Grounded Theory – Stuff I’m Pretty Sure is True

True Stuff

Shortly after I began my first teaching assignment at a New York boarding school, the head of school called me into his office and said, “Malcolm, I just received a phone call from a mother who complained that her son has gotten stuck with all the rookie teachers, the ones who just stay one chapter ahead of the kids. So, I ask you, Malcolm, are you staying one chapter ahead of the kids?”

My first reaction: They’re on to me! I then pondered the question, trying to appear pensive and scholarly, paused a few seconds for emphasis, and then replied, “No sir.”

You see, the truth was that I doubted that I was actually a full chapter ahead of the kids.

That’s how my career started in the mid-70s.  In the early years, I was fairly self-conscious about just how much I did not know.  I was terrified that my students would ask me questions in class that I couldn’t answer intelligently.  After I got over this fear, I then went through a phase where I was trying to appear smarter than I actually was by pontificating intellectual-sounding ideas and theories to both students and colleagues.  Similarly, my basketball and lacrosse teams were palettes for the latest hot plays, gimmicks, and strategies.  Looking back, I was probably more into being cute than effective.

Eventually, I got into a flow as I realized that some things were just, well, obvious.  In class, some elementary techniques simply taught more history than others did.  On the playing fields, the most basic plays produced many more baskets and goals than the fancy ones did.  (e.g., We had one simple lacrosse play that routinely resulted in goals even after the opposing teams knew what we were going to do.)  Some things just plain worked.

After two or three decades of seeing the same things over and over again – the same attitudes and behaviors leading to progress, the same attitudes/behaviors resulting in lack thereof – it began to dawn on me that there are, in fact…..Rules.

They’re not MY rules. In fact, nobody owns them. They’re just….THE rules.

So, I ultimately began to catalog those that seemed to demonstrate a timeless quality (at least on my watch) and wrote up a brief explanation of each one.  Over the years I’ve pondered the idea of having these ideas form the core of a book.  While I’m still thinking about that, I figured I’d serve them up on my blog.  Stay tuned.

Onward, Malcolm Gauld