The Imperfect Educator and GID

So as much as I would love to say all of my GID students’ stories are successful like the one I shared in my last blog post, they aren’t–especially when you take into consideration no two students are the same when it comes to their social emotional learning.  Then there are external factors such as high and stressful expectations from the school and family community that can negatively impact students’ learning.  Oh and yes, there is the imperfect teacher factor.

I want to share the emotional process I recently went through in reflecting on the successes and failures of last semester’s Guided Inquiry in my Psychology in Literature senior seminar course.  For this blog, I am focusing on the failures.  Now when I use the term failure, I am using the definition “the omission of expected action” versus “lack of success.” I also want to make it clear that the failures aren’t related to the phases of GID as much as the human factor brought to GID.

So my Psychology in Literature students were nearing the end of the Create phase when I began to acknowledge that I had made a lot of inaccurate assumptions with this particular group of students with whom we were working.  The students with whom Anita (our school’s librarian educator) and I were working were overall a high functioning group–this is true.  And therefore, I felt I didn’t have to worry about them completing their individual assignments for GI.  However, I realized when I checked the note-taking app that our students use for their research called Noodle Tools (which offers a 30 day review of an individual student’s work flow) that a lot of my students waited to the last minute to complete their research and final product.

I felt duped and taken advantage of.  I felt like I failed the mission of Guided Inquiry–I hadn’t sufficiently guided my students.  They had continued to engage in their old research habits of procrastination.  So gratefully Anita and I had a heart to heart, thoughtful reflection on what I had assumed:

*I assumed that because I had developed a safe, mutually communicative relationship with my students over the semester that the openness would transfer to GI.  I assumed the individual students would approach Anita and me with questions versus us going to check in with them.

*I assumed students would balance their time between GID and an independent book group I had assigned at the same time.

*I assumed students would utilize their time to complete their final project which was a google presentation using screencastify.

*I also assumed because a lot of the students were stressed with their overall academics that we should extend their research time–assuming that they would benefit from more time to engage in their deep dive of research. However, even with an extension, some of the students still waited until the last minute to gather their research.

Well I was wrong on all of my assumptions.  Hence, the imperfect teacher factor.

And admittedly, I began to get very teary-eyed discussing with Anita how I felt not only did my students fail in terms of not meeting what I perceived to be our expectations, but I had failed as one of their teachers of this process.  Anita and I then discussed:

1.  Maybe I had become too comfortable with GI that I assumed my students would naturally be comfortable with the process as well.

2.  Maybe I got lazy. (I said this comment, not Anita.)

3.  Maybe I hadn’t expressed fully to Anita that I wanted her to truly have as much input in the GID process as a lead teacher–meaning for us to honestly share for example that we needed more guided check ins with our students.

And then Anita gently reminded me–

4.   Maybe I was forgetting to be reflective in the fact that some students take longer moving through the social emotional phases of inquiry, so perhaps maybe some students’ procrastination was in fact part of the GI process.  And this point did register as we’ve had at least several students during each course hesitate because their GI is very personal; and therefore, it takes them longer to digest the information.  Anita pointed out a lot of the psychology-based, topics students choose to delve into over the course of approximately four weeks are very emotional for the students to process.

As I read through our students’ final reflections, I did note that every student shared that he/she learned a lot from the GI process.  This information gave me reassurance to not go to all or nothing thinking about this round of GI with our students–to really see their experiences as learning opportunities for me as their teacher.

Anita also encouraged me to be gentle with myself as this imperfect teacher can suffer from internal perfectionism.  She and I started a shared google doc to record our thoughts, feelings, experiences on what we want to do differently next semester.  For example, we plan on going back to more frequent guided check-ins with our students. I also will not assign an additional reading assignment during GI.  And we will stick to our initial due dates, because although we recognize the other academic pressures students are facing, we are confident in the allotted time we give them to move through the phases.

And of course we will continue to acknowledge that each student moves through GI at his/her own social emotional learning pace…and I have learned we teachers also move through GI at our social emotional learning pace as well.

Kathleen Stoker

English/Journalism Teacher

Westborough High School

Westborough, MA

twitter:  @stokerkathleen





  1. OMG. I am laughing because I truly get The Confessions of an Imperfect Educator. Procrastination seems to be the nemesis of teens today. I actually graded the students on every stage of GID. We used Noodle Tools also. Our school district provides a subscription for us. The highly motivated and highly successful students love the resource. I like it because it follows Cornell Notetaking strategies and they can separate resources into Primary and Secondary. They have to annotate their Bibliography so Noodle Tools works great for that.

    I spent many hours grading their entire progress. I plan to write about results in May. I have been keeping data. But I think I will find that 1/3 were tototally on top of deadlines. 1/3 I extended deadlines because they have full plates. Managing the time of active high school students is a challenge. They arrive at 7:30. Some do not leave until maybe 9 or 10 if they are in sports or the arts. Many have jobs. If we did not give them class time for an entire semester they would not take the project seriously. Then there were students who stayed up all night and pulled off an amazing documentary or website or exhibit. Then there was 1 student who did absolutely nothing. Well twice she did something because her partner got on her case.

    In our National History Day project they could share their knowledge by creating a paper or documentary or exhibit or website using Weebly or a performance. Most chose an exhibit. 3 chose a documentary. (1 was a PowerPoint. 1 was a Google Presentation. 1 was an iMovie ). The student who chose a website taught herself Weebly. Her website is amazing. The others who did exhibits did a great job. They all really liked having a choice.

    We had an Open House with the parents. The students stayed at their station and answered questions. The parents were thrilled.

    In the end, you are right their reflections tell you so much. We never ask them to think about how they think. They just act like robots. Memorizing facts. So keep up this great work. Inspire of procrastination. GID prepares them to think more. Communicate more. And for greater success in college and career. They will sing your praises when they return to visit after graduation.

  2. What I love about this post Kathy is the role that the high expectation of the Guided Inquiry Design has played in your reflective practice. You have high expectations for your students within the inquiry process. AND you have high expectations of yourself as a teacher. This post is so honest and shows so many things.
    1. GID is better together- you didn’t have to reflect alone- you had a partner, Anita, to help you think through what went well and how to make it better. This trusting collaborative relationship is key to your success and growth as an educator. I’m so glad you helped one another to move forward with your thinking and progress. This is wonderful!
    2. you’ve showed how guided inquiry is needed! We need to check in and guide the process! This is true even with responsible high school students and is the nature of the process. Of course, we don’t want to over scaffold and do unnecessary hand holding, but we do need to guide them. You are discovering and learning what level of guiding your students need from you to be highly successful. That is the art of teaching. It’s a beautiful thing. Your shifts in practice, of not assigning too much during the process and having a few more informal check in’s are RIGHT ON target and I think this will make a huge difference for you and the students.
    3. You’re not just going through the GID motions. Engaging as a reflective practitioner and really honestly reflecting on what went well and what didn’t is necessary. Assumptions can be dangerous – assumptions about our students and ourselves! Bravo for digging deeper with GID! This is exactly what this blog is for, in my mind. For people to share their learning about their practice through GID. Thank you for leading, for your honesty, for your persistence and for the gift of sharing this all with us.
    Much respect,
    Leslie Maniotes

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