Is there any phrase more cliche than “We are at a crossroads”? I googled the phrase and had 22,300,000 hits. So cliche aside, we really are at an interesting time in education. Every day we become more and more aware that we must change the things we do. To make it even more difficult, we realize this in our practices of assessment, discipline, pedagogy, use of technology, professional development, and infrastructure design. Whether it’s the Daniel Pink speaking about motivation, Ken Robinson talking about changing the learning environment, or Will Richardson helping us implement social media in our schools, we have many brilliant men and women out there helping us see where we should be going. So its clear, we need to start (or continue) the change process. However, so many changes in so many areas need to be made, and we live in a society that isn’t ready for radical shifts in a system based so heavily on tradition, a system almost everyone has been through and has formed their own expectations about.
So what should our role be as teachers or administrators when it comes to helping move education forward?
Well before any change can occur, people need to be aware of what needs to change. We need to be professionals that continually strive to improve ourselves, and that includes becoming informed on what education research is saying. We can’t rely on monthly professional development days and annual conferences. We can’t rely on our superintendent or principal to be our experts, providing all the know-how. There is too much going on, and we are going to need leaders throughout our buildings and throughout our school divisions.
How should we stay informed, continually learn and become the leaders our schools, our school divisions and our students need? Well for me Twitter is the answer, and I believe it can be the answer for you as well. If you don’t agree, and you don’t want Twitter to be your source, then I think you need to do the following three things and do them a fierce commitment and tireless diligence – Read, Listen and Share.
Read – Seek out the information and devour it. Read books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, websites, whatever you can find so that you know what is going on.
Listen – Find TED talks, videos, webcasts, radio shows, podcasts and audiobooks to be informed of emerging trends and breakthrough research.
Share – If you find it interesting, share it with your colleague, and find out what they have read or heard.
Twitter or not, if we want to stay relevant, if we want to be part of the movement, we first must stay current and we must do this on our own.
Once we are informed, then we need to defend the science, spread the word, and put the change into action. I don’t suggest that every teacher or administrator go out and change everything they are doing, but I do think that we should take what we learn to heart. If it is something easy to implement, try it tomorrow. If it is a major endeavor, do your homework, talk to colleagues and figure out how you can make it happen together. Start figuring out what you want to see change in your classroom this month, this school year, next school year, within three years, within five years etc. etc. Prioritize by choosing the area or idea that makes you the most excited, so that you will be able to draw on the energy that this change provides. There is a lot going on, and a lot to get excited about. Once you start changing something, talk about it. With your colleagues, on twitter, in a blog, present at a conference, do whatever you can, but share your successes.
The revolution (I just choked on another cliche) isn’t looking for a lot of the “What to do?”, there is TONS out there, this revolution is looking for the “Who’s gonna do it?” and that’s you and me. If you get stuck, find someone to help you get un-stuck (not an English major). For me, I have great people in my PLN and in my division who are quick to remind me that what we may try is great, but there is far more we can do. If you aren’t stuck, connect with a colleague and help them start their own revolution.
I saw the question asked on Twitter in the last couple weeks “When is Education going to have its Egypt moment?” Truth is I don’t think we are going to have one big moment, but rather a groundswell of momentum created by the push of many dedicated educators unwilling to continue with the status quo. I think we’ll see school divisions, policy makers and eventually political leaders embrace the movement. In the end, I doubt we will be able to mark the date in our history books because it will happen gradually, all over the globe. It will start with individuals making a change, in fact, it already has started. So, do you want to be part of it? I know I do, the crossroads for me is in my rear-view mirror.