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  • Writer's pictureDr. Pamela Davis

My Superpower is ... problem-solving.

Updated: Mar 29, 2021

When I was choosing my dissertation topic, I had a broad idea of the problem I wanted to solve. At the time, I was a classroom teacher and my students were struggling to pass the state assessment in Florida, a graduation requirement. I had identified this as the problem - students were not passing the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). I pitched this idea to my advisor and his feedback was that I needed to drill down; identify the root of the problem.

Why are students not passing? Because they are not meeting the cut score. Why aren't they meeting the cut score? Because there are a lot of word problems? How are the word problems effecting student performance? Students are having difficulty reading and comprehending... and just like that, I moved past my original assertion and was able to identify the problem. Students were struggling with reading text-based math problems. They could do the math computations but struggled when math was embedded in the text-based problems. My solution - teaching my students how to read contextual based math problems; essentially, reading mathematics.

This laid the groundwork for the development of my superpower. The conversation with my advisor sparked the problem solving process within.

Years later, I would be able to put my problem-solving skills to good use in the workplace. I fielded constituent concerns in my school district for a cross-section of schools. Amongst other duties, I was responsible for reviewing and responding to concerns that were submitted to the region office. The concerns came from students, parents, and community members as well. The expectation was for me to review, respond, and provide a ruling, if necessary. Constituent concerns ranged in topic - instruction, athletics, grading policy,... transportation, bullying, and traffic! With each complaint that came in, I approached it with an open mind to hear and receive the nature of the concern and then set out to respond with all thoroughness - not necessarily aiming to make the constituent happy, but to fully address their concern.

Here's how my superpower works: After fully understanding the problem, my first step is to research. I want to know who else has had this problem; what have others done about this problem. If the problem is unprecedented, I want to determine what my options are. After doing proper research, I am also looking for any current policy on the topic. In some instances, people ask for things or attempt to do something wherein there is existing policy prohibiting it. Reviewing such policy helps shine a light on violations or validity in the claim being submitted. There are times when policy is outdated and the concern being submitted sets precedence. With the ever-changing world especially related to social media and the impact of the pandemic, there are areas where policy has not caught up with the current time. In these instances, it is important to collaborate with pertinent team members to be inclusive of all perspectives prior to ruling. In the end, I provide a ruling or state the organization's position on the concern submitted. I

I'm always in a problem-solving mode. I can't help it. When I'm solving problems, I'm in my happy place. Researching and resolving issues to link people to the resources they need gives me an opportunity to work my magic.

My superpower is problem-solving - what's yours?

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