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Classroom learning labs are changing things.  I have never seen a process so impactful.  This quiet, unassuming little model for professional learning is powerful beyond words.

I’ve been utilizing classroom learning labs for professional learning for the past couple of years.  Every single time I facilitate a classroom learning lab,  the conversation goes deep about instructional practice and every single time at least one teacher says it was the most powerful professional learning they’ve ever had.  Every. Single. Time.  (so far)

(Thanks, Kent ISD colleagues, for creating such a quality model… and SHARING it so effectively!)

But, this post isn’t about how to do classroom learning labs.

Believe me, it is incredible. The value of an organized observational protocol that allows significant time for personal writing, discussion and goal setting is simply…priceless.  It is hard to get to this level of pedagogical reflection without time in a real classroom with real students; hence the unique success of classroom learning labs.  And it is 100% non-judgmental.  How many processes where we go into a colleague’s classroom are 100% non-judgmental?  Few.  This is that good.

But, again, this post isn’t about how to do classroom learning labs. Really!

My question today is around protecting.

As leaders, how do we respectfully but passionately protect the good work?

When we know the value behind something, how do we hold it above the temptations to make it meet several needs at once?  In our rush and worrgency (see earlier post where this word was invented), how do we hold back the desire to “kill two birds with one stone”?

A strategy I needed to use this week was to revisit my purpose.  I had to ask myself, almost in a self-interview, what the real power was in a classroom learning lab.  Then I had to ask myself more and more questions about the work to crystalize what needed to be protected.

Why are classroom learning labs powerful?

– Teachers are given the time and space to think clearly about instruction.

So how does that happen?

– The protocol pulls out an area of focus for each participant and allows for reflection in relation to that focus.

Why is that important?

 – Teachers rarely get to step out of the river of fast-paced thinking and decision making to focus on ONE single lens for an extended time.  This protocol forces us to slow down and focus in on the craft of teaching.

So what needs to be protected in order to get to that level of focus?

 – During this protocol, teachers need to be free from fear of evaluation, they need to be given the full time designed in order to live in that level of focus, and the facilitation needs to be free from an agenda.  I, as the facilitator,  (and all others participating) should not have any pre-conceived agenda for the lab if this is truly about the participant choosing a lens of focus.  To point out anything specific that I think is important while I’m facilitating would immediately break down the power of this kind of learning. I’ve seen it happen when I wasn’t being careful and purposeful. 

So what will I protect?

  • I will protect the non-evaluative nature of the protocol. 
  • I will keep it to the full time designed. 
  • And I will keep my and any participant’s agendas out of it.   

This self interview helped me to get to the specifics that I need to protect in order to keep classroom learning labs effective.  And all three specifics that I landed on were inherent in the quality training at Kent ISD, but I needed to re-center this week on what exactly makes this good work so good.  Interviewing myself and getting down to the crystalized exactness of the good work helped me to name what I will protect.

What about you?  What is good in your professional world?

What needs some protection in order to stay effective?  It might be time to write through a self-interview, questioning in order to get to the purpose and power that makes it so good.

Let’s protect the good work.

Let’s stand, with a clear vision, for the work that makes a difference as educators…

… all for the benefit of our students.

 

 

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