What I Thought



A young woman, new to teaching, sat in the back of the training. If she had a smile, I never saw it. Her look said, “Bored. Bored. Bored.” A loud yawn escaped her mouth after lunch. A few teachers turned at the sound. She texted under the lip of the table.

At the end of the day, the training was well-received. Educators wrote actionable goals for themselves. They said they were inspired. The young woman moved up toward me and left a note by my computer.

After packing up, I read it.

“Thank you for this day. I’ve felt so lost teaching writing. Nobody really tells you how to do it, they just think you should know. So I’ve been doing a prompt a day on worksheets. Now I’m putting that crap away. You’ve given me hope of doing it differently.”

I was stunned. Stunned. How could this be the same person? Could it have been that her bored demeanor was actually discomfort? Could the yawn have been acceptance that now that she knew better, she’d do better?

Have. Positive. Presuppositions.

I believe I learned this first from Art Costa. What the phrase means to me in coaching is that I must believe that everyone is bringing their best selves to the table. That their intentions are for good. That there is always more to their story than meets the eyes and ears.

But she’d really stumped me. I was sure she hadn’t learned anything, that she was disappointed and that her evaluation would be the one that read, “waste of time.”

And I was wrong. Why? Because I hadn’t had positive presuppositions. If I had I would’ve seen the bored expression and considered, maybe she’s thinking deeply. I would’ve heard the yawn and thought, she must need more sleep because she’s a hardworking new teacher. Her texts might have been notes to herself about what she wanted to remember to do when she got back to the classroom.

Have positive presuppositions is the first norm for our coaching team. It’s the destination we strive to go. “Positive Presuppositionland” is a place where I don’t take things personally. I trust myself and others. Everywhere I look I see glasses half full. It’s a fine place to visit and an even better place to live.

3 thoughts on “What I Thought

  1. I so totally agree, Heather, that having positive presuppositions is essential to effective coaching and living in general! In all relationships, we only see part of the picture. Believing that the rest is positive actually affects how we behave toward others and may play a part in producing the positive that we believe is there. I think that this applies to parents of our students as well as to our colleagues. Often, teachers may think that the family just doesn’t care, but I don’t think that is usually the case. When people are given the benefit of the doubt, they are freed to respond in a positive manner instead of feeling as though they must protect or defend themselves. Thank you for sharing your experience and reflections with us!

  2. I am giving a PD presentation this week and this post is exactly what I needed to hear. I am afraid that some are coming just to “get one in.” We have to attend 6 this semester. I need to have positive presuppositions – that they really do want to hear what I have to say.

  3. This is so important to remember when presenting and I think that because we, as presenters, are nervous and want our message to be well received we assume those nonverbal cues in a negative manner. I can see how coming to the table (presentation) with positive presuppositions could make an enormous difference in our confidence level.

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