The Problem Solving Trap

When I first became a principal and there was so much that I didn’t know, there were days when I felt like I wasn’t helping anyone. The wins felt few and far between. When I started to get my feet under me and actually could answer a few of the many questions that were thrown at me, I began to feel a sense of satisfaction. As trust was built, teachers would come to me and/or shoot me a text and I could problem-solve with them to find a solutions to issues or challenges they were facing or simply “tell them what to do.” This sense that I was helping teachers was incredibly gratifying.

I didn’t realize that the way I problem-solved and helped teachers find solutions was actually creating a pattern that would not serve them well in the future. While the problem sitting in front of us would get solved, I was doing nothing to help build the teacher’s leadership or self management. In that sense, I wasn’t really helping the teacher, I was helping get one isolated problem solved. Instead of empowering the teachers and building their skills, I encouraged dependence upon me.

There began to be many times when I would wonder why the teachers would come to me with issues that I felt like they should be able to solve on their own. I would ask myself, “Can’t they figure this out on their own?” “Why can’t these teachers problem-solve?” I didn’t realize that I had set up their patterns of behavior myself.

If I could do it all over again, I would have used techniques to solve problems that would actually help the teachers become better problem solvers and think at higher levels, not just help the problem get solved. I am learning these techniques in Cognitive Coaching Training. This training is aimed at helping school leaders and coaches become mediators of thinking so that we can develop the capacity of teachers.

Research indicates that teaching is a complex intellectual activity and that teachers who think at higher levels produce students who are higher achieving, more cooperative, and better problem solvers. It is the invisible skills of teaching, the thinking processes that underlie instructional decisions, which produce superior instruction. Cognitive Coaching is a research-based model that capitalizes upon and enhances teachers’ cognitive processes.

The Thinking Collaborative,

I just finished the first two days of this 8-day training and I’m completely sold on what they are teaching us. I am so excited and hopeful that I will learn tools that will not only help teachers with problem-solving of school/schedule/curriculum/parent situations, but with the instructional decisions they make each day. That’s where the power lies.