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Education, Leadership, Teaching

Challenge Your Assumptions

And jeeps are really that small

cc flickr photo by Alicia Nijdam

Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won’t come in. ~ Alan Alda

As a junior high science teacher, one of my favorite lessons was teaching my students to distinguish between observations and inferences. I would ask students to record as many observations as possible as I walked slowly around the classroom, holding a large candle–a blackened wick and wax solidified in drops on the side of the candle. Students always insisted the candle had been burned–something they inferred because of the color of the wick and the wax on the side of the candle. In actuality, I had colored the wick with a magic marker and used another candle to drip wax on the unused candle. Things were not as they appeared.

Today, I made assumptions about the level of support I would receive from a parent. My conjecture could not have been further from the truth. How many times do we make inferences about our students, our parents–or both–based on a limited amount of information or broadly held assumptions?

  • The student who fails to complete homework assignments doesn’t care.
  • I won’t get help from “those” parents.
  • That student must be up to something…and it’s not good.
  • The kid who wears baggy pants and a red shirt is a gang member.
  • Our kids won’t be able to complete “that” project, succeed in the subject, be proficient, etc.
  • These students are not prepared for __ grade.

As an essential part of reflective practice, we need to routinely challenge our assumptions. Change our perspective. Expect the best from our students and parents. Sometimes assumptions become self-fulfilling prophesies.


About azjd

Junior high principal by day, aspiring difference maker, and Jedi in my own mind. Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.


5 thoughts on “Challenge Your Assumptions

  1. Wonderful post in both the student activity and inference/assumption discussion. Your final paragraph certainly is a great prompt for us to reflect on how we approach students and parents.

    Posted by Ross Mannell | August 28, 2011, 1:58 pm
  2. 32 years into career as an educator, I most certainly agree. I trule ENJOY the daily de-coding of students required in my role as a M.S. Principal.

    Posted by Mark Reasor | August 28, 2011, 2:18 pm
  3. What a great beginning of the year reminder! Every year I get a group of kids back from the previous year. No matter what, I do whatever it takes to allow each student to begin with a clean slate. In some ways, more than anything, I think it’s an important skill to model for them.

    Posted by Tracy Brady | August 28, 2011, 7:03 pm

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Jeff Delp

Junior high principal by day, sports enthusiast, technology fanatic and jedi in my own mind. Striving to be a difference maker!
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