What happens when you assume

During a staff meeting a month or two ago we were asked to sum up our teaching persona in one word. The word that I chose was unassuming.

Not pretentious or arrogant;  modest:  “an unassuming and kindly man”.


modest – unpretentious – humble – unpretending – lowly

I thought this was accurate because I try to model inquiry all of the time. I’m always seeking independent confirmation when trying to work out the answer to tough questions, looking for multiple solutions to the same problem, or feigning ignorance in class to help demonstrate a process to students. I don’t really want students to look to me as some inexhaustible source of knowledge; I want them being critical and searching for answers themselves. My approach to misbehavior is also unassuming; I try not to base how I deal with students on preconceptions, stereotypes, or guesses. Instead I talk to students and really try to understand what is happening.

As unassuming as I am with students, I assume far too much in dealing with other teachers. And it’s becoming a serious problem.

Working with students, I never assume that they have background knowledge of what we’re discussing and I’m constantly checking for understanding. Talking to other teachers I assume what they know is consistent with what I know, and end up keeping important details to myself. If I delegate a task to someone else I assume they know exactly what to do, whereas I’d provide at least a semblance of directions to students. I assume both the best and the worst from my fellow teachers, and end up pleasantly or troublingly surprised after lengthy periods  without follow-up conversations. I trust my students to do their best but constantly seek confirmation.

COMMUNICATION is the theme in our three-person Sp. Ed. department, and there’s no room for assumptions in good communication. I feel that I’m definitely communicating more with other teachers than I have previously, so now it’s time to communicate more effectively. Eliminating assumptions seems like a good place to start.

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