Contributed by Jeffrey Spanier, English and AVID teacher, Carlsbad High School, CA
Mr. Knight’s closing presentation focused on the teacher and student learning. This may seem inane to point out, but as a teacher who has attended dozens of conferences over the last 21 years, I have rarely heard a closing keynote that focused on teachers and students. The “closers” too often tell their own stories or speak in such an abstract on teaching. Invariably, these speakers leave the audience feeling good, perhaps inspired. But, if I am questioned with “what did I get out of it that I can use?” I’d have no answer.
Mr. Knight avoided the platitudes and self-absorbed story-telling that such speakers so often fall into. He focused on working collaboratively, current realities in our profession, goal setting, professional development, creating high impact schools and high impact teachers. And he did not do this in an abstract fashion, but with clear examples and explanations.
All that praise about the applicability of his presentation, I was left most impressed by a more philosophical comment Mr. Knight shared. On personal identity, he stated “Our identity is the story we tell ourselves about who we are.” He continued to explain that “growth happens when the story changes.” As an example, he shared how we react seeing ourselves teaching on video. “I talk like that? I say ‘ok’ that many times in an hour?…” Our story of our self is altered—and as a result we almost always readjust. It occurred to me immediately that this is a powerful understanding for shifting the thinking and behavior of struggling students. It’s a powerful way towards self-improvement in any way.
I have thought on that comment for some time since the last day of the Visible Learning Conference. And it occurs to me now, that it may be the first time in 21 years of attending conferences that I am still pondering something said in a closing keynote address.
Contributed by Jorge Espinoza, Principal, Carlsbad Village Academy
Jim Knight describes the art of instructional coaching in ways that just make sense. He brings years of research and practical application to the discussion. He emphasizes the need to identify student-centered goals, identify what high impact practices the teacher will use, ensure teachers understand the practices and describe them, help them make adjustments and monitor progress. This process of authentic coaching can have a tremendous impact on schools because of the clear focus on implementing and improving sound educational strategies. He almost makes the process sound easy when he emphasizes that we should know a few things well.