Tomorrow, I will be spending the day with our administrators to continue our conversation about support structures that will be necessary to implement the Teacher and Principal Evaluation Plan (TPEP) that result in a positive growth experience for teachers. To get ready for the meeting, we have been asked to review five purpose statements that emerged and identify any mental models that might be inferred from each statement.
Mental models are the assumptions, values, beliefs, and images we hold of our world. We use them to make sense of the world and they influence the actions that we take. Related to mental models are the ladders of inference that we form as a result of our experiences and processing what takes place around us. Holding mental models and ladders are the result of being people, it is just something that we do without any conscious thought. They are not right or wrong they just are. The problem with them is that they control our behavior.
Tomorrow's discussion is very important and as I reflect on the homework I can identify several mental models and, more importantly, a ladder I hold that will influence what I see and hear if I don't attempt to suspend the assumptions driving that ladder. I could rationalize that my ladder is based in facts and let it control the data I use to make sense of the meeting and my actions. This might make me feel good, but it will not be supportive of our goal. Or, I could attempt to suspend those assumptions in an effort to be connected with the conversations and be a productive member of the group.
I will choose to suspend my assumptions, but it will be difficult because the ladder was formed from the reaction of some in the room to a contribution that I made to one of the purpose statements. I also assume that this was and will be followed by multiple other responses as the participants meet both in and outside of the meeting room.
So, why share this and why now? Learning organizations require the capacity for reflective conversation and I have a responsibility and commitment to be a contributing member of these conversations. My capacity to engage and support the work will be influenced by the mental models and ladders that I bring into the room with me. This is not always easy, but it is essential for all of us to consider as we work collaboratively to support the work of teachers in our system. So, I will attempt to suspend my assumptions and also focus on using inquiry to better understand the thinking of my colleagues as we search for structures to support administrators in this important work.