all train sounds into a song. A story to share aloud, teaching the importance of rhyme and rhythm in poetry while having fun with onomatopoeia. ISBN 978-1-77278-213-4, Pajama Press

My City Speaks, Darren Lebeuf, art by Ashley Barron is a lovely, colourful picture book for the very youngest readers about all things city. From mailboxes to construction sites, from city parks to sidewalk shops, a sight-impaired girl explores her city and its sounds. Complete with a heartwarming ending. ISBN 978-1-5253-0414-9, Kids Can Press

Lights Day and Night, The Science of how Light Works written by Susan Hughes, art by Ellen Rooney is a wonderful first guide to the science of light. It explains in simple terms how light travels, how light is absorbed or reflected. It tells of the difference between natural and artificial light. A glossary in the back gives more details on terms. The entire picture book is a perfect balance between text and art, story and science. ISBN 978-1-5253-0319-7, Kids Can Press

The Science of Song, How and Why we Make Music, by Alan Cross, Emma Cross and Nicole Mortillaro is a fascinating account of music, what it is and how we make it. From the oldest instrument (a bone flute of 40,000 years old) to rock star holograms, this new nonfiction title chronicles the history of music people have made over the ages, and how it works. Here, finally, is a book that especially music teachers will love! ISBN 978-1-77138-787-3, Kids Can Press

And speaking of sounds and music, here’s a novel about a musical legend, reviewed by teen-aged reader Matilda Colvin:  Kid Sterling by Christine Welldon.

It’s 1906 in America. Sterling Crawford, a 11-year-old trumpet-player, lives with his family in New Orleans. He’s set on learning from Buddy Bolden, an icon who is now remembered as a father of jazz. Being African American, Sterling also grapples with the devastating systemic racism of early-20th-century America. The story of Kid Sterling shines a light on the beginnings of jazz culture through its roots in oppression, solidarity, and courage. Its engaging narrative weaves coming-of-age and historical fiction to the soulfully defiant sound of a jazz trumpet. Kid Sterling is as much about the evolution of a vibrant genre as it is about one determined boy. Buzzing with jazz history and bursting with life, this book will be devoured by young music fans and aspiring jazz artists—as well as anyone who’s interested in the story of a creative kid with a dash of vivid history.  ISBN 978-0889956162, Red Deer Press

Margriet Ruurs is the Canadian author of many books for children. She shares her travels to international schools and her passion for books here: www.globetrottingbooklovers.com

Mississippi River Challenge

This coming summer, my son Max (Class of  2026) and I are going to attempt to canoe down the entire length of the Mississippi River (2,400 miles)!  In doing this we are going to be raising money for two of the service organizations that ISY supports.  One is United World Schools which our school, ISY has already partnered with to build a school in Myanmar. Each year ISY raises money to support the school and money raised from this challenge will go towards ISY’s annual financial commitment.  The other organization is the Care for the Least Center which is an orphanage in Yangon. Funds raised from this challenge will go towards a new access road, a transformer to allow them to have electricity and a harvester to harvest the rice they grow for food.

Our home is in Minnesota which is where the Mississippi River starts as a small river.  As it flows south it becomes America’s largest river ending in the Gulf of Mexico.  To canoe the length of the river has always been a dream of mine which hopefully we’ll realize this summer. We will post updates on this challenge on my Tie Online blog from time to time but you can also follow along on Dr. Hedger’s personal blog. Donors of $1,000 or more can have their names/company logos placed on  my blog.  If you would like to donate to this challenge you can use the dedicated donation page.

A Little Bit of Magic

So I was walking by the early childhood outdoor learning space the other day, when I stopped to chat with a couple of kids playing in the hedges beside the mud kitchen. They were very animated and very interested in some leaves that had fallen from the adjacent tree, and I asked them what they were looking at. They said, “We are looking for fairies because they live in these bushes and they float down from the sky on the leaves!” One of the little girls then said, “My brother says that fairies don’t exist but I know that they do, and I’m going to find one to show him”. I told them good luck and I went on my way, smiling and thinking about how beautiful that interaction was, and how quickly it made my day. 

Anyway, a couple of days later I was running through the park close to my house and I turned down a particularly gorgeous tree-lined trail. As soon as I did I noticed dozens of autumn leaves falling from the trees to the ground like soft, colorful snowflakes, and I all of a sudden began to imagine that each leaf had a tiny little fairy riding on it, just like the little girl had imagined. I even slowed down to pick one up, just for fun, to see if I could get that elusive evidence for her but of course, no such luck. As I got going again I started to think about what a gift it must be to see the world like those little kids do, with such imagination, and wonder, and with such a belief in magic and magical things. Things that make us wonder, and excited, and leave us with an absolute sense of awe. 

That beautiful run through the park, and that interaction with those fairy detectives opened up my heart to the fact that there is beauty and magic all around us, and sometimes we just need to be reminded to open up our eyes and look for it. Over the past week I have been trying hard to notice as many magical, awe inspiring things as I can, and you know what, it’s hard to keep count. Just in the last couple of days alone I’ve seen a double rainbow, shades of autumn colors that I have never seen before, a brightly colored woodpecker outside my house, a cotton candy sunrise and a sunset that looked like it was literally on fire. Not to mention the beautifully haunting sound of the wind just before it rains, and the smell of the world after the rain stops. It’s hard to even walk down the street without being stopped in your tracks by something amazing, but of course, you have to be looking. 

Even as I write this I’m looking out the window at two yellow roses that are hanging on tightly to their last few summer petals, and there is a little ladybug clinging to the stem of one of them….so cool. This little reminder has come at the perfect time too by the way, as the weather is getting colder and the days are getting shorter and the light is getting scarce. The descent into winter is here and these little magical gifts will keep me going during this time of transition. It’s not lost on me that the nudge to open up my eyes to the beauty of our world came from a couple of children, oftentimes our greatest teachers. So with all that said, my challenge to you this week is to search for beauty everywhere you look, and even though you might not find a fairy floating down on a falling leaf, you might just find some joy and gratitude, which is sometimes all you need to keep you smiling through the colder and darker days. Enjoy this poem below, one of my favorites, and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed—and gazed—but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

-William Wordsworth

Quote of the Week…

Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.

– Roald Dahl

Related Articles – 

Nature Creates Magic

Embed Magic Into Your Everyday Lives

Finding Magic

Unlock the Magic

The Science of Magic

The Magic of the Mundane

Inspiring Videos- –

Helping Dads

Setting Records

Things That Made Us Smile

The Restorative Potential of Nature’s Beauty – (TED Talk)

Cloudy With a Chance of Joy (TED Talk)

For the Love of Birds (TED Talk)

Fibonacci Magic (TED Talk)

Future of Assessments: AUTHENTIC Performance-Based

The Future of Assessments

Performance-based assessment requires students to demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and strategies by creating a product or process; it requires students to perform the task instead of writing about it or answering questions about it. For example, an authentic performance task in sciences requires a student to conduct research on the impacts of fertilizer on local groundwater and then report the results through an informational brochure. These assessments are authentic as it imitates real-world scenarios and issues.

With the socio-economic demands for a highly skilled workforce, teachers need to design performance-based assessments. Another pressing reason is the paradigm shift in approaches to teaching and learning; with hybrid and online teaching, assessments need to be performance-based to be authentic. Traditional paper-pencil tests are obsolete and archaic, hence the future of assessments is performance-based authentic assessments.

Performance-Based Assessments

Performance-based assessments are a very effective way of assessing and teaching. These assessments engage the students in hands-on activities and help them develop skills by solving real-life problems. It aligns with contemporary learning theories and also helps teachers employ best practices in teaching and learning. Performance assessments reflect how students acquire and use knowledge, they can include research projects, STEM investigations, mathematical and computer modelling. This approach helps to foster critical thinking skills and conceptual understanding while providing an authentic learning experience to the students.

Three Big Ideas 

Here are three big ideas for designing performance-based assessments tasks:

  1. Focus on the purpose of the task: Since performance-based tasks are dynamic and can be created to suit the learner’s needs and context, I would advise new teachers to focus on creating tasks that enhance the students conceptual understanding of the subject. 
  2. Design student-centered or student-led activities: Performance-based assessment tasks should be completed by students to demonstrate what they know about a given topic. The difference between this type of assessment and the traditional method is that students can better communicate what they know and how they know it.
  3. Define the criteria for success: Once a teacher has listed the learning objectives and the performance assessments tasks that can be done to achieve the objectives, they should list the criteria for success. The criteria should define everything that is expected from the students through the performance-based assessment. For example, the material required, the content knowledge, the online resources and the ways to get the task completed. Without defining the criteria a teacher cannot successfully implement performance-based assessments.

A Few Roadblocks

Teachers might find it challenging to design and implement performance-based assessments. This is mostly because these assessments move away from traditional types of assessments and sometimes teachers are not trained to create such tasks. A big challenge is the lack of teacher training, therefore schools and organisations need to invest in teacher training for addressing challenges related to creating authentic assessments.

Another major challenge is the time and effort required to create these tasks. Some strategies to overcome this challenge is to plan in advance and focus on achievable goals instead of starting a huge project that takes up a lot of time and students lose interest.

Useful Tips 

Here are my top five tips for designing authentic performance-based assessments :

  • Align performance-based assessments with learning objectives to make them meaningful for the students as they understand the purpose.
  • Make the assessment realistic, relevant and contextual, students are quickly disengaged if the task is not age-specific or at par with their ability.
  • Keep the assessment student-centred, they should have an option of how they want to complete it and articulate their understanding.
  • Plan for group tasks, students get an opportunity to discuss, collaborate and complete the task without anxiety or stress.
  • Allow students to reflect on their process of learning, this helps them to identify how they can learn best.

Design the future of assessments by designing authentic performance-based assessments.

global book recommendations

November 11, May 5 or any other date – many countries set aside one day a year to remember those who gave their lives for their country during a war. In the Common Wealth people often wear a poppy on their coat during November. Why? These beautiful picture books will help explain the stories of war to children and remind us not to forget.

Impressively, the following books were all written by one author: Linda Granfield. Born in the USA she is the Canadian author of many books for children including these beautiful wartime stories.

John McCrae served ‘in Flanders’ Fields’ when he wrote a touching poem during WWII. Since then his words have been memorized by generations. The beautifully illustrated picture book pays tribute to those who served and the legacy of a young soldier dealing with the horrors of war. Art by Janet Wilson. ISBN 9780773759251

The Vimy Oaks is the true story of a young soldier during World War I. Scared, lonely and frustrated, Leslie Miller mails home a handful of acorns from Vimy Ridge in 1916. Amazingly, these oaks still flourish in Ontario, Canada. A touching story about the human side of war. Illustrated by Brian Deines. ISBN 9781443148504, Scholastic

Memories of a soldier serving in Afghanistan blend with a grandfather’s memories of serving during WWII in this hardcover picture book, illustrated by Brian Deines. “This book really highlights the reality of what many soldiers have gone through during their time in Afghanistan. [It] touched my heart and brought me right back to those hot sunny days in the desert so far away from home and family.” says Master Corporal Christopher D. Russell, Canadian Forces Military Police. ISBN  9781443113564, Scholastic

So many soldiers lose their lives during a war. In the heat of battle their names and identities are sometimes lost. What if a person dies in a foreign country with no one to tend to their graves? This book looks at National Tombs of ‘unknown soldiers’ reminding us to never forget them. Complete with photos and background information boxes. ISBN 9780439935586, Scholastic

One of my favourite titles is High Flight – the beautiful poem written by another young British poet/soldier in 1941. Born in Shanghai, John Magee was only 19 years old when he wrote this poem while serving in the RCAF. ISBN 978-0887764691, Tundra Books

This book shares the recollections of over thirty men and women who served with the U.S. and Canadian forces in Korea during the years 1950-53. With a foreword by Russell Freedman, the veterans in this book represent a wide variety of army service areas, including medical, supplies, infantry, and naval. Their recollections are illustrated with their own personal photographs. The book attempts to understand the human face of war. Timeline, glossary, bibliography, Internet resources, index.  ISBN 978-0618177400, Houghton Mifflin

Linda Granfield also wrote: • Where Poppies Grow, A World War I Companion (ISBN 9780773733190, Trifolium Books; • Remembering John McCrae: Soldier-Doctor-Poet. Scholastic Canada

LEST WE FORGET

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

With Halloween and Día de los Muertos coming up, I can’t resist sharing some wonderful appropriate reads with you! These books are a treat, not a trick!

Brand new this Fall is a book that I immediately fell in love with: The Strangest Thing in the Sea by Rachel Poliquin, with art by Byron Eggenschwiler is brilliant. The clever text tells us about the strangest creature that lives in the ocean. But when you flip the flap over, it reveals the real amazing creature, together with lots of fascinating nonfiction information. But – this is not the strangest thing in the sea… So continues each page, each flap to reveal something even more bizarre. Vampire Squid, Goblin Shark, Yeti Crabs that resemble a pile of skulls… But guess what the strangest creature of all is, who could not survive its explorations of the deep sea without equipment and inventions… A beautifully executed picture book for deep sea lovers of all ages ánd fun to read at Halloween. ISBN 978-1-77138-918-1, Kids Can Press

FROM FAR AWAY by Robert Munsch. This might be Robert Munsch’s least well known book but it’s one of my favourites. He co-wrote this picture book with Saoussan Askar (age 9). She wrote a letter to Robert Munsch, of Love You Forever fame, to share her story of immigrating from Beirut, Lebanon. She was happy to live in a safe place, but when Halloween came around she was suddenly confronted with ghosts and skeletons in closets. Munsch skillfully turned her scary tale into a funny one that highlights differences in cultures and the difference a caring teacher can make. Great to share at this time of year! ISBN 1-55037-396-X, Annick Press

GHOSTS by Raina Telgemeier is a graphic novel. Its word choices and story content make this is a great story for slightly older readers. Catrina, her sister Maya who suffers from cystic fibrosis and their parents move to a new town. Catrina does not like it there. Nor does she like the town’s history full of ghosts, which is celebrated during Diá de los Muertos. Catrina is very hesitant to go out on Halloween night but she and her sister meet many ghosts who help change their perspective. ISBN 978-0-545-54062-9, Scholastic 

MARY WHO WROTE FRANKENSTEIN by Linda Bailey is the beautifully crafted background story of Mary who, as a little girl who learns to read by tracing the letters on tombstones. At age 19 she is challenged by Lord Byron and Percy Shelley to write a scary story. Mary Shelley ends up creating the most terrifying, and enduring, tale of all: Frankenstein. This gorgeous biography showcases captivating art by Júlia Sardá. A great book to use, even in high school, to discuss the origins of Frankenstein and where stories may come from. ISBN 978-1770495593, Tundra Books

global book recommendations

Books for athletes… Do reading and sports go together? When I conduct writing workshops in schools, I always love being able to involve the PE teacher in the reading and writing process. Here are new and long loved titles about sports!

The Thing Lenny Loves Most About Baseball

The Thing Lenny Loves Most about Baseball by Andrew Larsen, art by Milan Pavlovic, is the universal story of a kid dedicated to a sport he loves but isn’t very good at playing yet. But with the help of his dad, and sustained by his book of baseball facts, Lenny perseveres and, through practice, becomes a valuable member of his team.

ISBN 978-1-77138-916-7, Kids Can Press

On the Line

On The Line, Kari-Lynn Winters, illustrated by Scot Ritchie, is the newly released story of Jackson, who comes from a long line of hockey heroes. Jackson’s not so sure he can live up to his family’s expectations. He feels like a potato on skates. But maybe his skills are not in skating but planning and organizing. When his team needs a plan, Jackson saves the day. A good story not just for hockey fans but to discuss each person’s different strengths and skills.

ISBN 978-1-77278-218-9, Pajama Press

Crocodiles Play! by Robert Heidbreder (2009-03-01)

Crocodiles Play! by Robert Heidbreder, art by Rae Maté.

In this fun, rhyming sports romp, the crocodile teams has their equipment and sports all mixed up. Theyplay basketball with bats, baseball with golf clubs and slam-dunk with ping-pong balls. The littlest readers will laugh aloud chant along with this silly poem picture book until the crocs get it just right.

ISBN 1-896580-89-0, Tradewind Books

The Farm Team

Ice hockey is not just for people. In Linda Bailey’s The Farm Team, illustrated by Bill Slavin, the farm animals just love to play but are not very good at it. Each year the coveted tea cup goes to the rough and tumble Bush League Bandits. Until the year when, after much practice, the Farm Team manages to outwit the wild animals and bring the cup home. An older read that remains hilarious for all hockey fans. 

ISBN 978-1-55337-850-1

Margriet Ruurs writes books for children and a blog about books and travel: www.globetrottingbooklovers.com

Gender Disparity in STEM

Women are considered to be less interested in STEM subjects and careers. While much research has been done to attain a better understanding of the gender disparity in STEM, one reason comes up again and again and it is the bias and stereotypes associated with genders. A recent study found that both men and women were twice as likely to hire a man for a job that required math (Hill et al., 2010). Here is an attempt to understand why this gap exists and how can teachers contribute towards reducing the gap. Gender disparities continue to be a defining characteristic of STEM education, as per the research done by Kenney-Benson et al. (2006) female students’ STEM grades are equal to or better than those of their male classmates in elementary and secondary school. Yet when it comes to gender equality male dominance is seen in all fields of STEM. 

Our society has created gender stereotypes since ancient times when humans started farming and the role of physical rigour was assigned to men. Gender role stereotypes convince us to allow the male gender to be agentic, take the lead to inquire and explore and find solutions to problems. This has manifested in the male gender made to conform with cultural representations of math and science. Even the attributes of a STEM learner are problem solvers and innovators which are associated with role stereotypes of the male gender. This itself proves that we orient our thinking towards STEM to be a masculine subject. Gender bias comes into play when assigning tasks for problem-solving. Typically in many classrooms across the world, girls are given the task of decorating or designing, while boys are given the task of research and investigation in a task. This is due to masculine stereotypes prevailing in the teaching of STEM, peer expectations, and lack of fit with personal goals (Dasgupta & Stout, 2014). This type of bias makes girls move away from STEM fields creating a huge gender disparity in STEM.

This has multiple ramifications, for example, female students of colour (SoC) struggle to complete STEM experiences, which becomes a barrier to shaping identity and academic success (Jones, 2019). Multiple frameworks highlight the lived experiences of female SoC in STEM including identity theory, and intersectionality. It demands consideration be given to the space, community, and present structures where identity work is produced. The decline in the number of female SoC graduates in STEM disciplines is partly due to discriminatory approaches by public universities, schools and colleges of race-based affirmative action. Till this date, many educational institutions require students to declare their race, ethnicity, religion even before getting an admission offer. Furthermore, STEM programs are often structured in a way in which students have to essentially prove their intellectual worth to stay, they may be forced out if they don’t meet high academic standards. Minority students already face unfair stereotypes about being intellectually inferior, and this is likely exacerbated in STEM programs, according to the study (Jones, 2019).

Teachers Can Bend The Arc

Since stereotypes and biases still exist, teachers need to make a conscious effort to bend the arc towards gender equality in STEM. For example, practising a pedagogy to instigate an inquiry mindset in young girls. Inquiry-based tasks that teachers create by understanding the student’s needs is a great way of including girls and students of colour in STEM learning. Also, teachers do not consider the need to address the lack of interest in STEM subjects by girls. If they were made aware of this as an epidemic plaguing the education world, they will guide the girl child towards inquiry or problem solving or experimenting.

Furthermore, STEM integrated with authentic science projects engages learners, hence girls can be engaged in activities that they would usually not be interested in due to societal stereotype or bias. Planning group work for fostering peer support for female SoC is also an effective strategy as peer support matters to participants’ success in critical ways both academic and social. The group work fosters safe, engaging climates for asking questions. 

In summary, equity, relationship and students’ interest should be the core elements and practices for encouraging girls to pursue STEM subjects. Teach them to ask uncomfortable questions, create a space for them to discuss uncomfortable questions and teach them to bend the arc.

References

Dasgupta, N., & Stout, J. G. (2014). Girls and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics: stemming the tide and broadening participation in STEM careers. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 1(1), 21–29.

Hill. C., Corbett, C. and St Rose, A. (2010) Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (Amer Assoc Univ Women, Washington, DC).

Jones, T. C. (2019). Creating a World for Me: Students of Color Navigating STEM Identity. The Journal of Negro Education, 88(3), 358–378.

Kenney-Benson, G. A., Pomerantz, E. M., Ryan, A.M., Patrick, H. (2006). Sex differences in math performance: the role of children’s approach to schoolwork. Dev. Psychol. 42

Presuming Positive Intent

So recently as a school we have been digging deep into two wonderful professional development opportunities…Adaptive Schools and Cognitive Coaching. Learning about ways that we can better interact and collaborate with each other, both individually and in teams, is a huge opportunity for us to strengthen our relationships, and to build trust and vulnerability, which will ultimately bring us closer together as a community. I have been through this training before at a previous school and it was transformative then, so going through it again here at ASP is super exciting to say the least. 

Anyway, as I have reflected on the sessions thus far, and as I re-familiarize myself with the 7 norms of collaboration, I can’t help but feel that for me, the norm of presuming positive intent is truly the foundation of any successful human interaction. It’s a skill that will absolutely change your life for the better when developed and used consistently in conversations, meetings, and all other interactions that you have with others throughout the run of a day…truly. Like all skills however, it takes practice and discipline to get good at it, and to be honest, it’s much harder than you might think. 

The thing about presuming or assuming positive intent, which is the belief that people are in their heart always meaning well and doing their best, is that it gets you to think of others first, and not yourself, and this a muscle that needs strengthening over and over and over. I have often found myself in difficult meetings or contentious situations over the years where I feel myself getting defensive very quickly, and starting to take a person’s words or actions personally. I’m sure that this happens to all of us, maybe more often than we’d like to admit but here’s the thing…if you enter into a meeting with an open heart and an open mind, searching for the root of the issue and taking yourself out of the equation for a minute, you’ll find that people almost all of the time want a good result, and in many instances, they want the same result as you. 

When you presume positive intent you open up yourself to the notion that conflict usually comes from a place of fear, or insecurity, or a lack of trust, and with this in your mind you are better able to hear people, see people, and take the personal off the table so to speak. The other thing about presuming positive intent is that it allows you to enter into situations with a sense of caring, compassion, and with a willingness to forgive. Listen, people make mistakes all of the time, I know that I certainly do, but believing that these mistakes come from a place of well meaning changes the conversation and outcome, and it ultimately strengthens relationships.

In my life and in my job, like I am sure is true for you as well, I have difficult conversations all of the time, but I’ve become better at approaching them over the years. In fact, by developing the skill of presuming positive intent, and practicing this before I enter into a conversation, I have actually started to feel very comfortable with these experiences. I don’t always get it right of course, and being human I still get defensive once in a while, but having developed the skill of presuming positive intent through years of practice, I have positively changed my life. I have also learned to listen more intently, see people more clearly, and get to the root of an issue much more quickly.

Like I said, as educators and as human beings, we almost all of the time come to a space meaning well and wanting to do our best. We want people to know this about us, and we should commit to knowing this about others too. Once this happens we will all be better for each other and for our world, and honestly, our school and community will become a stronger, safer, and happier place. With all that said, my challenge for all of us this week, and in the weeks to come, is to practice this skill intentionally. Remind yourself when you enter into conversations, meetings, and interactions with others that everyone is meaning well and doing their best. Practice this skill of presuming positive intent and watch your life, and the lives of others start to change for the better…it has been working for me and I know it will work for you. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

Gratitude in advance is the most powerful creative force in the universe

-Neale Donald Walsh

Related Articles – 

The Collaborative Way

Assuming Positive Intent 

Edutopia 

Relationship Superpower

An HR Playbook

Making the Right Assumptions

Adaptive School Toolkit

Inspiring Videos – 

Invest in Kindness

School Bus Driver

Casting the Light of Kindness

Mel Robbins – Assuming Positive Intent

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