A man sits alone in a courtyard with a pad of paper in front of him.
He writes and then pauses, looking off into space. He writes again.
As I watched I realized that those are the essential ingredients of “deep work” – solitude, a process that allows us to externalize, clarify, and elaborate our thinking (in this case, writing); thinking about what we think (metacognition); and then beginning the cycle again. Deep work is essential in classrooms and meeting rooms. It is also an essential ingredient of professional development that leads to professional learning.
Because focused conversation enables us to externalize, clarify, and elaborate our thinking, it is important that schools provide generous opportunities for well-designed group work in classrooms and among teachers.
But it is also important that schools value the solitary activities that are often a prerequisite to the deep work that is the foundation of meaningful learning, teaching, and school leadership.