This is going to be the first of a series of 4 posts.
I know that everyone believes in the importance of diversity, individuality and differentiation, but I'm worried there are a couple of very strong narratives that exist that are sending the wrong messages to teachers and students.
Let's start with this one.
After I saw this video a few months back I immediately thought of my pre-service teachers. I feel many times like I perpetuate this myth. I love bringing in smart, accomplished teachers to share all the wonderful things they do. I do the same thing in presentations I give. The truth is most of these teachers have done something above and beyond the call of duty to be able to do what they do. They've spend hours and hours dedicating themselves to developing new teaching methods and incorporating new tools. We love these teachers and but the message can often be interpreted that these tools are easy and you too can be a master teacher and technology ninja by joining twitter and starting a blog. It ain't that easy, but that sometimes gets lost in the excitement a reimagined classroom.
The problem with exemplars is that they sometimes set unrealistic expectations and ideals that some folks may never live up to. I'm not suggesting we stop sharing and celebrating the great work of these people, I just think we need to couch the message better. There are many teachers doing good work. They don't blog, they aren't on twitter. While I continue to advocate that these are useful, important practices, I also think that as narrative champions we ought to find lesser known teachers and examples of small, meaningful ideas that illustrate that while there are so many wonderful ideas and teachers there is also a continuum of progress and that good teaching exists along that continuum.
Teachers in general are going through a difficult time right now. Budget cuts, teacher bashing, initiatives up the wazoo including ones to increase the use of technology in their classrooms are making teaching an extremely tenuous vocation. The last thing they need is to be told in subtle ways "you suck". Obviously no one would say that or consider that message is being shared but it's a fine line between sharing outstanding teaching practices and shaming teachers. Lately I've been extremely sensitive of this fine line and have taken more care than usual to insure I don't cross it. I'm not full of answers on this one but one thing I know I need to be careful with is letting teachers know that they don't have to be super teachers to be effective and that every day they are learning and trying something is important and worth celebrating.