I remember having a conversation with an elementary art teacher about 12 years ago whereby she lamented over a question posed by a student regarding an art project.  "Can I be done?," the student asked.  The teacher responded, "I don't know can you?"  Only the artist knows when he or she is done.  Artwork, like any other work in school - math or science tasks, historical or literary analysis, etc. is an exploration of understanding that should not be guided by a process akin to finishing a game.

However, getting at the essential elements of a given task associated with learning is more than slowing down the process.  What are the dispositions of both the teacher and learner that causes us to use our minds well?  Important dispositions and habits of mind that we wish to imbue in our students must be modeled over and over again by all adults in the system.  Creating a culture and the conditions of learning that promote patience, deep understanding, reflection and self regulation are only possible when the message is consistent both laterally and vertically within the school organization.

The messages that are conveyed by our staff support or reduce our capacity to raise the caliber of work that our students produce.  This is not found in any script, product or new fangled gadget.  Rather, this framework of understanding comes as a result of an ongoing dialogue across and throughout our learning community.  It occurs in everyday encounters.  It is reinforced not just on Superintendent's Conference Day, but consistently, realizing that every message we send matters.

The temptation is there in our rapid, "Twitter-paced" world to be done with a given task and move on to the next urgent matter that demands our attention.  Our students are watching.  If there is an urgency, it is to define the essential aspects of our agenda and to reclaim the space that we need to thoughtfully process our work so both students and teachers can truly believe that their work is never done.

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