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Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

06.10.13Learning and Struggle–A Postcard from Nashville

Spent the day in Nashville, observing training (and new teachers) at TNTP’s Nashville Teaching Fellows program. Pretty outstanding program.  Gonna post more later about the great things they do to prepare new teachers for the classroom.  In the meantime I thought I’d share this tiny little—but really powerful—artifact from my visit.  This was on the wall in one of the training rooms.



It’s a reflection on the 100% technique, which would-be teachers had studied and practiced and were now trying to implement in summer school classrooms in city public schools.  The chart paper asks folks to post brief comments on when they succeeded and, perhaps more importantly, when they failed. Why is that important?  Mostly, I think, because teaching is really hard work. It’s inevitable that people are going to struggle to implement—especially brand new teachers—so it’s critical to make it safe and normal and natural to stumble forward, fail even, if you want to call it that, though failure preceding knowledge preceding a few steps forward toward success, preceded by (usually) more failure more slogging forward with a bit of wisdom in your pocket is the only kind of progress I’ve ever really known.

Just like a great school socializes students to reveal their struggles to their teachers—in the trust that their teachers will help them to learn—a great organization makes it easy for people to talk about what’s hard about the work—to make it normal to struggle, to get help, and to improve.   I just love the fact that this simple poster tries to share learning from success AND assumes that there will be failure and that it’s ok to discuss that publicly and without censure. Even the “success” comments include humble honestly like “Didn’t get all of them but certainly better than yesterday.”  Love it. No wonder Nashville Teaching Fellows does such great work.

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