I posted this morning about the power of building a Culture of Error in the classroom. The idea is that if students try to hide their errors from you, you have to work twice as hard to find them, but if they WANT you to see them… if you tacitly agree that uncovering error and fixing it is your shared task, a good right and just thing, well, then you are on your way.
But I also want to point out that this same principle also applies to the adults in the building. I once worked as a consultant with a principal who wasn’t very good with data. My job was to help her analyze and use her data to understand her kids’ needs and strengths and to help make her teachers better. But it was very hard. Every time we met she pretended to understand what I suspected she didn’t. “Yeah, ok. I got it. What else?” I wanted to spend time one-on-one at her conference table answering all the questions she was afraid to ask in front of her bosses or her staff or just working through the things she knew a bit about but didn’t have locked down to mastery, but in the end I couldn’t get her there. She pushed the conversation onto the things she was able to do with data… or she pushed the conversation off topic, or she expressed suspicion of the veracity of the data, or she didn’t follow through on tasks, or she said she already understood and had already had the meeting to explain that to her teachers, etc etc etc. In the end her school foundered.
I took that lesson with me when I came to Uncommon Schools and started hiring principals to run high performing schools. One of the things I knew I wanted was people who were humble enough and confident enough to let me see their weaknesses–who would expose their errors rather than hide them. But I also had to learn to do more things to show my leaders that my conception of my job was that it was my first obligation to help them and to make them better. I had to model exposing my errors to them. In the end I think that understanding that it is a sign of talent not weakness to be comfortable exposing error is one of the core skills of a leader. Learning that remains one of my biggest managerial lessons.
So I just want to follow up on the discussion of building a “Culture of Error” in the classroom by observing that what applies for students also applies for teachers, principals and employees of any variety, not to mention players, teammates, spouses and maybe most of all kids.