Stay in Your Lane

Absolutes rarely work for me. I’m the kind of person who looks for the holes in any argument or statement, even my own. Ambivalence and uncertainty is both character flaw but also at times a strength. Yet I know many people, dare I say most people, spend a great deal of time and energy to clearly define their beliefs and place in their worlds. It’s not that I don’t seek this as well, but I’ve always had a hard time staying in my lane.

No matter the place I work, the team I played on, or the organization I belonged to, I always am curious about how and why decisions are made. Depending on how far I was from the top level of that institution, I would find ways to insert myself into the decisions that would impact the whole. And yet I never felt the need to be in charge. Even in sports, I was more comfortable making an assist than I was scoring a goal. A revisiting of strengths finder revealed my top strength was Maximizer.

I wrestle with the apparent dichotomy that often suggests people “stay in their lanes” versus a belief that “we’re all in this … Read the rest

Is it Possible to Focus Too Much On Learning?

It’s pretty hard to argue that there has never been a better time in history to be a learner. Whatever topic you’re interested in, there’s a book, podcast, video series, Instagram account and Facebook group you can join. It’s truly amazing.

As educators, learning is what we live and breathe. We’ve also seen teachers, in particular, begin to identify as learners first, teachers second. The information age is also becoming a learning age.

But recently I’ve come to have some concerns about this, specifically around our own professional learning. Great educators are highly self-aware and recognize that they always could do better. I fall into that category. While I don’t read many educational books, I do consume a great deal of content that I hope makes me a better educator and person. But I think we can easily reach a point when it’s too much and not only too much, might be potentially unhealthy.

Unhealthy? That can’t be right. Learning and trying to be better at what you do and who you seem like how we should be spending our time. This is true but I’ve noticed that for me it can become a very selfish pursuit. I’ve also … Read the rest

Sharing, Bragging, Selling and Self Promoting

When I published my first blog post over ten years ago, it was clear to me that the possibility to share and share online, had the potential for something special. This new-found ability to share at a global level has provided teachers access to content and ideas never before available and connected teachers to people who have helped to transform classrooms around the world.

I created this video five years ago that remains an important part of my philosophy and message.

Ever since I began teaching over 25 years ago, I’ve had many conversations with teachers about their reluctantly to share for fear they might be seen as braggarts. One of the benefits of sharing online was it allowed teachers working in toxic or distrustful environments to share and not worry what the colleague across the hall might think. In many ways, it was and remains a revolution that has reinvigorated many careers. Even teachers in good environments found a way to expand their networks and discover new ideas to improve learning. Online spaces like blogs and social media have been platforms for people to post ideas, lessons, tutorials and other successes.

So what’s the problem?

Maybe there isn’t one … Read the rest

What Would You Teach?

Here’s an interesting question:

Think about that one for a while. Your answer will say a lot about what you really believe about learning and education.

I know many would respond with some form or empowering students to make those decisions. In general, this is a good sign, indicating an important shift in what teachers are attempting to do today. However, as much as I personally believe this is a much-needed change, I continue to caution teachers not to abdicate their own responsibility to be a wise and caring adult that at times directs the learning.

Like parenting, schools should be a gradual release of responsibility. The don’t know what they don’t know our experience and understanding of the world, needs to be valued and even shared explicitly at times. I often share with teachers about the move from sage on the stage to guide on the side but always refer to a third position which Erica McWilliams calls “meddler in the middle“. Whenever I share this I’m careful to suggest that this is not a … Read the rest

I Don’t Know What You Mean By “Failure”

Among the current trends in education is a romanticized view of failure. Stop me if you’ve heard this before:

Embrace Failure
FAIL First Attempt in Learning
Failure is Essential to Learning

Shifting from an education system that prized compliance and success over questioning and failure, is an important conversation to provoke. We need to have frank discussions about the role of failure in learning and our schools. I have two problems with this new found love of failure. First, I don’t really know what you mean by failure and second, what happens when failure is inevitable?

The word failure is being used to talk about everything from students struggling to make a circuit light up, getting a failing grade, making an error on a spelling test, design setbacks on projects and not getting into your first college choice. The range of the word use has diluted its meaning. I had a conversation with my friend John Spencer who talked about the difference between mistakes, imperfections, and failures. It seems many lump these all together. There is a big difference between someone making a mistake on a test on a driver’s test and not getting … Read the rest