Assume the Best

Nov 11, 2014 | by Janice Smith

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October: the beginning of fall, pumpkin flavored everything everywhere… and  the longest month of the teaching year.   I can clearly remember from my years in the classroom exactly how I was usually feeling around the beginning of November.  My patience was apt to be a bit shorter, and my eagerness for a much needed vacation was growing by the minute.  It wasn’t that I loved my students any less, it was just that the lack of sleep had built up and it was sometimes harder to maintain perspective in those hundreds of tiny moments that are part of the day.  An unsharpened pencil was suddenly a stop-the-world moment (though in all fairness there are times it should be), and a student with an untucked shirt found himself at the silent lunch table.

Which is why for this week’s Video of the Week, it seems like a good time to focus on what we call Assuming the Best.  The idea that when students aren’t meeting our expectations we start first by assuming that they’re not clear on what they should be doing, as opposed to consciously making a poor choice.  In this week’s Video of the Week we see Mr. Allen using this during New Student Orientation, helping to set the tone for the year.  This example is in the context of content (remembering the definition to a term he introduced earlier that day) as opposed to management (students not having materials put away in the right place), but the idea remains the same in either case.  When we’re not getting the result we want or expect, start with self reflection and what might be missing on our end (clear directions, strong instruction, etc.)  On top of that, he follows it up by modeling humility and owning student mastery of a term he had introduced earlier in the day.  He is amazing at always modeling the character traits and habits he teaches his students, so it’s definitely worth a quick search in the library to watch some more clips from his class.

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