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Watch and Learn

Earlier in the week I spent some time walking through classrooms checking out the excellent instructional practices taking place within our school. I made my way to a third grade classroom where the teacher was leading a mini-lesson with her students in Writer's Workshop. They were focused on ways to improve their opinion pieces or persuasive essays, as they have been called in the past. Specifically, the students were told when they make a claim or state an opinion within their writing, they must be able to defend it with factual evidence. Typically, when I pop into classrooms, I spend about five minutes watching and visiting with students to get a feel of the learning taking place. However, I was drawn in and could not wait to hear what the student discussion was going to sound like and how this would impact their writing, so I hung around for an extended period of time.

The students broke into groups and were instructed to share their opinions with each other before starting this portion of the writing. The group that I sat with during this segment made the claim the Chicago Cubs are the best baseball team in the world. As a devoted White Sox fan and in an effort to reinforce what was taught, I asked the group to defend their opinion with evidence. The group responded with three factual claims, "Mr. Butler, the Cubs won the World Series in 2016, they led the National League Central division for the majority of the season with 103 regular season wins, and have the National League MVP on their team, Kris Bryant."

As I left the classroom and was thinking more about this activity, I couldn't help to be impressed with the instruction that our students received and also how they were able to apply this so accurately to their opinion writing pieces. I also thought about the many adults that are on camera each day and what they could learn from eight and nine year-old students. There are leaders in our country that step in front of cameras each day and make bold claims that are often times based on little or weak evidence. It seems as though the culture is changing with those in positions of power to state their claims and simply talk louder and more persistently without necessarily identifying or being transparent with their supporting evidence. Leaders create distrust not by providing bad news or delivering opinions that people don't necessarily support, but by failing to provide solid evidence or context into their decisions or initiatives. I love my Chicago White Sox and it is no secret that I am not too fond of the team from the North Side; however, I really could not argue with the evidence these third graders were able to produce.

What would be the results if we spent more time being mindful of our claims, opinions, and initiatives while providing listeners with the necessary context and factual supporting evidence? I tend to think our homes, work environments, and political arenas would be much more supportive, empathetic, productive, understanding, and engaged. Our kids are teaching us things each and every day; sometimes we simply need to open our eyes to see it.

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