If you see something, say something.
I started my teaching career in middle school with a resource room math class. I had never taught math before and didn’t have any curriculum materials to draw from, so I went to the eighth-grade math teacher on my team and asked her what she was teaching her students. Then, I taught my students with the exact information that she gave me. In my inexperience, I didn’t think twice about it. I just assumed this was what I should be teaching.
One day, I was observed by a consultant who told me, “Your students are learning the Pythagorean Theorem. If they are learning exactly what the students in the regular classroom are learning, why aren’t they in the regular classroom?”
That one question was all it took for me to know that I needed to take action. I approached the math teacher about integrating my class with hers and within two weeks, all of my students were included in the regular classroom. I started co-teaching every day with the mainstream math teacher and the impact was incredible. EVERY student’s math scores increased that year. EVERY STUDENT.
Thank goodness that consultant said something.
She didn’t go to anyone else to ask that question; she went right to me. I didn’t take offense to it. In fact, I was grateful for the fresh perspective on my classroom. This was more than 20 years ago and honestly, I didn’t know the regular classroom was an option for my students because no one had told me.
Now I am a consultant visiting schools across the country. Too often, when I am talking to coaches, principals, parents, district leaders, and teachers, I’m told about something they saw or heard in a classroom that didn’t sit well with them.
Yet, too often nothing gets said out loud to the educator themselves.
When I ask if they said something to the person of whom they were talking about, I often get answers such as:
“I don’t want to offend them.”
“It’s not my role.”
“I’m trying to work it into some other conversations.”
“I’ve told ‘insert name here’ about it and I assume they will do something about it.”
“It won’t make a difference.”
Because that consultant saw something and SAID something to me, I not only shifted my entire practice for that year but my mindset about my students’ abilities and approach completely changed from that point forward and has stuck for more than 20 years.
Here are a few ways in which you can say something when you see something in your school:
AIC Feedback: This type of feedback is what we train coaches, principals, and teachers to use when giving feedback to peers. AIC stands for Affirm, Impact, and Challenge or Continue. While the language should be authentic to you, the purpose is to affirm something you notice that is working and share the impact it is having on students. From there, challenge your colleague or push them to continue to do something that will build upon that affirmation and improve the impact they are making.
How this looks in action: I noticed that Samuel loved bringing the note to the office for you (Affirm) and he felt proud to have been given that responsibility (Impact). How could you find more opportunities for him to have responsibilities over similar kinds of jobs? (Challenge)
Ask the question…authentically: When the consultant asked me why those students were in the resource room, I felt as if she genuinely wanted to know. It didn’t feel like she was setting me up or had ulterior motives. She authentically asked WHY those students were there because she didn’t know the answer. She wasn’t judging or being passive-aggressive. The fact that I struggled to answer the question was all the rationalization we both needed to know that something had to change.
How this looks in action: A teacher is talking to you about how she has been having a hard time with students completing homework or bringing necessary materials from school. In order to help the teacher come up with ideas, a possible question that could prompt reflection yet be authentic could be, “How often are you able to call home to build relationships with families?”
Be a support: Nothing is worse than someone bringing up their opinion about how something has to change, but walking away without offering to help. If you see something and know you have to say something, think about what you will offer or do to support that teacher in making a change towards improvement.
How this looks in action: I can see that you are feeling frustrated with some of the behaviors in your classroom. One thing that really helps me is to script my precise directions so I am really clear in being able to communicate my expectations. Do you want me to show you how I do it and then help you craft your own?
What are you holding back in mentioning that could make a transformational difference in the lives of your colleagues or students?
If you see something, say something!
By Carrie Lupoli, Education Consultant and Certified Health Coach