TC² @ 25
Focus for This Month
Success Stories
Next Steps
Media Release
TC² @ 25
Focus for This Month
Success Stories
Next Steps
Media Release

Changing My School, Changing Me


Ursula Hermann

I have been lucky enough to have had many years collaborating with The Critical Thinking Consortium (TC²). This relationship has had a huge impact on my career, and even changed the way I think.


Seeking an answer

My journey with critical thinking began years ago, after I joined the International
Baccalaureate ® (IB) and became part of their worldwide community of schools and teachers. A colleague and I attended an IB conference, which I knew would be a stimulating event with discussion of some of the newest ideas and methodologies in international education.

As a middle school principal, one of my goals was to find some guidance about critical thinking. I was researching various approaches but frankly found most of the critical thinking programs lacking. They were just add-on programs. To my mind, an add-on program totally misses the point of thinking critically. I believed then—and believe now—that critical thinking is a pedagogy. My quest was to find a way to help teachers embed this pedagogy into their core work.


An overflowing workshop

I remember hoping to find a solution to my quest at the conference. I was not disappointed. As I walked by various workshops, I saw one that was overflowing with participants. I soon understood why. After squeezing my way into the presentation room, instead of hearing a presentation about critical thinking, I was drawn into an interactive and critically thoughtful experience. Participants were engaged in ways that were both stimulating and challenging.

The presenter of this eye-opening experience was Roland Case from TC², an organization that would completely change how I viewed education.


Spreading the word

After the conference, I connected with TC², and soon Roland Case was working with us at Westland Middle School. One of the earliest “converts” on my teaching staff was a special educator. Using the TC² philosophy and embedding critically thoughtful challenges in her teaching practice, she found her classroom being transformed from a resource room where students reluctantly engaged in work from their other classes, to a teaching and learning environment they did not want to leave. They soon informed their special education teacher that they wished that all their teachers taught like she did. That attitude spread to other classrooms as other teachers came on board.

Before long, critical thinking was having an impact on the teaching and learning environment of the whole school. It changed the ways in which leaders engaged teachers in the delivery of instruction. It even affected the development of protocols for administrators to facilitate and coach teachers through the evaluation process.


Moving to central office

Eventually I moved from the school house to central office, where I had multiple opportunities to engage TC². We began working with Garfield Gini-Newman, who was at the centre of our effort to transform classrooms in dozens of schools, involving hundreds of teachers. We were ecstatic at central office, as were the educators who began their own critical thinking journeys.


Becoming a more thoughtful person

TC² changed my thinking on every level. They shaped and informed the ways in which I was engaged in the pedagogy of teaching and learning. The guiding principles of critical thinking added depth and perspective to my collaborative leadership skills. In short, I became a more critically thoughtful person.

The journey has not stopped for me. Although I have been retired for four years, I continue to bring the practice of critical thinking into everything I do—on a daily basis.

Thank you, TC²: from me and from every leader, teacher, and student whose lives you have touched. Here’s to another 25 years!

Ursula A. Hermann, Ph.D
Retired Community Superintendent
Montgomery County Public Schools
Rockville, Maryland, USA