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Shifting Perspective: A Habit of Highly Effective Educators

“Rather than ask what is wrong with a child, Kuban suggests inquiring about what happened in his or her life, probing for life-altering events.”

This quote is an excerpt from an article entitled, “How Childhood Trauma Could be Mistaken for ADHD” Conversations about student performance and behavioral issues are not novel topics, yet these discussions are very complex and are always worth revisiting as a reminder that perception is important.

In the classroom, each student comes to the table with different learning styles and life experiences, many of which are shaped by their cultural or socioeconomic background. Even then, these types of categorizations are not black and white, but are gray. Therefore, an educator must take the time to build trustworthy relationships with students and seek to understand why the student acts or thinks the way that he or she does. Stereotypes or other judgments cannot define the capabilities of a student.

I attended a session on poverty and education a few weeks ago at the WRESA Summer Leadership Conference in Asheville, North Carolina. The presenter, Dr. Tammy Pawloski, explained that with any student, especially students in poverty, we do not know how their brain has developed since birth—we don’t know how much persistence or differentiation it will take— in other words, it may not be because the child is not trying. However, environmental influences define the extent to which one utilizes potential. This shows that teachers and others can inspire students to learn.

QTL offers a session about the brain and how it relates to teaching and learning, in particular our instructors talk about the cerebrum and amygdala hijacking. The cerebrum controls higher brain functions such as reasoning. The brain filters information and if this information appears harmful or negative, the amygdala will send the body into panic mode to the point that the cerebrum has no chance to truly reason as it could if the incoming information were positive/pleasurable. Thus, if a teacher has a student that comes from poverty where they may constantly be stressful and dangerous conditions, this student’s brain is wired to protect and not to reason in a way in which the student can learn!

In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about the significance of paradigm shifts. Everyone perceives the world, a given moment of time, or an event from their point of view. When certain elements are added to this point of view, it can change the way one sees a situation. For example, as an educational leader, I may be walking around the school and may hear the loud laughter of students from a particular classroom. One perception could be that the teacher does not have control of the classroom and that the students are playing around. Let’s take this same scenario, but as I hear the students’ laughter, another teacher walking down the hall explains to me that the teacher of said classroom has just taught the students a new concept by dressing up and acting out a scene from a play. This is a paradigm shift because I now see the situation in a different light.

At the core of this all is trust and perspective. Before a teacher can build a relationship with students, there must be a sense of trust. This information can also be applied to the interactions and relationships between instructional leader and teacher. Pam Edwards, QTL Director of Leadership Development, explains to instructional leaders the necessity for trust, communication, building relationships, and accentuating the positive in order to effectively coach teachers to holistically improve.

-Adrian Mack, Director of Partnership Development

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The Centers for Quality Teaching and Learning expands and supports high quality teaching and effective, supportive leadership. QTL Processes bring together technology, teamwork, student data and research-based instruction to create more engaging lesson design for greater student achievement.

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