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Books: I Used to Think... And Now I Think...

By Rachael Apfel, on September 7, 2011 12:14 PM

I Used to Think...Experience: While it may be one of the most relentless and unforgiving teachers, it provides what may be the most effective and enduring lessons. In an effort to exemplify this, I Used to Think … And Now I Think …, a volume of reflective essays compiled by Professor Richard Elmore, C.A.S.'72, Ed.D.'76, presents a variety of testaments from several top educators as they look back upon their professional experiences.

The book shares its name with an exercise Elmore uses to conclude courses and teacher professional development sessions, in which participants are asked to reflect on what they learned and how their thinking changed over a certain period of time. The notion of utilizing the exercise as the foundation for an entire book came a little more than a year ago when Elmore wrote a short piece for the Harvard Education Letter using the guidance of this very protocol. The essay, which is now featured as a chapter in the book, not only reveals how his own thinking changed over the course of his 40-year career as a teacher and researcher, but ultimately encouraged Elmore to seek similar reflections from others.

The resulting volume consists of 20 chapters that represent the individual reflections and musings of 20 different educational professionals. By compiling these varying perspectives into a single book, Elmore hopes to both "make learning visible" and provide a testimonial to the broader value and power of reflection. "My fellow contributors and I hope to model, in a small way, what professional discourse might look like if professionals were expected to learn over the course of a career," Elmore writes. "It strikes me as ironic that in a field nominally devoted to the development of capacities to learn, there is so little visible evidence of what those who do the work have actually learned in their careers."

Through this compilation, Elmore presents current educators with the opportunity to change the way they think about improving school reform without making the same mistakes as their predecessors and without spending years of their careers learning the crucial lessons highlighted by the featured contributors.

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