Who has the hardest job?

Every once in a while I tweet something only to realize it lacks context and nuance that makes for horrible conversation and goes against many of the things I think makes Twitter a poor place for deep conversation. Like this one:

These are the tweets that get retweeted and favorited but also create some questions and reactions that are difficult to explore in 140. So here I am.

This tweet was borne out of mostly living with a teacher and being one too. I know I never worked harder than when I was in the classroom. I work long hours now, perhaps more than when I taught but one I still remember the biggest thing I gained when I left the classroom was autonomy of my time. Being able to go the bathroom when I wanted was a luxury I didn’t have for the 14 years I taught grades 1-8. Being able to take 10 minutes to walk across the office to chat with a co-worker about … Read the rest

Sometimes You Should Take A Little….

“Don’t take crap from anyone”

Umpire Fight
Photo Credit: dawgfanjeff via Compfight cc

This is a pretty popular sentiment today in a world that’s focused on self-preservation and social justice. Certainly, there are times when this is the proper approach. We need to teach children and adults to stand up for truth and justice, particularly when it’s being done to those who perhaps can’t speak or defend themselves.

But making this your life’s motto or suggesting it be an absolute is dangerous and I think misguided.

A friend of mine told me a story about his son who was in middle school at the time. A group of kids were on the playground and were picking on a particular boy. The whole group got hauled into the principal’s office to tell their story. My friend’s son, let’s call him R,  explained that he was trying to prevent the bullying. The principal decided that all the boys write a 500 word essay on bullying. R went home and told his Dad about the injustice. Dad believed R and wanted to be sure he had an opportunity to state his case, which he had. At this point, my friend had a few choices to … Read the rest

You’re Not Number One

I don’t know the full context of this statement so this isn’t a personal attack in any way but rather a concern about an attitude that reveals 2 huge issues in education.

1. Teachers as Superheroes. If you subscribe to the sentiments of Hollywood and movies that portray teachers as being able to overcome all the ills and challenges of their students, I worry about you. First watch this.

The Myth of the Super Teacher from Education Writers Association on Vimeo.

I am totally aware of studies which suggest that teachers are the number one factor in student success. My concern with those studies is the measure of student success, which is testing as well as the fact that these studies only focus on what happens in schools. They dismiss the other factors because they are out of the teacher’s control. While I understand the urge to use outside factors as an excuse for lack of success, it cannot nor should not be ignored. Particularly when those outside forces actually contribute positively to student … Read the rest

Anyone Want To Have a Real Conversation?

The reason I was drawn to blogs 10 years ago was the raw and natural tone they afforded. No longer publishing was relegated to perfectly edited prose but favored conversational, authentic voices. My recent foray into snapchat is largely about exploring the same thing but perhaps to a greater degree.

Arriving at ISTE for the 8th year in a row, it’s difficult at times not to become jaded. I’m not even talking about the overblown corporate presence but rather the way in which discussions and ideas are void of authenticity. What takes precedence at ISTE and most larger events are buzzwords and platitudes. Sessions that use words like “transform”, tweets that garner retweets because of their catchiness and conversations that lack depth.  Time after time, people will reference the hallway conversations, that for many who are experienced conference goers, mark the best learning. This is true in part because they’re more intimate and further are more authentic. People will speak more openly about struggles. They’ll talk about success and quandaries with humility. They aren’t putting on a show or trying to impress anyone. And yet so much of the online interactions lack any nuance, questioning or depth of thought. The … Read the rest

Is “Hard” The Goal of Good Learning?

I often ask people what they believe about learning. I suggest many people view learning and schools synonymously which while they aren’t, I think many schools inadvertently send a message that  learning is like Buckley’s cough syrup: “It tastes awful but it works.” Learning isn’t supposed to be easy. Or is it?

As I explore the way we characterize learning I continually see how much we value words like: “hard, challenging, rigor, and difficult” In my efforts to make school more engaging and joyful, these ideas, while maybe not opposing, are certainly seen in a hierarchy. Think of all the teachers, particularly high school and higher ed teachers who take pride in knowing how hard their course is. The classic statement: “Look to your left and look to your right, only one of you will pass this course” shows learning as elitist and rooted in ranking and grades. Knowing they have challenged students is the goal. “If everyone gets an A, how hard can it be?” Learning is supposed to be hard. Or is it?

Frank Smith reminds me how much school has impacted what we believe about learning.

learning

“Effortless” vs “hard work.” In his book, Smith … Read the rest