What’s the Process?

Sometimes the days seem to blend one into another. I find this especially happens at this time of year when it seems like there is still a great deal to get done and the time seems to be rushing past. Even after over 30 years in education, I still have those moments when I get caught up in the “we’ll never cover this all”. The good things is that after 30 years in education, I can release those moments, and just stop.

I have come to realize that to have deep learning requires that we allow students time to think deeply. If I focus on coverage, then the moments that allow deep thinking are often lost in the rush of moving on to the next checkbox. I know that by combining what I am doing, I can support student learning across a number of outcomes. Deep learning requires students delve into topics, sharing with their peers, discussing options, seeing possibilities and expressing their understanding and ideas in different ways.

Letting Go is Hard

Letting go and letting happen is hard. In a world that is caught up in “outcomes”, focusing on the process is counter-cultural. In education we hear it a lot- focus on the process and yet we are inevitably drawn to the product – was it good enough? Did I meet the criteria? Is there a mark? In The Practice, Seth Godin discusses this at length. When discussing creativity and “The Practice”, focusing on the product leads to hacking and hustling. In these instances, our focus is on delivering a ‘product’ to someone. Godin uses a great example of how we all too often focus on the product instead of the process.

If you ever have tried to juggle, the example Seth Godin uses is a great way to look at process. See, most of us are so worried about catching that we don’t realize that the throwing is the important part. Focus on the toss. Is the object going up and then coming down where you can easily catch it? If you can master the toss, then the catch to toss becomes much easier. It’s the process that is important. Having been working on juggling, I had to try this. It changed how I approached the act of juggling – I got lost in the process.

Letting go of our focus on the product is difficult. We are surrounded and inundated by product. Everywhere you look, it’s about “the product”. EVERYWHERE. From the groceries we purchase to the television we watch to what we see on social media – it’s about the product. From the cinematic productions to sports to the calories in our last meal, we focus on the product. We are obsessed with the product.

Yet, as an educator, I know that the process of learning, especially deep learning, is where the magic happens. The sparks, lightbulbs, twinkles, and those giggles that come when a child makes connections, sees the process that is taking place and begins to understand what is happening. Those moments are amazingly special. And we hear over and over again, that there needs to be a shift away from the industrial age ‘product obsession’ to a focus on process and iterations of the process in which we empathetically explore how to support and help others while also take time to really parse our own learning and growth.

Would You Do It?

Seth Godin asks a question that I believe is essential for all educators to explore. If you knew you were going to fail, would you still go through the process? When I first read the question, I thought ‘Well yeah. Of course.’ However, over the past few days I’ve been thinking about this more and more.

If I knew I was going to fail, would I still go through the process? Would the learning, growth, self-awareness, commitment, sacrifice, pain, doubt, disappointment and all the other emotions be worth it?

I don’t have a definitive answer for this but it definitely has me thinking about the learning of my students. Making mistakes is part of the learning process so in some ways, we need to embrace the idea of being unsuccessful. However, what we learn can, in the long run, help us to find success in the future. This has me thinking more about how I approach different subjects and the process that we are using. I have noted that there have been a number of methods and strategies I have tried that have not been successful but I gained valuable insight which has helped going forward. Had I known they would have failed, would I have tried them in order to gain that insight?

More to think about especially as I also dig deeper into Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics by Peter Liljedahl.

Just some things I’m thinking about today because Every Day is a PD Day.


  1. Chad Klein


    ‪I agree w/ your thoughts on the process & learning from failure, even if we knew it wouldn’t work. I’m the kind of teacher that knows some lessons might fail but I have to try for myself then I discover did it work; much like I encourage my students to do. It’d be nice though if our govt changed the stressor of forcing completion of outcomes to allow teachers and students more time to delve into the learning to make the learning more meaningful, instead of cramming in all the outcomes. ‬

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