Maybe its the fact I have had the misfortune of contracting shingles during the busiest month of school, or maybe its the fact it has forced me to cancel a trip home to see my family or maybe its just because I am grumpy, but this post is almost writing itself.
I worry that because you are reading this, a blog, and you probably found the link from Twitter, that I am preaching to the converted so do me a favor and share this with someone NOT connected.
I feel inspired to do a little venting about areas of our profession that I feel are simply no longer optional. Whether at the school, district or provincial/state level, I feel we are not doing enough to push that these are now a mandatory part of our jobs, not because an act, law or contract deems them to be, but because we are professionals that are supposed to do what’s right for our students.
We live in a world that is changing at such a rapid pace, predicting what next year will look like is starting to get very difficult, let alone 12 years into the future of our eager little Gr. 1 students. The world is changing, and we are supposed to be preparing students for their world. So, if the world is changing, so should our practices of preparation for this world and thus our teaching. Constantly. For the rest of our careers, or until the world stops changing – don’t hold your breath.
Maybe there was a time that the school of thought was that you go to school to learn all you need to teach in four years, then you spend 35 years spewing that knowledge until you jump on the pension pony and ride off into the sunset. Being the expert on a topic is becoming less and less prevalent, and our system is now in need of professional learners. Educators who model learning, inspire learning, embrace learning and challenge students to learn. And it doesn’t have to be learning about science if you are a science teacher, our students just need to see a successful adult show them that learning is exciting, engaging and empowering. Are you learning the guitar? SHARE that with your science students. Learning how to mountain bike? TALK to your students about the experience, especially the parts you found tough and the failures you had to deal with and overcome. “What are you learning about now?” – that is a question every teacher should have an answer to.
This one really gets to me. There are leaders of education who dismiss this idea very quickly. Then there are those that make excuses for those who are not connecting – “not everyone is tech savvy…” and “lots of people don’t have the time…”. Take Twitter or even the words “Social Media” out of the sentence and replace it with “resource”.
There is a RESOURCE that will allow our educators to connect with other educators all over the globe, share best practices, learning experiences, connect their classrooms and move the profession forward. It will allow great ideas to spread and allow us to take control of our own professional development without having to travel anywhere, it can all occur from our couches.
What excuse is there for not using this “resource”. Aren’t we supposed to be engaging in professional learning throughout the year? Dedicating time to ensuring our practice stays effective and current? I am having trouble seeing much in the way of a counter-argument on this one. You should get connected, be connected and stay connected. You should learn from and share with educators in your own schools, of course, but you should also learn from other educators outside your building, district, state/province and country. We want our students to have a better understanding of their world by learning about the world beyond their cities and towns, shouldn’t we as educators learn from and share with educators from outside as well?
No one is paying you to herd cattle, or to scare or intimidate your students, even if they think they are. Those days are long gone, and now we know that we need a student who feels safe, secure, comfortable, engaged and challenged if we are going to do our best work and see those students do theirs’. If your classroom management plan requires you to tower over and yell at your students to induce fear-based compliance, then you probably aren’t going to see the best in your kids. You don’t need to overpower and really you don’t even have to control, you just have to protect – you have to protect the environment to create a place all students can learn. I have the pleasure of walking around our school most days and see this in action, and what I don’t hear anymore (I haven’t heard it in years) is yelling, belittling, or the recognizable language of the classic “power trip”. The great teachers, at least the ones I get to see on a regular basis, are able to get everything they want out of their classroom with simple tricks like 1-on-1 conversations, humour and care.
While my previous post was about what I wanted to tell graduating education students about to enter our profession, I would say this post is written as a tool for professional check-up. For me, these are non-negotiable’s, badges we should already have earned that we showcase on a daily basis. If you don’t feel these describe you, ask yourself if they are important to you the way they are to me. If they are, make them goals to strive towards, if they aren’t, develop your own list of non-optional traits you believe should embody your teaching and use those as a check-up.
If we are to move forward then we need to be checking in on how we are doing with that progress, individually and as a group. Find whatever measurement you want for your own teaching and then periodically take stock on how you are doing. I have no doubt that the simple act of reflection will go a long ways to ensure you keep moving your practice in the right direction.