I often see this question in Twitter chats, in keynotes, or when it’s asked of esteemed panelists: “How do we create real, systemic change in education?”.
While I’ve never thought there was one clear answer to this question; one particular action or formula that could solve all the problems in education, I do believe that people (as in you and I and every other education stakeholder) have all the power to make the changes that need to be made for our students. The power lies with us. We should never underestimate the power of a group of people who are well-informed about the possibilities available to our students.
Think about it this way. What if every person that attended a conference, went to an edcamp, participated in a Twitter chat, etc. committed to sharing 1 new idea with just 1 person? Then the 1 person they told commits to sharing with 1 person, and so on and so on. While your school or district likely sees the value in participating in professional learning opportunities, do they see (and hold teachers accountable to) the value of sharing out what has been learned? Not just creating reflection around how it will help me as a teacher, but looking deeper at how it will help me help others.
Just like we should be personalizing and differentiating learning for students, I wholeheartedly believe teachers should get the same in their professional learning. While I’m sure there’s more work to do in that specific area, I think a lot of systems are seeing the value and starting to provide a wider variety of options, particularly self-directed ones. However, we must make a more concerted plan of how our learning is not only going to affect our teaching and learning but how it could affect all teaching and learning. We need to lean more on our own people and empower them to spread their genius to all stakeholders.
I am attending FETC in Orlando this week. If you have never been I’d encourage you to give it a go if your school/district can send you. Bring a team if you can. Get your district leadership to attend. There’s lots of great learning and many great people to connect with. However, this post isn’t just about why you should attend a conference.
From now all the way through summer is when the in-person conference opportunities really ramp up. We’re hearing more and more about personalizing learning, creating innovative learning opportunities, devices, coding, 3d printing, makerspaces, and the list can certainly go on and on. Many of you will be at these events. My question is, however, “Are the right people attending?”.
When anyone attends an event like FETC, ISTE, etc., there’s going to be an over-abundance of information coming at you. What’s important to do though, even before sitting through one session, is to identify one particular area that you want to begin with to change teaching and learning in your classroom or school. If you intake all this information (don’t get me wrong these events give you lots of great information) without a plan of what you’re going to do after the event is over, you’re not only doing yourself a disservice, but you’re doing kids a disservice too. Create your plan of where to start before the learning even begins.
“I have nothing good to share.”
“No one wants to hear from little ol’ me.”
“I don’t have anything to offer that hasn’t been shared a million times.”
“What I did isn’t a big deal.”
These are just a few of the statements I’ve heard from teachers over the last many years as I’ve worked with them to build their capacity around technology and innovation in teaching and learning. Whether it’s a teacher that has jumped in feet first into project based learning or a teacher that learns new ways for students to publish their work to the world, I hear statements like those above when I encourage them to share what they’ve done.
To those of you in a similar role like mine, one that delivers professional learning and support to educators; encouragement, and cheerleading is an essential component of our profession. There is no victory too small to celebrate. We now have such a variety of ways to share the great things we’re learning and trying with students that we can no longer afford to not do it. While Twitter and blogging is certainly an option, there are also more localized ways to start. It might just be sending an email to your immediate team or department, or to the staff at your school, or in 5 minutes at a faculty meeting. Share in ways that feel comfortable to you, then once your comfort increases take it up a notch from there.
These are big but necessary steps in your growth as a teacher. Here’s an example from a teacher in my district: Mrs. Romero, who jumped back into blogging after some time away from it to reflect on 1st semester of going gradeless and trying more innovative things in her classroom.
You have the ability and the power to be a leader in your school and in your district. Don’t doubt it! Once you make that step I promise it will not only be rewarding for your colleagues, but for you too.