Is it me?

Wow. It does not take much to trigger me. “Is it me?” A classic question that NO ONE wants to answer. I appreciate that someone is willing to speak to someone face-to-face and inquire if the problem is him or her. Unfortunately, you’re NEVER going to hear the answer that would reflect the truth. So why ask? Is there another way to ask the question? NO ONE is going to say the problem is YOU. That’s just a fact. How can we get around this issue in an educational system that desires and hopes for vulnerability? As you can see, one question provokes me to ask many other questions. It makes me curious.

I just spoke with a student who was faced with this situation. “Is it me?” This student could not confirm or deny that the problem was the teacher. Why would this student do so anyway? Horrifying. If the roles were reversed, we would never say that the problem in our classroom is the student. We would say it’s his/her behaviour, actions, or mindset… SOMETHING THAT YOU CAN CHANGE. It’s a strange phenomenon in education that I question. How can we have a more vulnerable education system that encourages more formative feedback amongst stakeholders to leverage learning when all those involved are somewhat defensive, politically paranoid, or easily hurt? We end up “functioning” in a edu-vacuum where not much is said except for pleasantries and workplace politeness.

Formative feedback is NOT PERSONAL. It should reflect your performance and competencies. Not only should it reflect these attributes, but also should provide you with what to strive for and how to get there. In fact, receiving formative feedback is in your best interest… to be come a better YOU… and those who are providing feedback provide an expertise and want YOU to be a better you. They have your best interest in mind. Formative feedback is about helping each other and the information shared benefits both the evaluator and recipient. It goes beyond collective efficacy… formative feedback is more like COLLECTIVE WINNING. The mantra would be, “we’re in this together.”

But no… “Is it me?” sets people apart… to an US vs. THEM scenario. The power differential is in full play and of course, the subordinate in this relationship would naturally concede and say… “no, no, no… it’s me.” Unbelievable… and in the end, NOTHING CHANGES. There is no opportunity for “real” formative feedback and an opportunity to get better, be better, or make the situation better. All that this scenario perpetuates is the status quo… and if it’s not good??? It remains NOT GOOD. Is this an educational model that we can tolerate? Apparently, the answer is yes. This is disheartening. Education is ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS. It’s fragile and resilient at the same time. We need to be asking the right questions. We are the creators of what we see. So, what do you see?

We are constantly immersed in the formative. From the viewpoint of the teacher, are your students engaged, empowered, and passionate about what they are learning? Or are your students disengaged, on their phones, and indifferent? Maybe they are somewhere in between… but guess what? You are creating that behaviour. This is the challenge of teaching. It’s complex and dynamic. There is never THE SAME at any one moment in time… nor should we strive for that. We are not hoping for robot-like students who are homogenous in their thinking or doing. We want to nourish their competencies, strengths, and interests. How do we create a love for learning for all stakeholders? Wouldn’t it be great to develop passionate learners instead of compliant consumers? This is my hope.

The worst part about this question, “Is it me?,” is asking the same question to self. “Is it me?” Self-assessment and self-reflection are integral to the teaching/learning/leading process and when we question self inappropriately or inaccurately because we are functioning in a vacuous silo, then this is when it goes wrong and ugly. How can someone take ownership of something when they don’t know if it’s them or not? It’s a poor assumption. Similarly, one cannot take ownership for something when no one is talking formatively or if one is confronted with “Is it YOU?” No one is winning. Nothing and no one gets “better.” And yes, the status quo persists. Are we really learning in education?

Let’s end this edu-rant with a bit of research. According to John Hattie’s (2016) updated results… factors with the greatest effect size on student learning include feedback (0.73), teacher clarity (0.75), and teacher credibility (0.90). Teacher credibility ranked NUMBER ONE. Do not underestimate the power of the teacher and your influence on student learning. Student looks up to the teacher. It’s important to be a role model but also provide feedback and clarity. It can’t be “Is it me?” anymore. This message goes to all levels in education. We are in this together. It has to be, “It is WE.” Think formative.

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