While standing in line at PetSmart today, I noticed a reoccurring phenomenon. Dogs everywhere, walking with their owners, tugging at their leashes in a concerted effort to go an entirely different direction than intended. For the most part, each dog owner seemed unaware of the Slanted Dog Walk unfolding all over the store.
As educators, we spend a lot of time telling each other, our students, and ourselves that failure is good. We learn from failing. We encourage students to keep at it, to not give up, to finish the effort. Some of us even model that sometimes, so that we can show students that risk taking is okay, necessary, and totally worth it. And then, we educators, look at a new idea, a way to empower our students, a system that get’s them in the driver’s seat of their own learning, and we back away slowly in fear…of failing…of failure.
Growing up in an educational system that valued and rewarded compliance and conformity has produced plenty of educators who wallow in complacency. There, I said it. We wallow. In complacency. Sound harsh? Maybe, but that doesn’t make it less true, and we need to reflect on our own practices even now. Weekly, Daily. Hourly. I Do, We Do, You Do, in this context, now glows in a whole new light.
As I begin #IMMOCC Season 4 and dive into the blog prompts designed to help me read, reflect, and share my insights, I initially glossed over the one for the book, Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Learning. I am currently reading this book, and since I’m always reading Innovator’s Mindset, I could draw from that column of prompts too, so I looked, and thought, and circled back around. Inspire creativity and innovation daily. Like every day. Like 5 times a week. Huh. Now, I teach high school, so my mind immediately panicked as it took that number and multiplied by the number of classes I teach. Gulp. Inspire creativity and innovation daily. Yeah. Right.
My school went through a rough few days recently. While our thoughts and prayers were focused on the school in Florida, my own district was threatened. We had to take it seriously, as did law enforcement, As the community outpouring on social media wafted from supportive, frustrated, angry, supportive, and scared, education still had to continue. The show must go on. So we had school with law enforcement patrolling the hallways, parking lots, and town. It was a Monday, of course, and a holiday that we had to use as a snow makeup day. Attendance was down some due to the threat, and at times the tension was palpable.
As more and more educators discover the value of Twitter professionally, it can sometimes seem like an echo chamber, as my #4OCF Voxer group discussed during our book study of The Four O’Clock Faculty: A Rogue Guide to Revolutionizing Professional Development. And since we’re being honest here, we can also admit that the glory of retweets and the race to collect followers can also draw us away from the original beauty of Twitter. That beauty, my friends, is what keeps me going.
Is there really a Cool Kids Club that follows us throughout life? Do we really have to live high school all over again as adults? Can we be in that elusive Cool Club some years, months, days and not others? Should we care? Generally speaking, that club does frequently appear in schools, businesses, churches, clubs, and it rears its ugly head on social media as well. What exactly is it? How do we guide kids through the social maze in order to survive? Should we spend any time helping students through this? And actually, students may have a better handle on this than we adults do. Social media and the internet have opened doors to fashion and culture, good and bad, for us that students may navigate better than many adults. In fact, if you ask your own children about the Cool Kids Club, as Denis Sheeran did, you may discover that they have never heard of it. That then begs the question, do we adults really understand it ourselves?
So which type of teacher learner are you? If we’re honest, we have all been unintentional and engaged during our careers. In the very beginning, we soak up every scrap of professional development thrown at us. Inexperienced educators are hungry to know more in order to gain a sense of mastery in the classroom. As that begins to occur, the shift from educationally starving to sated develops, and that is perhaps the most dangerous moment in our educational careers.