Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: Expect and Accept a Lack of Closure #SOL19 #TWTBlog
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Slice of Life: Expect and Accept a Lack of Closure #SOL19 #TWTBlog

I had the privilege to join sixty-five educators in Indiana this week.  As I looked out into the audience before the session began, I had the oh-too-familiar butterflies in my stomach.  I get them every time, even with teachers I have been collaborating with for years.  The anticipation, the excitement, and the unknown all come together and begin the flutter.  On this day the flutters were more like a jackhammer.  I would only connect with these teachers for five hours.  What can I say in five hours?  What difference can I make in five hours?  I usually have three to five years not five hours.

These questions were going through my mind as I looked over my notes.  Then her words registered and quieted my inner dialogue. 

“Expect and accept a lack of closure.”

Ruth Ayers, the Director of the The Lead Learner Consortium, was sharing norms with the group.  This was the last norm. 

I love this norm.  This is what learning is all about!  Professional development in any form should be about beginning a conversation and sparking new ideas.  Learning should be leaving with more questions than when you arrived. Our profession needs to do a better job of sending this message.

Learning is messy.  The zone of proximal development causes cognitive dissonance – cognitive dissonance – even the word sounds messy.  Ruth’s norm sends the message that learning isn’t about getting information it is about thinking, connecting, questioning, and understanding.  Learning isn’t about being right, remembering information, or meeting a standard.  Learning is the love of problem solving, revising, reflection and understanding.

I plan to do a better job of setting this expectation in the professional development sessions I facilitate.  I just might steal Ruth’s norm.  I know it will help me slow down and realize I cannot cover everything.  I hope it will also send the message that professional development is an interactive, dynamic experience.  Educators should have the opportunity to grow their thinking together and know that learning happens over many moments in time, not one moment in time.  The message that you will not be done learning and you might not feel comfortable after a day of learning is truly powerful.  Thank you, Ruth Ayers for sharing your wisdom and respect for professional learning with me.


Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers, and teachers here.

  • Avatar
    Melanie Meehan
    Posted at 10:18h, 14 March Reply

    “Expect and accept a lack of closure.”
    and :”Help me interpret the silence.” What other words of wisdom are we going to shake out of you this month. You’re already echoing in my head, please know. Love the reflection in this piece, Clare, as well as the honesty. PD still makes me nervous too, and I do a lot of it.

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    Holly Mueller
    Posted at 10:53h, 14 March Reply

    I love this! I especially love this line, “learning isn’t about getting information it is about thinking, connecting, questioning, and understanding”. I need to remember this norm as well. I definitely stress over how much information to cover in PDs – however, when I give teachers time to share ideas, do some collaborative work, and ask questions, the outcome is much better than when I hurl information at them! Thank you for this reminder.

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    Diane Dougherty
    Posted at 11:34h, 14 March Reply

    I love this norm too. When I used to do staff development, I agonized over all the “stuff” I couldn’t share; all the ideas that wouldn’t come to fruition. I wish I’d had Ruth’s wise words to guide me then.
    Butterflies…I get them still and always before presentations.

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    Mandy Robek
    Posted at 11:43h, 14 March Reply

    Leave it to Ruth to sum up those feelings at the time of being together. I’m sure you left them with lots of ideas to move forward with.

  • Avatar
    Posted at 12:17h, 14 March Reply

    This ….”This is what learning is all about! Professional development in any form should be about beginning a conversation and sparking new ideas.” and “Learning is messy.”
    NO two people take away the exact thing because we are all at different places in our learning. That’s why I love hearing authors talk about their work after I’ve read it myself. It just means so much more!

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    Posted at 15:50h, 14 March Reply

    Thanks for sharing that last norm. It’s wonderful.

    It’s important to remember that professional development is just the beginning. We should leave questioning, wanting to learn more, with a desire to try things out (to succeed and fail) and much more.

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    Lisa Corbett
    Posted at 18:05h, 14 March Reply

    I love this idea that people should expect and accept a lack of closure. I agree that good PD should lead to more work, rather being neatly concluded in a few hours.

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    Karen Szymusiak
    Posted at 22:50h, 14 March Reply

    Great words from Ruth! I like the way you connected them with presenting and learning. Learning is a process that never ends. In every precious moment there is learning.

  • Avatar
    Meaghan Heiges
    Posted at 01:22h, 15 March Reply

    I like how you slowed down your piece to step out of the current moment and reflect. It seemed to calm your piece and you! Great norm!

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