I met Andrea four and one half years ago… September 2015. I did not really start listening to her until Spring of 2016 and I mostly did not start hearing her until the Fall of 2017. You can ascertain from our relationship that I have the utmost respect for her as a learner, a leader and a friend.
We have become fascinated by 2 degrees. Similar to the notion of 6 degrees of separation, we are now looking very deeply and listening for the 2 degrees necessary for believing and consequently learning.
She said to me the other day, I know you don’t always believe me. Hmmm… I am not sure that was the perfect time to tell her that I listen to her like a fanatic but it must be that sometimes I don’t let her know… I am running to the next thing. Sometimes I don’t think about what she has said until I am in a moment and then her theory wacks me right in the face as it unfolds away from her.
A degree away from me and 2 degrees away from her.
We have since had multiple conversations about belief. If we don’t believe, the proof and the research and business from the front of the room will never make a dent. We have also spoken about the 2 degree relationship that brings about the belief. If there is no relationship there will be no listening and certainly no believing. The first degree makes the rip in the seam old beast– and the 2nd degree creates the conditions for the deep dive. Both are #sitbeside and both are necessary to figure it out and change our minds.
I tried it in the bus lines this week at school. I have asked certain students not to run to their buses. I have spoken to them and walked them to their buses but if I am not there… no change in their behaviour nor their minds.
At this point, I ask 3 grade 5 boys, deemed as cool and who know my two worst offenders. I ask them to speak to the runners and explain why running over the kindergarten students is simply bad practice. The why. They speak for 8 seconds. The grade 5 boys shrug at me and go back to their bus line. I walk away. I watch from a space away and the buses start loading. I watch for 2 days. No running. Hanging back and walking and chatting with their friends.
I am the vice principal and I am believable. I am also able to get compliance when I ask for it. But to change the behaviour and to create the why, I needed the 2nd degree; the friends they knew and believed.
Andrea and I started to reflect on the learning teams and the board and provincial learning initiatives we were involved in. We could make direct connections to the first and second degrees where we made a tear in the seam but the relationships with their peers created the space for the deep dive and the eventual shift in practice.
Several years ago, when I took my PQP part 1, we read Fullan’s Moral Imperative. I was fascinated by his bus. The educators in a school were all on a bus. The principal’s job was to ensure the right people were on the bus. I have come to understand, you cannot remove people from the bus. In Andrea’s and my conversation about the 2 degrees, the bus drifted back… of course the bus lines helped remind me. Fullan’s bus was never about dragging people on and off the bus. It was always about who was sitting with who. The bus is the condition, the seating plan is the why and the space to take the deep dive.
I thought about all of the people I have reached out to for help, to get expertise, to make available for educators to learn beside. I have a relationship with the teachers at my school and I have a close relationship with the person I reached out to. This part is key. I am believed by both but it’s not enough to create a shift. They had to build something separate from me and my beliefs. They created something new, they knowledge built together and the deep dive is the result. A shift, a change and a need to figure it out. WIthout the 2 degrees, the time, the space and shift don’t happen.
I watch Andrea put different children beside each other every day. I also watch her speak to her peers and partners in the classroom. I listen to them not quite believe her. It excites me. The moment when they figure it out, when they bump into the second degree, deep dive and change their minds… and the red thread leads them back to the first degree… to #sitbeside one of the best bus drivers I have ever met.
A: What’s interesting to me is that every single learner is on the bus. Believing in where the bus is going is a whole other thing. The feeling is more than belonging.
K: You did that thing that you do… I am sitting with coffee in the dark – knowing the narrative above and you write 30 words and I immediately shift and put my coffee down and have my fingers ready because everything gets noisy in my head… where the bus is going… I think I had it parked in the school parking lot…LOL – I think the journey is long and winding and the stops are many and the seating changes based on the needs of the learners – sometimes they seek each other out and sometimes we play matchmaker and belonging has to come first with absolute certainty. I have a story of a mom. Disengaged from the school and doing her absolute BEST with her child and their attendance. I try last year. Not ready to engage. My colleague and CYW and I meet again and again building sheer love in experience of coming to a meeting in my office. No change in the attendance whatsoever – it worsens. We think she is ready to be beside a community partner and another incredible human. We ask, they meet tentatively. She allows the partner in her home. They have worked together since November – doing many of the strategies we had suggested precisely. She has said this. We meet every two weeks. We have the student 5 days a week. There has not been a 5 day week in 3 years. It all came from mom. Belonging came first. And I will say – she began disgruntled and without any hope at all. Zero. We had to go and find her 2 degrees because we knew it was going to be the only way. Andrea I see this everywhere and everyday. The bus is so damn real it unfolds in front of my eyes.
A: The same strategies retold by someone else. Every time I introduce a new concept to my students, I tell them that it was another student’s idea. Not mine. I name them and give them credit forevermore. It feels a bit sneaky as I write this but they are the learners. It is their work to figure it out beside one another. When one student said out loud that she didn’t believe she could read I loudly lost my mind when another student leaped toward that goal. I put them beside each other. She believes him. Not me.
K: Do you think it’s about “new fangled.” An idea so preposterous that it cannot be but it leaves a little wisp. When it comes around once again, from a person there is a relationship with and the need has grown a little more, it becomes viable and something to be tried … I am trying to think about me and you. How I felt when I remembered thinking about learning and the feeling – that I had forgotten how to really learn – to change my mind. I was not sitting beside you at first – far from it. I was beside other educators – strangers to me and I knew I did not know. I knew I was at a place of absolute ignorance. I barged towards you. You made a space. You did it on purpose. You waited though… thinking back, you waited.
A: Somewhere along the line I figured out that telling is not learning and telling makes no difference whatsoever. It washes over the learner and they wait to be told the next thing which also makes no difference. I spent many years early in my career at a school like ours. I was obsessed with mastery. I thought I could tell whether or not they deeply understood and could reapply the learning. I would teach/tell over and over again – each time in a new and creative way but…yep – from the front. When I moved to a school in a very different type of community and after the very first day I realized that I would only have to teach the lesson once. After that, they could regurgitate. I wondered is this what I thought was mastery? Learners need to feel themselves learning – they grow by changing their minds. You were not changing your mind.
K: No, I wasn’t. I have learned… perhaps this is ongoing LOL – to wait and to think hard about the right 2 degrees. I learned that from you too. To leave a question with a question or unanswered is easier for me now. But to go away and jot it down and to think who else has this wrestling around and to ask it of them or to find a way to get out of the way and pull together those folks (seat them together on the bus) is far harder in the busy of our day. In a learning team we thought about this and the conditions were exactly right. They would be returning, we had the words and we had the questions left unanswered and a new seating plan. Real life learning feels faster and yet slower. Finding the moments and not letting them escape and calling out the magic of the 2 degrees so it doesn’t feel sneaky seems like the work… I call it out with students much of the time. I see it or I facilitate it and I call it out. They need to know why. I am really thinking about all learners and the power of the 2 degrees… I am fascinated beyond belief. #sitbeside suddenly feels differently to me.
A: I ask 3 grade 5 boys, deemed as cool and who know my two worst offenders. I ask them to speak to the runners and explain why running over the kindergarten students is simply bad practice. The why. The angle and the parallelness of this #sitbeside. Do they realize? If not, I think they should. Credit to them starts the bus.
K: They may not even get on without it… belonging. I did not understand the need to spiral back to the “realize.” No more running, all is well and done. Sure, you say thank you, great job…no more kinders run over. I speak to students about citizenship and leadership all day long. So what. Unless I remind them of what I have seen and their impact it means nothing. Zero. It comes back to my 2 degrees. I have since spoken to the boys again. Quietly, in the bus line. I have pointed and asked them to watch the line beside them – their impact in action. They say very little, barely a word and a shrug. I watch them in their own line… different. Not just calm, but somehow leading – from right in the middle of the line. I watch the students around them… they are simply calmer too. Spread without spreading. Not manipulated but believed. Not from me… I am not in that bus line every day. Credit to them and the giveback starts the bus.
A: They didn’t know they could. They learned.
K: The mom we have spent time with said the same thing. All this time, I did not know it was me. Now that I know, we are never going back. I asked her if she would be willing to be another parent’s “2 degrees in the ongoing pilot?” She asked me what I meant. I called it right out and explained. She said I would love to. Not being alone and having someone listen made it easier.
A: She’s the leader. Put her in the middle of the line.