My Secret Talent

I am the designated finder of all lost things in my family.

I live with three males, not that I am stereotyping all males as inept finders. It is probably just the guys I live with. They cannot find anything. Even if it is right in front of them. Like the milk in the fridge. Seriously.

I have come to pride myself as a talented finder. Every time one of my guys is in the depths of despair because of a lost a phone, wallet, beloved treasure, car keys, etc. I feel a swelling of self-satisfaction as I come to his rescue.

On another note, I am also addicted to true-crime podcasts. I love learning things like the logic a dive team follows as they attempt to search a lake for a body. I am so intrigued by all the seemingly-minor details and how they tie together to form a lead.

What do my incredible talent for finding things and my addiction to true-crime podcasts have in common? In both instances, we follow the data.

When I am in the process of finding something, I gather data-points. In contrast, my sons and my husband start searching in a willy-nilly fashion, frantically moving from room to room. Meanwhile, I step back and gather data by asking questions.

  • When did you last use your wallet?
  • Where were you?
  • What did you do immediately following that?
  • When do you last remember seeing your wallet?
  • What were you wearing when you last saw your wallet?
  • Where are those pants?

I also draw on my prior knowledge of similar situations. As you can imagine, I have a plethora of similar situations to draw upon. I ask myself, where did I find the wallet the last time? Where does he usually keep his wallet?

My husband will so often say, “There is no way my wallet (keys, phone, travel coffee mug, etc.) could be there.” But when you follow the data, you often surprise yourself with what you find.

Of course, as a principal, I began thinking about how this translates into our work with students. Do we follow data-points to help us help students? Or do we frantically move from Pinterest idea to Teachers-Pay-Teachers idea to new-fangled program, crossing our fingers and hoping that one of them works?

In this case, I am not referring to standardized test results. That data is “easy data”–we can easily use the results to see what our students showed they know and don’t know. The data I am talking about is the more elusive “then what?” data. How do we help students develop mastery once we have established what they don’t know?

To begin looking at “then what?” data, maybe we could ask similar types of questions.

  • What worked for this student in the past?
  • What strategy worked best to help similar students practice this skill to the point of mastery?
  • What helps me as a learner to develop competency in skills?
  • What strengths does the student have, and could we utilize a strength to help develop this skill?
  • What interests does the student have and would tying an interest to this skill be helpful for him/her?
  • What does the research tell us about student learning? What practices might give us the biggest bang for the buck?

As with everything, relationships are key. We have to have positive and trusting relationships in order to get good data. If I asked my husband where he last used his wallet and he didn’t want to tell me where he was, I am going to get useless data. For our students, it’s the same. If we ask a student about a time he/she practiced a skill to mastery and how he/she did that, the strength of the relationship will determine the usefulness of the student’s response.

I don’t think I was born with my finding talent, I think I developed it and honed it out of necessity. My secret talent isn’t something as impressive as, say, Danny Bonaduce‘s skill on a unicycle, but it does give me job security at home and it comes in pretty handy at school.

Follow the data. Not just the easy data, like which learning standards students don’t know. Follow the “then what?” data to figure out how we help students with the what.

Image source HERE

1 thought on “My Secret Talent”

  1. Allyson,
    I can relate to this on so many levels! As a fellow singular female living with 2 sons and a hubby I find myself in similar detective situations. Also, I used to teach as a Math Interventionist and really enjoyed the diagnostic side of that role. I love that as a principal you have the ‘finding’ mindset where you ask ‘then what?’ to help students and teachers know where to go next. And often where to go next isn’t Pinterest or TPT! 😒 No program can do what good teachers do- follow the ‘then what?’ data and build on the individual student. Hope you’re blessed to have teachers in your building that share that mindset! If so, those are some lucky students! 😊


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