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Ready to discover and leverage learners’ unique and diverse assets and ways of learning?


Embrace dynamic relationships


You’re here to continue your journey, embracing teaching and learning as a dynamic relational human exchange. The next step? Discover and leverage learners’ unique and diverse assets and ways of learning.

Across this journey, you will be prompted to record your answers during some activities. You can record or type them on your own device and save the files so you can return to them later. If you see the option to take notes within the text boxes, you can print and/or email them to yourself at the end of the activity for your personal use. You can also access this Experience Journey digitally if you prefer.

If this is your first Experience Journey with The Elephant in the (Class)room, make sure you Pack for Your Journey before you depart.


Think of a learning experience (either inside or outside of formal education) that really played to your strengths and where you got to do something you were good at or learn in a way that was very comfortable for you. Tell a story about that experience. Who was there? What was happening? When did it occur? How did you feel? Why was it different from other experiences? Do your best to put yourself in that particular space and time and describe what precisely was happening that contributed to your experience.

Now reflect on the frequency of these experiences. How often did you experience learning that played to your strengths? How has the frequency or lack thereof affected your attitude toward learning? Toward teaching?

Record your answers

Record your answers on your own device. You can refer back to them later.

Next up: Listen to Learn


Let’s watch this video from MIT Teaching Systems Lab, which features high school teacher Angela Daniel describing how she uses asset framing to support her students to thrive.

View the video twice to hear what Angela and her student, 10th grader Daniel, have to say. These repeated viewings are essential to deepening your understanding, as we will be prompting you to listen with different “ears” or orientations.


First listen:
from a learner lens
  • Reflecting on the media, what resonated with you as a learner?
  • Angela’s asset framing helps students be brave in educational settings, creating space for them to do their best work. Think about learning experiences that you, your child, or someone you know has had where it was clear the educator saw and valued learner strengths. How did it make you/them feel as a learner? How did it affect your/their learning?
Don’t forget to record your answers!
Second listen:
from an educator lens
  • In the video, Angela says her 9th and 10th graders are “great at listing their deficits to you.” As an educator, do you think your students are similar? Why or why not?
  • In what ways does the language and structure of our current educational system feed a deficit narrative to students? What impact does this have on our most marginalized and vulnerable students?
Don’t forget to record your answers!

Recall how Angela reframed Daniel’s story and shared how as soon as she sees “nuggets of brilliance” from one of her students, she accuses them of it, and “there’s no student in my class that’s not accused of something really exceptional.”

Think about the nuggets of brilliance you see from one of your students and tell that student’s story from an asset-based lens. What will you accuse them of doing and/or being that is exceptional? Here, you may want to push yourself to not think about a more visible or extroverted student in this context but one that may otherwise fly under the radar. Also, you may need to connect with other stakeholders in this student’s life to get a fuller picture.

Finally, remember how Angela reminded us that the one thing we can control is how we think about our students.


Weave It Together

    1. Start with choosing your student.
    2. Then, generate a list of 3-5 “nuggets of brilliance” or assets this student brings with them.
    3. Identify possible misconceptions or misunderstandings about assets. Remember the example of Daniel and how his teacher, Angela, observed him closely to find his brilliance. Remember that some of what you see as challenges may tie to brilliance and show up differently in other places and spaces. For example, consider how Angela described Daniel as someone with “a very strong sense of his own boundaries, which I believe is a huge asset for him; but if you are a person like a teacher or an administrator who is looking for acquiescence and immediate smiling compliance, you may see that as non-compliance or disrespect or something like that.” How might your student's assets show up as something else depending on the perspective from which you approach them?
    4. Think about your student’s potential obstacles to learning. Show curiosity about them and think about them in the context of their assets and how the assets may help them overcome their challenges. If helpful, consider connecting with various stakeholders to see if the obstacles are consistent.
    5. Think about Angela and how she makes sure her students hear about their assets daily. What is one small, manageable “micro-moment” you can create to shift the orientation towards this student's assets/nuggets of brilliance and away from the obstacles or challenges?

    Last step: Commit and Connect

    Now that you’ve woven it all together, where do you go from here?

    Connect with others on this journey so that we as educators can learn and grow together in community rather than in isolation. Commit to equity as an ongoing practice and explore more content on The Elephant in the Classroom.

    Engage others in your system

    You might start with engaging others in your system — for example, your colleagues, a grade-level team, or a professional learning community structure already established — and invite them to join you in this experience.

    Connect with us

    Connect with the Elephant team to join a cohort of like-minded educators from across the country to redesign systems for equity. Send us a message at .

    Explore more on The Elephant in the (Class)room

    Continue to explore other ways to understand and experience our anchors for equity:

    Expand Experience Journey

    Learn from your students about how and where they learn—and from whom
    Start Journey
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    teaching and learning as a dynamic relational human exchange

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    our concepts of educator and community in schools

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    systems to sustain equity