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.