August 7, 2015
Everyone is in “get ready for another year” mode, or maybe you’ve already started the new school year. A new school year brings many new things: new students, new teachers, new beginnings, and quite often it brings many new challenges.
In my district, it’s our 1:1 initiative, which we call Connect2Learn, that will be our new challenge for the start of the 2015-16 school year. Actually, it’s a culmination of many challenges being triumphed over many years that got us to this point. Let me also clarify that my use of the word ‘challenge’ here does not imply something negative or insurmountable. Challenges are how we grow; and when we grow, our students are the ones who win. These are the best kind of challenges.
For some, challenges are seen as negative because they create professional discomfort. It’s something new, something different, and not the way we’ve “done school” in the past. When was the last time you were challenged professionally? We present our students with learning challenges all the time; yet as educators, we seem to be ok with not being challenged in our own learning. What has happened to the growth mindset? Bring back the “culture of the sponge” I say! Soak up all you can to help you be better for our students!
How do we get there you ask? I offer five ways that can help us become more comfortable with being uncomfortable:
1. Get connected. We need to be connected educators that are plugged in to the online opportunities we have to connect with and learn from others. There are loads of ways to do this: Twitter, Facebook groups, Google+ communities, blogs, and more. Pick one (or more if you’re feeling adventurous) and jump in. Your chances are really good that there’s someone else that can offer some “been there done that” advice.
2. Create and take opportunities. Leaders, are you keeping your teachers aware of online and face to face opportunities for growth? Teachers, are you taking these opportunities that are sent to you? Go to an edcamp, go to a conference, go to your local Google Educator Group meetup, or use social media to put together your own! If you think the online conversations and learning are good, you should try it face to face.
3. Maintain support. This one falls on districts. I of course will always first look through the technology lens because that’s my world, but it still rings true anywhere in education. If teachers go online to learn or through a face to face option we must be ready to support their efforts continually. That might mean new positions, additional positions, or simply making time for teachers to talk about and practice what they’ve learned. There has to be some kind of ongoing support system in place.
4. Empower each other. If you’re doing any of the previous three, then this one should be happening naturally. Our leaders need to be empowering their folks to not just be better, but also empowering them by giving them opportunities to share what they’ve learned with their fellow teachers. This doesn’t have to be a formal presentation, it just needs to be a time for conversation. Let’s not have it be just hearing through the grapevine about what so-and-so is doing down the hall. If you see something outstanding happening in a classroom ask that teacher to share it!
5. Share. Sharing something awesome you’ve done with your peers (online of offline) can be a scary thing. You’re being completely transparent to your colleagues about what worked, what didn’t work, and what you plan to do next. Don’t let the idea of sharing with your colleagues get you freaked out. We’ve all been there, and remember that we need your genius! There’s so many ways you can share; just pick the one that works best for you.
We need to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable from time to time. It’s not about being the best, but every day we should strive to be better than we were yesterday.