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How I Used My CLASS Knowledge During Jury Duty

28 Apr 2017 by Gina Gates

We recently saw a comment on the CLASS Community Facebook Group from one of our MMCI Instructors and CLASS Observers, Candice Smith, and this is what it said:

Well, you know you are a CLASS Instructor when you find yourself in the jury room telling your fellow jurors to remain objective, opinions do not matter, and to put on your lens and focus on the evidence only.”

I was intrigued by Candice’s post and asked her to tell me a little bit more about her experience. Candice's story begins when she was chosen to serve on a jury in a civil case. The plaintiff was suing the defendant for backing into her car in a parking lot, causing damage to her vehicle. The attorneys presented their case over the course of three days, calling witnesses to testify, and presenting evidence for both sides. Once the attorneys rested their case, the twelve jurors began deliberations. At first, none of the jurors wanted to start talking. But after a short while, and after the laws had been read, one by one each juror began to chime in. Candice heard statements such as “I think this could have happened” and “What if this did happen, how do we know she didn’t do this?” Several jurors began to tell of their own accident experiences, and that’s when Candice knew that something was not right, and she needed to speak up. She reminded the group: “In this case, our opinions do not matter. We must review the evidence and remain objective. Imagine that you are wearing glasses that cause you to be blind to anything but the evidence of this case. Use that lens to answer the questions presented to us based on nothing but the facts and the evidence.”

When you are chosen to serve on a jury, the judge instructs you to weigh the evidence presented to you. You are also expected to follow the judge’s instructions and the law. You are asked to keep an open mind and to avoid forming any opinions until you have weighed all of the evidence in the case. Sound familiar? If you’ve ever been to a CLASS observation training, this same logic should ring true.

As it turns out, Candice’s statement to the jurors also applies to CLASS Observations. Let’s break down what Candice said:

  • Opinions do not matter, remain objective - It’s easy to walk into a classroom and begin to form opinions about a teacher. For example, you may conduct an observation and see that the teacher is doing a very similar activity to one you've also facilitated. You may begin to think: “I’m going to like this teacher.” Or, conversely, you might compare how she facilitates the activity to how you would facilitate the same activity. As a CLASS observer, just as a juror, you must be certain not to bring your opinion into your observations. Just as you should never look at a defendant and think “He’s covered in tattoos, he must be guilty of something,” you should never walk into a classroom and make judgements. 
  • Weigh the evidence - As an observer, it is extremely important to take detailed notes of what is going on during the observation. These detailed notes, or evidence, are what you must use to arrive at your score for each dimension. If you don’t write down what you see and hear, chances are you are not going to remember what took place over the twenty-minute cycle. Just as a juror reviews all the evidence in the deliberation room prior to coming to a decision, a CLASS observer must rely on the evidence that they have written down to obtain a score.  
  • Independence of cycles - Another challenge for the CLASS observer is to record the ratings accurately without regard to scores in previous cycles. Each cycle must be considered independently of the others with no expectation or need for change or stability. For example, just because a teacher scored high in RSP for the first three cycles, it does not mean that she will score high in RSP for the fourth cycle. A person found guilty of a crime in a former trial is not automatically guilty of a separate crime.
  • Come to a decision only after reviewing all of the evidence - For example, at the beginning of the trial you might hear from the plaintiff’s perspective and make an immediate judgment: “Oh yeah, it’s obvious he did it.” Making such an early judgment, however, is wrong--and you’ve only heard the evidence from one side. A CLASS observer has a similar task in making sure that all of the classroom evidence is taken into account before obtaining a score. Twenty minutes is a long time. The first ten minutes might be stellar, but a lot can change in the next ten minutes. Observers should not try to begin scoring a cycle until the full twenty minutes is complete.
  • Refer to the manual - Let’s say the jurors have reviewed all of the evidence, and they think that they have reached a decision; however, they are not quite certain if they have made the right decision based on the law. What do they do? They go back and read the judge’s orders and review the law. As an observer, you may sometimes come to a preliminary decision based on your evidence, but you always need to be sure you are correct. What do you do? Naturally you go to your rule of law: the CLASS manual.  Those handy dandy descriptive pages that follow the face pages of each dimension contain a wealth of information that will assist you in confirming your score. 

After hearing Candice’s story, I had one more question: “Well, what was the outcome of the case? Did you find in favor of the plaintiff or the defendant?” Candice responded: “Finally, using only the evidence that was provided to us, we ended up ruling in favor of the defendant. Emotional ruling would have been for the plaintiff, but it was not based on evidence, just an opinion. I learned that day that the concepts behind CLASS are not just for classrooms, they are relevant every day.”

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