What do you mean?

How often do you assume that students get ‘what you mean‘ without checking to see if it correlates with ‘what they mean‘?

How do you know if ‘what you mean‘ is the same as ‘what they mean‘ when you converse with your colleagues or work in a team?

Do you ever find yourself in a setting where you wonder if what ‘what you mean‘ is different from ‘what they mean‘? I’m certain there are times and contexts where I imagine we mean the same thing… but we don’t.


What do you mean when you talk about students?

Do you mean the kids in your class who have to do what you say? Learners who sometimes misbehave and get off task and need to be disciplined? Human beings with feelings, talents, limitations, interests, stories and rights?

What do you mean when you talk about team meetings?

Do you mean disseminating information and instructions to the team? Rehashing things the same way you did them last time? Ticking off items on your agenda? Listening to everyone’s opinions and sharing ideas in the spirit of true collaboration? Providing opportunities for everyone to lead and instigate change?

What do you mean when you talk about your learning space?

Do you mean the classroom where your students work? The whole building, inside and out where space can be shared with other learners? Your class blog, Google, Skype, the internet? The whole world?

What do you mean when you talk about literacy?

Do you mean the ability to read and write? Interpreting and creating still and moving images? The ability to locate, organise and evaluate information using digital technology? The ability to express ideas and opinions, to make decisions and solve problems?

What do you mean when you talk about professional development?

Do you mean compulsory, imposed whole staff sessions presented by ‘experts’, usually from outside the school? Active, engaging workshops with opportunities to share, create and debate? Continuous learning from and with a global community of educators, via social media?

What do you mean when you talk about teaching?

Do you mean transferring information to students? Delivering content and covering curriculum? Listening carefully to kids’ conversations and asking provocative or guiding questions? Providing engaging opportunities for learners to construct meaning in different ways? Asking learners how they would like to learn?

What do you mean when you talk about learning?

Do you mean students absorbing information and passing a test on it? Kids answering questions you have set for them? Students asking their own questions and seeking answers? Learners taking ownership of their learning, pursuing their own inquiries, following their passions, experimenting with what’s possible, creating valuable content, collaborating globally, making a difference in the world?

Has your meaning changed?

Is it continually changing…?

2 thoughts on “What do you mean?

  1. This post makes me think about the importance of common language among staff, students, parents, etc. … really all stakeholders. During the past few years, our school has been committed to teaching the 7Habits from The Leader in Me book- Covey. This common language has changed our conversations about behaviours. The common language and, of course, the understandings that go with the language has been powerful.


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