Reflective Practice: Vignette #9

For twenty years, a monthly oasis for deep and powerful reflection has opened its doors to any and all who are involved in education work. Lured by a chance to slow down and reflect with a wide range of people in the field, urban elementary teacher “Amy,” started going to ROUNDS five years ago. These monthly Saturday morning gatherings over bagels and coffee have offered the “nourishment” that she needs to “fill her teaching soul,” especially during the more demanding and stressful times of change in her school and in the world.

Inspired and led by current Arts in Education Director at Harvard Graduate School of Education (and former head of Project Zero), Steve Seidel, and ROUNDS is indeed a sanctuary for reflection. Steve’s gentle humor, genuine curiosity, and respect for the patient process of reflection sets a tone for comfortable, yet probing exploration. On this sunny Saturday morning in October, a “school coach” from the Bronx sits next to a first year art teacher in Boston. Across the circle, a published author in education sits between a theater arts educator and a woman who is helping to guide “best practices” at a school in India. Amy settles into the circle between a middle school special education teacher and a high school math teacher. The atmosphere is low pressure and collegial; Amy shares that she is grateful for this reflective space where, without pressure or judgment, she feels that she can just listen and think. In stark contrast to the hustle of her teaching days, Amy shares that this “slowing down” usually opens up valuable opportunity for her to consider some of the things that are working and not working in her own school and classroom. 

The three hour meeting always runs the same: brief introductions, a question about education posed to the group for grappling, a 10 minute schmoozing break, a group examination of student work that one participant has brought to share (following Steve’s developed PROTOCOL of observation, interpretation, and analysis), and a closing ten minutes where the group reflects upon what it means to be educators during the current climate in the world. While the group depends upon volunteers to bring “the question” and student work, it is customary on this opening session of the year for Steve to bring the “question.” And so, with a little background about how his own musings and conversations with others about “The Hundred Languages of Children” brought about his latest grappling, Steve puts forth the question of the morning: “Does it seem true to you that switching language at key moments could have powerful possibilities for learning, especially when one language seems to have taken you as far as it can go at the moment? If so, what do we know from our experiences as learners and as teachers about this? And, if so, what does it suggest about the role of the teacher?” 

One question begets another, as Amy and the others assembled grapple with the question. They talk about their classrooms, their schools, the “languages” that they consider (or don’t) for learning and teaching. Amy thinks about her own “stuck” moments with students. Like in F block on Friday afternoon when she noticed four students in different parts of the room slam their pencils down in frustration over a time sequence math word problem. “They should have this down by now,” she remembers thinking. The bell would ring before she could get to each of them, but now, sitting in ROUNDS Amy wonders about some alternative “languages” that she could have offered up to all of them in that moment. Perhaps they would have gotten themselves out of the “stuck” moment if she had given them a chance to figure out the problem by using the blocks or by drawing a picture. Instead, those students left for the weekend feeling frustrated by the work. Amy scribbles down some notes about possible “languages” and alternative tools that she could teach her kids for getting out of those stuck moments. She knows that her principal and school curriculum coach will likely have more ideas to share and that this question would make for a great conversation for the “break out” part of the upcoming faculty meeting on Tuesday; Amy decides to take a chance and e-mail her principal Steve’s thought provoking question.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

  • This short article, Rounds for Teachers, by Usable Knowledge shares observations of ROUNDS and commentary about it from an interview with its founder, Steve Seidel.

 

  • A basic description of ROUNDS and links to other work at Project Zero.

 

  • A reflection on ROUNDS by another visiting educator who will use some of Steve Seidel’s ideas in her own formation of a monthly reflective meeting of educators (REFLECT: INNOVATE: ACT) back in Texas.

 

 Rounds meet the first Saturday morning of each month (September- May) in the Eliot Lyman Room at Harvard Graduate School of Education.  It is free and all are welcome to attend!

 

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