Revolutions and Encouragement, Can they Co-Exist?

After recording a good old fashioned podcast a couple weeks ago, I felt inclined to post a blog post in response to another post. Just like old days.

So Will Richardson references a tweet by George Couros questioning the dichotomy between acknowledging the good work of teachers and fighting for a revolutionary change in education. As someone who has argued both sides I thought I’d share how I deal with this.
People like myself and Will and George speak to a lot of teachers and I’m continually surprised at how many have not fully realized the impact and potential of technology for learning and, in particular, its disruptive nature. Then again, I sometimes forget that I have had the privilege of thinking and learning about this almost exclusively for 15 or so years. Will is a master at laying out the potential of modern learning and the problems with our current system. I’ve learned a great deal from him over the years and he continues to push my thinking and others. He’s a <insert adjective> disturber.  He’s also very respectful to teachers. But he’s been challenging people to wake up.
motivator8378dd33735335cf95c57f67343d2989d415a054Of late, I’ve taken a slightly different approach with teachers. While trying to point out how things might be different, I’ve also tried to work with a strength-based approach. Since I began teaching over 25 years ago, teachers have been asked to change. Long before the conversation around technology, many districts/provinces/states have been sending the unintended message to teachers that “you’re doing it wrong” If you hear this enough, you’ll get your guard up. Most teachers I deal with can relate to this at some level. I’m trying to stop that kind of sentiment and instead have teachers reflect on what they do that works. I also suggest this needs to be shared in open, public spaces.
I couple this message with the belief that the biggest change comes in the role of the teacher. No longer should teacher and instructor be synonymous but as Phil Schlecty suggests teachers take on as their primary role, designer, and guide. This is where it begins to get uncomfortable for some. My belief is that relationships with students matter more now than ever. Technology is enabling them to focus more on the individual and the human connection becomes critical. The thing is, there are many teachers and a few schools that are already doing this well. They aren’t in need of a revolution but rather more support and encouragement.
Could our education use an overhaul? Do we need to rethink grading, groupings, assessment, etc? Yes. Currently, this is more of a political issue than a classroom issue. It’s easier to change a classroom and for me, that’s what I’m focusing on.
I still want Will to push for big changes. I don’t think it demeans teachers. But teachers are a bit gun shy and I think we need them to keep doing what’s working, share that and shift to more focus on relationships and individuals. I’m not suggesting my approach is the right one but I also think we need more than one approach.

Teachers do not resist making changes; they resist people who try to make them change. Once coaches abandon the role of change agent, we can build trust and rapport and engage teachers in nonjudgmental conversations about their experiences, feelings, needs, ambitions, and goals. (Evocative Coaching, page 6)

As an aside, Twitter remains a horrible place for nuance. I need to remember that and take the time here to clarify and discuss rather than sharing pithy quotes that get retweets. I do that way too often. Yes, fewer people will read this, but the ones that do, care more and will be in a better position to teach me and push my thinking. Thanks, Will.