All the Time

26 March 2010

I will let you in on a secret: There are times when the project I am working on is overwhelming in scope and complexity. I don't get to reinvent a wheel, or more accurately, I remain so unimpressed by existing models that it is far preferable to start from scratch than to try making chicken salad from chicken s***. It is true that I do not have to engage in this work alone. I am very fortunate to have a phenomenal group of teachers to work with; however, it is on my shoulders to ferret out the path and provide them the tools to keep us moving forward.

The good news is that we are making progress. The exciting news is that when we are finished, this state will have something no other state does (but don't worry, we'll share). And even more exciting, is that we are slowly finding ways to measure the unmeasureable: organize ideas, generate creative solutions, and more. We are doing so in ways that build in best practices for instruction. I can hardly wait to see what happens next.

Facilitating this work has been a real test of my skills. At the beginning of this part of my career---about the same time I started blogging---I was fortunate enough to be provided with some staff development on working with adult learners and have a supportive environment for learning to actually do this kind of work with teachers. I didn't realize just how fortunate I was to have been provided this until the last couple of years. I am grateful that I know how to change my position in a room and regulate my body language depending upon what is happening with a discussion. I know when to let a discussion range and how to pull back gently on the reins and refocus when it's time. I am very good about wait time---I don't believe that there is such a thing as an awkward silence. I can push a group on a task, but I also know when it the point of diminishing returns has arrived and can decide what the next move is. All of those "old" skills are as useful as ever.

But I am learning a lot of new things while facilitating this current project. I am learning that in choosing a group, the more diversity of experience, the better. No one feels the need to outdo somebody else or get pissy over a piece of territory. Everybody has something unique to contribute and the collaboration is stronger. I am learning about the kinds of things that are okay for my office and me to decide ahead of time and which things are better suited for large group discussion. I was completely surprised at a recent meeting how putting a copy of the synthesis of their work to date in their hands totally removed a sense of anxiety in the room. I think that they have been feeling just as overwhelmed by the size of the project as I have been---and to hand them something concrete was like tossing a lifesaver to one swimming in a stormy sea. I am getting better at rearranging pieces of work during meetings. I plan as best I can ahead of time and then remind myself to be flexible once the group gets moving.

I like building these skills. I don't know when I'll need them again, but I am frequently surprised at what I need to pull out of my tool kit and use to facilitate during a project. It's still good to be learning all the time.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Frank Noschese said...

I was fortunate enough to be provided with some staff development on working with adult learners and have a supportive environment for learning to actually do this kind of work with teachers. I didn't realize just how fortunate I was to have been provided this until the last couple of years. I am grateful that I know how to change my position in a room and regulate my body language depending upon what is happening with a discussion. I know when to let a discussion range and how to pull back gently on the reins and refocus when it's time. I am very good about wait time---I don't believe that there is such a thing as an awkward silence. I can push a group on a task, but I also know when it the point of diminishing returns has arrived and can decide what the next move is. All of those "old" skills are as useful as ever.

I teach several ed-tech inservice courses at my school. Any book suggestions for me to pick up those "old" skills??

8:06 PM  
Blogger The Science Goddess said...

I will look at my shelves at work and see if I have anything sitting there which I would suggest.

Most of my opportunities came in the form of inservice---getting to work with an expert. I also had the benefit of watching people in the department who had already honed their facilitation skills. This was great for being able to detach from the discussions and just watch the mechanics of facilitating things.

8:39 PM  
Blogger Frank Noschese said...

Thanks!

FYI, I started SBG this year and (despite being a bit overwhelming for me at times) this kids love it. It's not perfect, and I'll be making changes next year, but I'll never go back to the old system.

I asked my kids to reflect upon the system recently, and I compiled their results here:

http://tiny.cc/SBG-survey

I have convinced our Art teachers to go SBG next year and I'll likely run a workshop or in service before June.

I owe you a big thanks for all your help back in August!!

9:13 PM  

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