Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A New Kind of Freedom

You may or may not be aware, but somebody declared October "Connected Educator Month."  For me, the connected part started in September, when I accepted the challenge to blog for 30 days through the Te@chthought folks using their prompts.  Since then, the topics have been largely my own, although Thursdays have been "Collaboration Focused" thanks to Te@chthought, once again.

The weird thing about this journey is that, as I shared with my colleagues at A Lunch today, I feel more grounded and focused as an educator this year.  I'm now reflecting more on my own pedagogical practices, and reading much more from a variety of sites through connections on Twitter and Facebook.

Connection and Collaboration and Justice for All...

Mindshift - How We Will Learn, has an interesting article that dates back a little more than a year that resonates strongly with me.  Katrina Schwartz's premise is that "through connection and collaboration teachers can start down a learning path that parallels the one they try to create for students." 

Boy, this had me flashing back to recent in service training where we were instructed, for more than THREE HOURS, in an auditorium where we were not permitted to have anything -- not even water -- as the presenter droned on about the need for lively, interactive, and varied activities.  Oh, by the way, she DRONED on about the necessity for these lively, interactive, and varied activities.  FOR THREE HOURS.  (Did I mention that it was THREE HOURS of droning?) 

While we can all claim the "do as I say, not as I do" model for education occasionally, this was a half day of our lives that we will never get back.  Was it a productive use of our time?  (A resounding NO from the audience!)  Did we get the message?  Yes.  In the first 30 seconds.  (Thanks for the 3 hour reinforcement.)

If you've never witnessed the genius that is Sir Kenneth Robinson, the RSAnimate version of his TED Talk on changing paradigms in education is worth the 11:41 of your time to consider.  Further, David Price's book, Open, shakes up the focus even further, allowing everyone the option of considering why we need to consider the future method of the educational model and its delivery.  Price strongly suggests the value of authenticity, project-based learning, and collaborative projects with community mentors.  (All the sorts of things that are cut from curriculum due to lack of time.)

Today I had the chance to transport a student home from an off campus seminar.  His brother had been a student of mine, and is now a senior at a private boarding school.  I inquired about his college plans, and was surprised to learn that he had been offered a hefty-salaried opportunity and might choose to go right into the workforce.   This shouldn't surprise me, after all, many famous and successful people -- including Bill Gates -- walked away from pursuing a sheepskin to enter the workforce.

So where am I going with all this?  There are hundreds of people with hands on ideas that I come in contact with every single day.  Classroom teachers are challenged to prepare kids for life -- and perhaps that shift needs to be even more collaborative, more OPEN, and more paradigm-shifted than we ever imagined.  Everyone can agree that a three hour lecture is ineffective.  Trusting educators to collaborate in meaningful ways, to share their research and insights with each other, and have discussions that last longer than it takes to consume a quick sandwich in the faculty room each day will, ultimately, allow the networking necessary to collectively educate our learners in authentic, meaningful, and cooperative connections. 

Meanwhile, I keep reading the Twitter feed, take recommendations from friends (and Amazon) for new books, and network with new teachers every day. 

And every night I go home and realize how much less I know, and how much farther I must travel on this road called education.

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