A Re-Read of The Falconer: Some Questions and Thoughts for Noodling

I don’t know about you, but when I read (especially for learning), I highlight and take notes within a book.  It helps me to focus on key points or ponderings.  It brings me back to what I was thinking when I read something as well.  As I go into this school year, I find myself returning to some of the books I have read in the last couple of years. I have gone back, re-read my highlights and notes, and had some new thoughts and questions.

The Falconer by Grant Lichtman is one of my favorite reads, and I share my re-reading and pondering exercise below with you. There were many more statements and parts of the book that I highlighted and noted, but I focus here on some key ones for me right now. I hope you enjoy and that perhaps you also come up with additional questions or thoughts.


I want us to spend more time teaching how to generate and recognize elegant solutions to the many problems facing our world. p 1
     ME- What characterizes an elegant solution?  Is it dependent on the individual or group?  Context driven? Grant provides us some closure in his last chapter, but I think we must all spend more time here so that we understand elegant solutions more completely. 

This new teacher was asking them to help him to decide what to teach. p 16
     ME- reminds me of a recent phrase I read that I love- teachers need to release the iron-clad grip they have on learning. We don’t like someone dictating what we will do and how we will do it, so why do we impose that on students?  Implies they have no expertise, but we would be amazed if we opened this avenue…

Great teachers lead us just far enough down a path so we can see a challenge for ourselves. p 21
     ME- When I think of my favorite teachers, they were like this.  What this requires is that teachers think of themselves as teaching kids, not a subject or grade.  In order for a teacher to know MY ‘just far enough,’ he/she must know ME.

My answer is not important.  Yours is. p 24
     ME- Whoa-lots of power in those two sentences.  How many teachers have we all known who believed the opposite?  How can I be reflective enough as a teacher/learner/leader to recognize when my words and actions are communicating that I think my answer is the important one?

Problems have weaknesses, just like people. Exploiting the weakness of a problem is the surest path to a solution. p 29
     ME- This IS the problem! Too many times we envision our problems to be larger than they are, insurmountable.  How might we open ourselves up and be vulnerable enough to tackle a problem with others, thus making it smaller and clearer?  I think that we can’t see the weaknesses in our problems because we too often are not willing to open ourselves up for fear of others seeing the weaknesses in us.  We need to be more ready and willing to Fail Up!

Questions are waypoints on the path of wisdom…Questions are never dead ends. p 36
     ME- then why do we not value questions in our learning process?  How might we as lead learners model the absolute necessity, beauty, and desire for questions?

If you ever want to go back and question your assumptions, which you should do frequently, you will know how you got to where you are…feedback loops recheck the assumptions that led us to an answer in the first place…by learning to insert feedback loops into our thought, questioning, and decision-making process, we increase the chance of staying on our desired path. Or, if the path needs to be modified, our midcourse corrections become less dramatic and disruptive.  p48-49
     ME- this, I think, is one of the most valuable lessons for adults reading this book, particularly those in leadership positions (which Grant would say we ALL are).  It reminds me of my doctoral work.  I was inspired by Michael Fullan’s work on reculturing rather than restructuring in the 90s when all the buzz was on restructuring in schools.  His assertion (and mine too!) was that any school change would not sustain itself unless schools engaged in a process of actively questioning the assumptions and beliefs within which they work-reculturing.  I went on to define the process of reculturing a bit more by offering valuable dimensions of it.  Fun stuff!

Skills and talents, that which we think of as strategic strengths, can be learned, leased, acquired, developed. What is much harder to learn is passion. Fiery drive to pursue something in life is the key to becoming a warrior. p 65
     ME- Oh yeah baby!  Who decides which strengths are strategic?  Does the student ever get to?  How sad is it that most of what happens in schools has absolutely nothing to do with passion but only building skills and talents, and in more situations than we’d like, not even talents.  How might we right-size this capsizing of our educational ship so that passion fuels more of our journey?

Why is a very surgical little word. p 65
     ME- Perhaps one of my FAVORITE sentences in this book!  This should be the title of a Capstone class for all teacher preparation programs.  How would you design the course?

Step 3:  Understanding the System p 67-96
     ME- this chapter outlines several postulates towards gaining this understanding.  This in a nutshell is summarized by the DEEPdt process that Mount Vernon Presbyterian School uses within their own program with students and through their Institute for Innovation.  Grant is using their DEEPdt playbook in his work with schools with great joy and enthusiasm!

Problems are what make us interested to learn more. Problems are the sign of a curious or creative mind. Problems are really just challenges and opportunities in disguise. p 103
     ME- Ahhh, the gem of recognizing that problem finding and solving are FUN and should be one of our primary purposes in learning!  Yet in schools we place so much more value and emphasis on “Answer giving.” How might we minimize a focus on managing solutions/answers and maximize our quest for problems and generating potential solutions?

Great teachers all do one thing well: they create dissonance in the minds of their students and guide them in the resolution of that dissonance. p 105
     ME- this reminds me of that beautiful piece of music that goes on so melodically and with complex harmony when, all of a sudden, the chords change and seem off.  Our mind tunes in more carefully.  What just happened?  How can it be made right?  Then, the dissonance resolves itself into beautiful harmony and melodious sounds again.  Yet, aren’t our brains in some way keen to find more dissonance so that we can celebrate when it resolves itself again?  How might learning in schools do that?

Creativity, adaptation, and flexibility are the skills of problem solving, and they all require action. p 120
     ME- the entire Step 5: Problem solving is a continuation of the DEEPdt process— prototype, iterate, ship!!!!

Don’t confuse the people with the problem itself. p 125
     ME- we do this too much in education.  I think this is due to the fact that educators lead with their hearts, and their heads follow.  This is not a derogatory statement in any way.  Think of those teachers who have been most special to you or your children- they were extremely caring and loving people who taught with their heart.  So, it is understandable that we go into a conflict or problem situation with our hearts first, not distinguishing people from problems. We see the person AS the problem if they conflict with our way of thinking/knowing.  As learning organizations, we have to devote time, resources, and energy to shaping a culture that sees problems as opportunities and people as the solution.

You need to know that you have both the right and responsibility to try again. p 139
     ME- the most important part of this to me is the responsibility part— embracing and celebrating failing as a natural part of learning (and succeeding) should be just as much a calling to us.  How might we design systems of teaching and learning that embed such a responsibility?

Do the best you can because you can.  You may not save the world, but you will be happier, and so will those you care about. p 150
     ME- Enough said!