Posts Tagged ‘colleagues’

Public doman image.

Public doman image.

So, I’ve been thinking about this question: Why do I need to know this? A group of colleagues got together a few months ago and one brought up the challenge of answering this question from students.

Here are my thoughts on the topic in a nice short list:

  1. I do think schools and teachers have a responsibility to continually review curriculum, consider relevancy, and look to create a curriculum that balances past, present, and future.
  2. I don’t think that teachers should have to defend each fact or piece of information as “useful” later in life.
  3. K-12 education is not the same thing as job training.

If I were to explain this in something more elegant than a list, I would start with the lovely idea (cue the dramatic music) that K-12 education should be a sacred time to be idealistic, luxurious, expansive in our learning for the sake of learning, a time to seek knowledge without the need to justify it as useful.

Ok, now back in the real world where harsh lighting, bells, and cumulative averages exist.

I cannot pretend to have any magic answers for how to find that magical unicorn of a curriculum that balances the divergent views of education as a search for knowledge and education as job training. I do think that when a student asks “why do I need to know this?” he or she may be saying a number of other things (thanks to @LisainPA who reminded me of this fact):

  • I don’t see how this connects to the rest of the class.
  • This is hard, and so I’m trying a diversionary tactic.
  • This entire subject is so not my favorite, and I am done with it.
  • I didn’t do this problem on the homework, so I am trying another diversionary tactic.
  • There are not a lot of things in school that interest me, and I have to spend so much time here.
  • I like to see if I can get you, the teacher, off topic because then we are talking about something I enjoy more.
  • I think I will have to spend a lot of time on this to learn it, maybe I can get out of that.

I could go on.

The point being, a balanced educational diet is just as important as a balanced food diet. It can’t all be cupcakes and ice cream, but neither should it be all kale and raw grains. As the chef of the classroom, it’s up to me to plan learning that is good for my students, interesting to my students, and maybe even useful in later life. Not every fact or assignment needs to check each box, but I have to hit a good balance over the course of a unit or semester. So when a student asks why do I need to know this, I know that if I answer the question as asked I know which food group(s) I am hitting. And, I need to listen for what other question is being asked and maybe answer that one instead.

So, I’ve been thinking about what makes for a productive visit for colleagues looking at 1:1 learning. I have visited four different schools this year with my colleagues. Each school has 1:1 laptop program yet there was wide variety not only in the schools but in the length of time they have been teaching and learning in this environment.

My conclusion: there is no perfect visit that fits everyone. Surprise. Just like Goldilocks, I was looking for the porridge that was “just right” for each person in my group. As the person bringing my colleagues, I was more anxious than I anticipated being. I wanted the school to look good, to show its best self, to reassure my colleagues if they needed reassuring, to inspire them if they needed inspiration, and to sing with them if they just needed a choir. Not too much, right?

Tourist Alert

Creative Commons licensed photo by Flickr user Scazon

One high school we visited was honestly a mess. They do great things at this school, and I would be thrilled to have my kids there, yet neat and tidy are not words I would use to describe it. Also, we didn’t end up seeing a lot of tech use, which was why we were there. Turned out the colleague with me didn’t need that. He valued the experience of talking to the students and other teachers. He was taking a broad view. Phew.

We also visited a school that specializes in students with learning differences. Our visit there gave my colleagues some reassurance that the laptops did not need to be out all the time, that meaningful work was happening, and that management was doable. It also gave them the idea that class size of 10 would be great. Keep dreaming, my friends!

A day long visit to a very similar school where we got to talk to lots of teachers, administrators, and tech folks gave my colleagues some perspective on the journey of change and transition. It was helpful to hear from people in a very similar school. Plus, we got to see the students in action and talk with some of them about their experience. We lucked out in terms of seeing some classes that particularly resonated with my group.

Finally, a small group went to a local high school. We were in and out quickly, which meant that it wasn’t a huge time commitment, always helpful for teachers. As we walked around, there were computers in use here and there and it just seemed to be an easy integration. Plus, we got to visit 4 different classes where technology was being used very differently. What made it so useful was that several of the uses we saw were very reasonable for my colleagues. These were uses that made sense in the classroom and which did not present an intimidating model. They were doable now! And, given the super short drive, we could go again.

In all of these examples, one of the things that was valuable was the conversation during our travel time which ranged from 8 minutes to 2 hours. Each time it gave me a chance to put into perspective some of what we had seen, explain a technical thing or two, and listen as others imagined how something they saw might translate at our school. On each visit I also go a chance to observe what grabbed each colleague’s attention so that I can personalize my support for that colleague.

So, I’m thinking about all of these visits as I think about planning more experiences like this for other colleagues. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • If it’s not a big production with presentations etc, short and sweet is good.
  • Something needs to seem doable NOW to each person in the group.
  • Acknowledgment of teacher time and choice is important for folks to hear loud and clear.
  • The travel time can be important talking time for the group.
  • There is no perfect visit.
  • I would love it if everyone got to visit somewhere.

What do you find valuable when you visit other schools?

So, I haven’t been thinking about EdCamps recently. Then, a few Saturday mornings ago I hopped on Twitter for a few minutes and saw this:

3 EdCamps going on in one morning! What am I doing at home?

Well, it is Saturday and my family does feel that it is appropriate for me not to work 7 days a week, and I would agree. And yet, it’s been awhile since I have been to an EdCamp. I’ve been to EdCamp Philly, Social Studies, NYC, NTcamp, and a NJTeacherMeet, some multiple times. They are always long days and it’s not as if every session is mind-blowing. But, if that were the case, my head would have exploded in the first session, and I would have to go sit in some dark room to collect myself.

I’ve had a bit of a break from EdCamps by virtue of some scheduling conflicts. Now, I’m ready to dive back into the fray. In particular what I am missing is all that enthusiasm and excitement about experimentation and the willingness to get into “what if” conversations. I always leave feeling recharged. After the hurricanes and nor’easters, it’s time for something that doesn’t involve natural disasters on a weekend.

So, I headed over to the EdCamp wiki and found my next, nearest EdCamp. Looks like December 1 in NJ is the next one for me. North Brunswick here I come.

I am quietly setting a goal to harass some colleagues until they agree to go convince 1 maybe 2 colleagues who haven’t been to an EdCamp before to go with me. I’ve only got several a few day. . .Can I do it?

If you’ve been to EdCamps, how would you sell them to those who are hesitant?