Tag Archives: honesty

Crucial Conversations ARE necessary

In previous posts I have talked about establishing a collaborative culture focused on learning. I see that one of the roadblocks is shifting practice to one that requires teachers to collaborate also means that teachers must then open themselves up and become vulnerable.

Crucial conversations need to occur… but often don’t, in the interest of not ‘rocking the boat’. Certainly, Kerry Patterson and company did a great job of providing a communication ‘toolkit’ so that we CAN engage in safe, powerful dialogue without hurting feelings and making others angry… but, the fact is, it’s not easy! Making it safe for all collaborators to communicate honestly takes time and the ‘right’ effort in building trust.

Real collaboration just can’t happen if difficult questions aren’t encouraged and explored. One of Rick DuFour’s colleagues, Bill Ferriter, described very well…

I can remember several times where conflict felt like failure to our learning team. We’d have intellectual disagreements about practices and believe that everything we were building was coming to an end. Worse yet, we didn’t have the skills for conflict resolution AND we were fighting against a constant barrage of “be a team player” messages that surround schools… Luckily, we stumbled across a phrase that we drilled into our heads: “Questioning isn’t about the person, it’s about the practice.”

By remembering that simple idea, questioning became safer for those doing the asking and for those being asked… And it worked.

Teachers are so wrapped up in our practices—we own them, we craft them, we believe in them—and in the nobility of our work that being questioned can be one of the most painful and personal “offenses.” It was only when we take the focus off of the person that questioning became safe on our learning team.

Let’s have that crucial dialogue, openly explore and remember, “Questioning isn’t about the person, it’s about the practice.” … we all have room for improvement!



I’ve been grappling with this concept as it applies to me and I can’t help but look at others when reflecting on CONSCIENTIOUSNESS.  Is there such a thing as being “overly conscientiousness”?  What’s the relationship between good character and conscientiousness? Are some people conscientious in areas we don’t often see? Should these areas be weighted (with conscientiousness for family dealings higher or lower than conscientiousness for work dealings)? Can they even be separated?

The Free Dictionary defines conscientiousness as: “involving or taking great care; painstaking; diligent” and identifies scrupulous, high-principled and moral as synonyms. Is this a case of you either are or you aren’t or is the case of varying degrees?

Having clearly defined roles, responsibilities and expectations helps people be conscientiousness.  When there’s a lack of clarity it’s almost impossible to judge if an individual really is conscientious or not.

I recognize, at the end of the day, we must be able to say that the choices and decisions we made are ones we can live with (and not keep us up at night).  Leadership requires more responsibility than just going with the flow. Sometimes (perhaps even, often,) we make decisions that don’t sit well with others. For me, the guideline is, are others upset by a decision because it makes them individually uncomfortable or because it is an untrustworthy, irresponsible, disrespectful, unfair or uncaring decision as it impacts the greater community. Here, again, balance is the key – difficult as it is!

Parenting into the ‘stormy’ years

From: "Teen Party Theme for the Hep Kids - Find Cool Ideas." Tips To Raise Our Kids The Most Caring And Correct Ways. Web. 25 Oct. 2010. .

It’s that time of the year again… PTA Coffee Talk on Tips for Parenting Teens.  I have been invited to cover ‘the school perspective’ and our drug testing philosophy and policy.  I consistently return to the same conclusion regarding where many problems develop from – clear, open communication.  Find a problem and you’ll likely find, at its root, a breakdown in honest communication.

If the problem is so easily recognized, why is it such a problem?  Are we really a species of atrocious communicators? I blame it on ego and emotions – a truly volatile mix for hormone charged teens! So! How do we parent our teens through these turbulent, stormy times?  Here’s some tips I plan to share with out PTA:


  • Teach responsible decision-making to our teens.
  • There’s always a choice.
  • When it comes to partying,  ask questions centered around these three words: Who, Where, and Expectations; ultimately leading to one of these three choices – stay sober; get drunk; do drugs.

e.g. Who is going to be there? Who is ‘responsible’? Who knows about the party and who doesn’t?; Where will the party be (in a house or hotel with ‘private’ rooms; in a club)? Where will the ‘responsible’ people be?; Are there expectations that the party will be short or long? What are the expectations re: drugs and alcohol?

  • Stay informed – first and foremost with your teen; other parents; the ‘net’; and, the school (teachers, counselors and principals all add to the picture)

Ultimately, we’re all in this together!  We want a happy, healthy, successful teen – ready to take on the ‘real’ world.

"Lorraine Cook's Homepage." Loraine Cook's Homepage. Web. 25 Oct. 2010. .

Here’s some resources I’ve found useful:

  • “Parenting Help Me” is a blog maintained by several parents with diverse backgrounds – it’s very open and wide-ranging, at http://www.parentinghelpme.com/
  • The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, sponsored by the US Government, maintains an informative, ‘heavy’, American biased website at http://www.theantidrug.com/ called “Parents, the Anti-Drug”.

Resources from a previous post can be found here.


Cheating and the Role of Assessments


Used with permission of the artist. See his other cartoons at www.mikeshapirocartoons.com

Used with permission of the artist. See his other cartoons at http://www.mikeshapirocartoons.com

I spoke to my teaching colleagues yesterday morning about the prevalance of cheating and the role assessments play.  It seems like an odd pairing, doesn’t it? And yet, what is it that students most often cheat on? Assessments.  One of the issues was the question of whether students should have their marked tests and projects handed back to them.

As educators, we recognize the importance of prompt and meaningful feedback. We also, often, ask students to use old assessments to study for upcoming ‘culminating’ assessments. It’s common sense that once those assessments are handed back, students who haven’t yet had those assessments can easily aquire them. Does it matter if students do get to see assessments ahead of time?

In some cases, it matters… in some it doesn’t. For example, IB exams… it doesn’t matter! We actually ask our students to study past exams. Are our students cheating? Not at all. In fact, IB exams are great examples of assessments that are almost ‘cheat-proof’ (barring the use of extensive, hidden notes on the subject). What about less comprehensive assessments designed to measure factual knowledge? How many siblings and friends willingly pass on their old notes and tests to younger siblings and friends? If one of the goals of the course is a certain set of vocabulary, who cares if a student (extra conscientious?) studies from previous years’ tests? However, is the student meeting the learning goals if they are simply memorizing the questions and answers on old tests? Let’s use common sense when we design our assessments!

Stay focused on the learning goals and rework old tests so they’re not carbon copies of previous tests. Like it or not, if students are going to be allowed to take home their marked assessments we need to make some  adjustments, year to year. As important, is making crystal clear what constitutes cheating and academic honesty. Communicate with students what specific behaviors are unacceptable. 

Use good test proctoring strategies: walk around constantly, be aware of student behavior, prohibit student to student communication. Don’t be afraid to watch students carefully, they will get the message that you take academic honesty seriously. Use plagiarism detection software like Turnitin.com for word-processed assessment elements.

A well-designed assessment that requires a student to demonstrate his/her competency in synthesizing information and provide evidence that is clearly linked to the learning goal can also help minimize opportunities for cheating.