I have been a coach, teacher, and administrator for over 15 years. One thing that I know for certain is that are many "gray" situations that are dealt with on a daily basis. I think we can all agree that if everything was black and white it would be way to easy. Each decision that we make can be traced back to doing what's best for kids. The situations that arise in classrooms and schools are quite difficult to manage. Often when the right answer seems to be there for the taking, we pause for a moment. Why? Because sometimes it's really tough to determine how the decision will impact a particular student. We should be concerned less with "making a statement" or appeasing a parent or staff member. It simply comes down to putting a student in the best possible position to succeed. Let's take a look at a few examples.......
A student uses their device inappropriately during class. How are we to respond? Simply take the device away? Conference with the student and issue a verbal warning? Call home and issue a detention? What's the right answer? If a student did something inappropriate with a pencil or pen would we not allow them to write again for the remainder of the school year? Definitely a tough decision to make and not as "black and white" as you may think.
How about the staff member who wants to use social media to tell their classroom's story? As educators we need to meet kids where they are. So why do we pretend that students are not using Instagram or Twitter? Isn't this a chance to finally model how social media can be used for the greater good? Providing insight from the school day by posting an image of a learning experience or tweeting out homework assignments can provide a valuable lesson. The problem is that social media is in such a "gray" area. It makes people indecisive and anxious. What if someone makes an inappropriate comment or posts a highly questionable image? Deep down in our hearts we know that most people will use social media the right way, yet we consume our lives with the few who might use it the wrong way. What's best for kids is that we as educators continually model the positive application of tools like social media in order to show students what is possible to make our society a better place.
Test scores and teacher evaluations are "black and white." But are they? What if a student had a bad day or week and did not perform as well as they wanted? Shouldn't we take this into account when placing them in a program or using the data to impact instruction? Same can be said for teacher and administrator evaluations. So many things happen in educator's lives both in and outside of school. Their contributions are often not observed or felt for many years down the road. In today's world evaluations are tied to test scores or 30 minute snap shots. Do these really provide a true "black and white" reality as it relates to performance? Seems more "gray" to me.
Many of the questions posed in this blog post go back to the notion of doing what's best for kids. More often than not, the decisions educators make on a daily basis fall in the "gray" area. Quite frankly, "black and white" should never really come up. Even when handing out a zero for a missing an assignment or suspending a child for being insubordinate. We need to stop proving things to people and focus more on exhausting all options to promote the success of students. So what's your "gray" story? Does everything in life have to be "black and white?"