Reframing The Situation

I think that there can always be a reason not to do something. And I can say this because I taught Kindergarten for 8 years, and I constantly chimed in at Staff Meetings with a long list of why the plan wouldn’t work for us. In my mind, these were all valid concerns. Maybe I would make the same arguments today, but I’ve changed a lot in the last five years, and here are my new wonderings.

Instead of saying, “But my students don’t have the skills to do this yet,” I wonder what would happen if we asked, “How could we help develop these skills?”

Instead of saying, “But I need to teach the background information before they can think,” I wonder what would happen if we asked, “How can the students acquire this knowledge? How can thinking and learning go together?”

Instead of saying, “But I have students that can’t read,” I wonder what would happen if we said, “What texts are available in different formats? How can I use assistive technology to help?”

Instead of saying, “But I have students that can’t write,” I wonder what would happen if we said, “How can students share their knowledge without writing? How could I use voice-to-text software to help?”

Instead of saying, “But that activity is too unstructured for my students,” I wonder what would happen if we said, “How could we provide structure for those students that need it?”

Instead of first looking at the impossibilities, I wonder what would happen if we instead started with the possibilities.

The truth is that over the years, I’ve had all of these concerns. Over the years, I’ve let the questions stop me from exploring new options. But I’m starting to think that I had it wrong. I can’t help but consider these words of advice from our superintendent, Sue Dunlop, on a previous blog post of mine:

2014-01-30_19-26-22Instead of letting the concerns stop us, what would happen if we used them as stepping stones to solutions? 

Like so many educators out there, I continue to look at ways to improve my practice. I’ve met with some success, and I’ve met with lots of failures. I’ve learned from these failures, and I’ve tried again. Do I still make mistakes? All the time! But do I remember these mistakes, reflect on them, and make changes? Absolutely! I feel very fortunate to work in such a supportive environment where I know that I can share these mistakes, discuss new options with others, and try again. To “try again” though, we need to “try” in the first place. What have you “tried?” How has it worked? How has it not? Where do you want to go next? I’m hoping that we can share and learning together!



9 thoughts on “Reframing The Situation

  1. Instead of first looking at the impossibilities, I wonder what would happen if we instead started with the possibilities.
    Wow. I have to agree with you on that one. We have so many teachers who think negative, but you need to think positive to acheive, and help students acheive also. Reflections also develop self-regualtion and the power to know what to do next. I recently started a few reflections on my blog, but if I started with this opening, then maybe it would be easier. An inspirational quote is always the best way to have well, inspiration. To give a little add-on, if you please, could you perhaps answer some of the positive questions?
    Sometimes, when you are on a stepping stone, you lose your balance and SPLAT in the water. Some teachers stay their in their anger and don’t move on. That’s when they start saying “But my students don’t have the skills to do this yet,” etc. The real. meaningful teachers get up, dry off, and continue hopping from stone to stone. You did more of this, that is how you achieve to this point, when you write a post.
    Thanks for the cooperation , and I can’t wait to hear your answers!

    • Thanks for your comment, Yusra! I don’t think that anyone ever intends to be negative. I think that teachers always want what’s best for their students, and there’s always a concern about how to best meet these needs. Nobody wants to set a student up for failure. When things don’t work, we re-evaluate, and sometimes, re-evaluating means re-looking at if we should have tried this plan (or activity) in the first place.

      In the past year especially, I’ve started to wonder if initial failures don’t mean we should give up completely, but instead, see how we can improve on our plans. I’ve started to realize that it’s okay to see the possible problems with a plan, but then look at the solutions. Problems don’t mean that we need to give up. They may just mean that we need to try in a different way.

      Yusra, I would LOVE to answer these questions, but I’d like to wait just a little bit to see what others say. I don’t want my answers to influence others (as much as I want to share). I appreciate why you want to know though, and I do think that knowing the answers would make this post better. So if you can give me just one week, I’ll share all of the answers then. (Please try to remind me if I forget! :)) How does this sound?

      Thanks again, Yusra, for always providing such a great student voice!
      Miss Dunsiger

        • Yusra, you’ve waited very patiently for my reply, so here it goes:

          1) I address not having the skills yet, by figuring out what these missing skills are and then what mini-lessons I can do to help build these skills. Sometimes this is a full class lesson, but often it’s just a small group activity to help support specific students as they learn more.

          2) I address helping students get the background information by creating Pinterest Pages with meaningful links (both text ones and video ones) at different reading levels. Then students can explore the topic first, and learn the information for themselves … making sense of it as they go and as they talk more with their peers (and with me).

          3) I address different reading levels by using a website such as Newsela that gives the same article at different levels. I also rewrite information to help students understand it better. Using assistive technology options such as Read Out Loud also helps (through the Premier Toolbar). I’ve even recorded readings before that students can listen to, or I find videos that give the same information as the text, but in a different format.

          4) I address difficulty writing by letting students record videos and podcasts to share what they know. Some students use pictures. I also have them use tools such as Dragon Dictation to help. WordQ also helps a lot, and I’ve scribed for students before as well. There are lots of different options.

          5) I address the problems with unstructured activities by creating lists of what to do (for students that need it) to provide more structure. I also break assignments apart into different tasks (to provide structure) and give suggested timelines for each task. This helps students manage their time, and gives me a chance to support students throughout the process.

          I hope this helps! I’d be curious to hear what other have to say.

          Miss Dunsiger

  2. Your post reminds of of another technique to reframe. Instead of looking at the deficits, we look at assets. It’s called asset based thinking. It’s also a way to look at students’ skills when we are trying to meet their needs.

    • I love that idea, Sue! It’s funny, as it’s what I try to think of when writing IEPs or planning for students with various needs in the classroom. I just didn’t know that there was a name for this before now. Time to do some Google searching and professional reading! 🙂

      Thanks for the comment!

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