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Why Not Take a Survey to Find Out What Teachers Need?

November 14, 2009

Last year I had an accident which resulted in a small brain bleed. I spent the night in the hospital but have had no problems since. However, the doctor in the ER emphasized that, if anything strange should happen to my head or if I had any unusual symptoms, especially in the following six months, I should seek emergency help.

Fast forward five months. I find during the night that one spot on my skull hurts when I lie on it. The next day it continues to hurt and I make an appointment to see my doctor that afternoon.

It was one of the busiest – and most stressful – days of the year for me. I had an essential meeting in the morning, my realtor wanted to show my home, which was for sale, and my mother was visiting. Mom is not a demanding house guest, but with the realtor coming, I was trying to find a place for her to go while I was at my meeting. In addition, I needed to drive her home to Wisconsin that evening (a seven-hour trip) and fly to Pennsylvania the next day for a keynote speech. As I went through my morning’s activities, I tried to plan for the rest of the day. I assumed that I would need an MRI or CT scan on my head, as that is what they used when I had the initial injury. Fitting that into a day that was scheduled tightly was really going to be a problem.

Had the doctor asked me, when I got to the office, what I needed, I would have told her I needed a CT scan or MRI. Fortunately, my doctor is smarter than that. She asked me about my head pain, then donned a pair of gloves and inspected my scalp. What did she find? An inflamed hair follicle. “Basically, a pimple,” said the doc. “You mean I’m here for a zit?” I asked with surprise. “Yup,” she said.

Are you making the connection to educational coaching? If we ask teachers what they need from us, via survey or conversation, they may think they know, but they may be asking for the wrong thing. (We educators are practical people, but that can backfire when we jump to a “solution” before exploring the problem.) Rather, if coaches have a conversation with teachers in which we listen as they describe the factors getting in the way of their success, and if we then help them identify one factor to work on first, and if we then help them inquire, experiment, reflect, collect data, and in general problem solve, we will ensure that we are treating pimples when they are pimples and brain bleeds when they are brain bleeds!

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