Sunday, June 22, 2014

An Opportunity to Learn: Attacking gets us Nowhere

I've been struck recently by the lack of civility in blog post comment streams, tweets, fb comments and other virtual spaces. Although I realize that being online isn't the "cause" of this incivility, I just wonder to myself as I read teachers and others attacking each other, "Would you say this to the person face to face?"

I have been called, with certain derision, a "do-gooder" in the past, so I realize that I might have a propensity for the rose colored glasses at times, but even when I make a comment with some level of disagreement, I speak/write with a specific intention: to create a constructive conversation, one that simply gets others to wonder a bit, open their minds.

Before we react, perhaps we can just take a moment to wonder about what is going on within us. What is our motivation for speaking up? Has something got us "seeing red?" If so, will our comment work better when we have calmed down enough to write a thoughtful, effective, yet from the heart? Does someone disagreeing with us have to threaten us? Maybe it can just be an opportunity for learning.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Believing in Students So They Believe In Themselves — Whole Child Education

Last week, I was so pleased to be part of this discussion with passionate educators and authors.  I don't think I can do justice by trying to summarize, so find a bit of time and take a listen!

Believing in Students So They Believe In Themselves — Whole Child Education

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Our Way isn't the Best Way

Who are we, as teachers, (or anyone for that matter) to judge each other? I admit it.. I do it too, so before anyone thinks I am standing on a soapbox claiming to be beyond this, I am writing as much for my own reminding as anyone else.

I happened to see a tweet yesterday that got me thinking:  it was something about waiting for others to come around to “our way” of teaching.

As is often the case with tweets, this one got me thinking.

Teaching is an intensely personal transaction, so why do we arrogantly assume that if others don’t teach like us, they are further down the path to success?

Instead of trying to sell our egocentric ideal approach, what if we simply invited others to ponder two simple questions:

How well do you know your students and what they need?
How is your approach and agenda meeting those needs?

Maybe in this process, we should also step back and take the time to reflect on our own way. Perhaps we’ve been starstruck and blindsided by the edu-star syndrome, buying into what others with lots of Twitter followers think. Maybe when others offer us praise on social media, we fall for the idea that we have “arrived” at our perfect way of teaching. I get it..totally.

I am going to state the obvious: there is no perfect way. What works today, in this particular class, may not work for our class next week. Teaching is an art, a fluid dance…and it should be, because the complex little (or not so little) people that arrive in our rooms deserve an environment that responds to them, that helps shape them, that gives them messages that when we work hard, we can learn. 

What students end up believing they can or cannot do might just be the most important transaction of all.

So how do we inspire others, and ourselves, to continuously reflect on the interactions with the most important people in the room? How do we keep adjusting and accommodating in a system that seems to love its, "that's how it's always been," mentality?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

If you want innovation, get a young idealistic teacher..and other damaging myths..

I recently read a post about edtech startups and the presence and role of teachers in them. There were a couple of assumptions that just..well.. let's just say "ruffled my feathers". (And before I get started, I must note that I know many innovative, excellent teachers of all ages, so I have no bias for young or old)

  • One assumption was that if education companies were going to "transform" or disrupt education, having teachers on board was not (necessarily) going to help since they(teachers) have a vested interest in the status quo and because companies have had teachers writing curriculum for years with "no change happening." Um, do we think that the big companies, the great big arms of the edu- machine are going to listen to a teacher, a marginalized professional who is writing that curriculum to supplement his/her measly income? Let's be clear: I gain no financial incentive nor personal satisfaction from perpetuating the bureaucratic machine of education. In fact, I've spent most of my years as an educator fighting and advocating for kids' rights, and when I believed I could no longer effect change, I left my school( to the detriment of my own financial security/retirement plan) for somewhere I could make a bigger impact. 

  •  The writer went on to talk about other industries where the people who made the innovations came from outside the industry. He talked about how teachers are prone to cognitive biases and distortions. Isn't that true of all of us humans? Now this is all fine and good for those on the outside to chime in with ideas, except that education isn't necessarily like the auto industry. We are talking about the lives of children. We are talking about developing not only skills and competencies but BELIEFS about what kids think they can do in this world. Those of us who have been around for awhile understand that many aspects of education are not best suited for the learners in our classrooms. We spend our own money, our supposed "vacation" time, and every moment we can trying to find new ways to meet the needs of our learners. We eat, breathe, sleep, and dream about our students, especially when they suffer hardships beyond our control. 

  • In education, teachers are tasked with being counselors, mentors, teachers, surrogate parents, nurses, caregivers, and so much more. To actually think that we who live within the world of education don't believe that it needs to change is crazy to me. To think that we who are veteran educators don't want it to change is even crazier to me. We have seen more, experienced more "pain points" as they like to say in business. We know what we need for tech in the classroom, just as we have strong pedagogical views shaped by years of experience. We know the damage caused by inequity; we witness the institutional racism that leads to higher rates of formal discipline for children of color. We do our best to intervene. We know the tools we would invent if we knew how to code or had the time to develop these tools.  We feel the pain, and feel it deeply when our children, aka, our students, suffer. 

  • The author also mentioned that perhaps younger, more idealistic teachers are going to be the ones who just might make an impact in edtech startups. He then goes even further by saying that maybe it won't even be those teachers, but the tech savvy students who will enter the workplace.  I'm all for student voice, but guess who will know best how to give those students the microphone? Teachers who get it and, "get them." 
I wrote this post weeks ago, and put it on hold to see if I would feel equally passionate as my anger died down. I am choosing to post it as it is, without editing further, as I believe that as my "nice teacher" self, I tend to make peace more often than I should.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on how we can all be heard as the important voices of advocacy for our students.