Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: Agreeing to Disagree
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Slice of Life: Agreeing to Disagree


We want this to feel like home. We want you to see your mom whenever you want to see her. You can come and go as you please. You will need this key to open the elevator on our floor. It is a locked floor to ensure our residents are safe. They need an escort if they would like to visit another floor or the grounds.

Ok. That sounds great.

Now you may encounter the occasional eloper.


Some residents enjoy an adventure and may try to join you on the elevator. If this happens we suggest you just ride down with them. A staff member will meet you at the ground floor and escort the resident on her visit. 

So I should just let them ride with me.

Is that comfortable for you?


Great. We like to respect the independence and dignity of our residents. We want them to be safe and we want them to feel like adults.

Over the years, I shared many an elevator ride and wonderful conversation with the residents in my mom’s community. Some were on their way to work. Another was on his way to pick up his car from the garage. One woman was always running late to pick her daughter up from the train. Some wanted to go get a coffee. It was only a few minutes but I loved getting to know them. I loved the respect this “system” showed them. There was never a problem. A staff member always greeted me when the doors opened on the ground floor – a huge smile and a warm welcome waiting for us.

During my last weeks with my mom, I saw this sign in the elevator as I rode up to see she her:


I decided this deserved a visit to the new director.

We are complying with standards. Residents should not be on the elevators. It is a safety measure. I am sure you understand. It is imperative we comply with standards and post the sign. Don’t you agree?

On one level, I guess I did understand, but on another I don’t think I ever will truly understand. I am pretty sure I will never agree. To me it comes down to how they are choosing to meet the standard. Do they really think that by posting that sign there will be fewer elopers? Does it tell me what to do if a resident decides to join me? How is this sign really a safety measure?

It reminds me of the “I Can” and “We Will” statements I see posted in so many classrooms. Teachers are spending an incredible amount of time following mandates to post objectives on the board. I have seen masterful lessons with no objectives posted and I have seen meticulous objectives posted with ineffective teaching. Why do we think that posting objectives will create effective teaching? Where is the correlation in that? Just because I can write down a surgical procedure does not mean I can execute it! This practice provides a false sense of security. Wouldn’t it be nice if our students learned everything we wrote down?

Andrew Hargreaves and Michael Fullan address this in their book Professional Capital. They have identified two visions for capital and how it can be used to improve teaching – business and professional capital.

“In the business capital view, teaching is technically simple. Teaching doesn’t require rigorous training, hard work in universities, or extensive practice in schools. In this view, teaching can be learned over six weeks in the summer, as long as you are passionate and enthusiastic. Imagine if we said that about our doctors or architects or engineers. The opposite stance toward teaching is a professional capital approach. In this approach, teaching is hard. It requires technical knowledge, high levels of education, strong practice within schools, and continuous improvement over time that is undertaken collaboratively, and that calls for the development of wise judgment.”

Both schools and assisted living communities are in human service industry and require professional capital. Neither is simple and both require care, judgment and extensive knowledge. Standards, rules and safety measures are all important but it is not enough to simply mandate them. If we think we can achieve rules and objectives by simply posting them, we are devaluing the importance of the people being served. They are part of the process and we must respect them. There seems to me to be a lack of respect of the student in an “I Can” statement and the resident by saying they should NEVER be allowed on the elevator. What if they can’t? What if a family member wants to bring a resident out for dinner? These are human beings not widgets. We cannot just mandate and declare. We must consider the human beings involved.

My mom’s residence was our home for the past three years. I visited most days on my way home from work. I engaged in conversations, was offered a cup of tea and often joined the activities happening. I got to know the caregivers and the residents. I appreciated the respect that was always shown to the residents. I enjoyed and valued my time with everyone. I learned a lot about life and myself.   That sign does not reflect the community I came to love over the years. That sign does not ensure the safety of the residents, but I do think it demoralizes and demeans them. They deserve more. They deserve to live their life to the fullest. They deserve a home.

When I think back to my initial conversation, what was most important was the word “and” — We want them to be safe and we want them to feel like adults. I think our students and our elderly deserve “and.” We can meet high standards AND respect their humanity. We can meet goals AND be developmentally appropriate. We can comply AND still be true to who we are and to who they are. I believe we deserve to have both – I can understand and agree with that!


Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnnaBeth, Kathleen, and Deb for this space for us to share our stories each day in March.  Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts and consider joining this community


  • Avatar
    Kathleen Sokolowski
    Posted at 10:40h, 29 March Reply

    I love this piece. You touched upon so many important issues. I always rebelled against the “I can” statements but couldn’t articulate why. Now I will refer to this post! Well done!

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    Posted at 10:46h, 29 March Reply

    Well written and thought provoking piece with endless implications. Have you thought about continuing the conversation with the facility?

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    Jennifer Laffin
    Posted at 11:17h, 29 March Reply

    Amen! I’m with Kathleen. We were told to post our “I Can” statements daily, but I never did. I feel this was also too confining. What if my intended lesson went off the planned track, yet still taught some other wonderful concepts that weren’t on the “I Can” board? I just found it too limiting. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Clare.

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    Lynne Dorfman
    Posted at 11:20h, 29 March Reply

    This piece is so important, Clare. I had tears in my eyes. I loved all the conversations that took place on those elevator rides. The idea of deserving more…. I have read Hargreaves and Fullan, but not this book. Now I will add it to summer reading. The definition of business capital and professional capital works so well here – and important concepts for educational leaders to understand. I am hoping that you can gather these slices from this month and perhaps forrnat them into a book for teachers and educational administrators. Your everyday stories and how they relate to classroom life – so engaging, thoughtful. Important lessons for all of us. Thank you! Reminds me of the picture book Wonderful Nature, Wonderful You by Karin Ireland. Have you seen this book?

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    Mindi Rench
    Posted at 13:28h, 29 March Reply

    Wow! What a post that really made me think. I was never required to post “I can..” statements in my classroom before I became a coach, but teachers are highly encouraged to do so now. All of our learning targets in our newly revised reading units are written in “I can…” language. Now, as I prepare to go back into the classroom, I’ve begun thinking about this again. I don’t mind the targets for the unit or the rubrics being written in that way, but I don’t like the idea of having to post them. I think you articulated why, in a way I hadn’t thought of before.

    Thank you.

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    Christine Baldiga
    Posted at 15:15h, 29 March Reply

    Clare, yes, this post is very full and I want to comment on every aspect of it. The one point you make that is sticking with me is that AND word. Respect is such a big point here and you certainly addressed it with this post. I know I will be rereading this again because it is stacked with great points. Thank you again for opening my eyes to new ways of seeing things.

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    Posted at 17:04h, 29 March Reply

    You make some wonderful points, Clare. As I was reading I kept wondering if you presented all these points in a written letter to the director. It is very persuasive! Thank you for all your personal stories and reflecting on the “take aways.”

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    Posted at 19:00h, 29 March Reply

    Oh, well said. And, once again, I appreciate the way you transfer your thinking from one realm to another – you nail those big ideas beautifully each time.

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    Karen Szymusiak
    Posted at 21:19h, 29 March Reply

    Oh, Clare. Your words say so much. We all deserve “and”, especially the children in our schools. They deserve consideration. They deserve respect. Thank you so much. I love your writing and I love the champion you are for the elderly and students.

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    Diane Dougherty
    Posted at 23:35h, 29 March Reply

    Clare, I love the points you make in this reflection. You are right about respecting the humanity of our students. Respect is key in all relationships. We do well to acknowledge that fact. Thank you.

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