Diagnosing Learning

I recently started watching a new Netflix series called Diagnosis. Dr. Lisa Sanders has written a column for the New York Times about peoples’ undiagnosed medical conditions to seek feedback from the greater community since 2002. This has now been turned into a Netflix documentary series, with each episode following the life of an individual with a medical condition that has never been diagnosed.

I was hooked within minutes of the first episode. Not because of the person’s unusual medical situation (while interesting) but the way they approached getting this person an official diagnosis for a condition that has been plaguing the patient for years. No longer was Dr. Sanders’ column just one-way communication, but now they are encouraging readers to interact with the column more than ever; specifically through a recorded video message to share their thoughts on what the person’s condition could actually be. It is all about casting a wide net for help and leaning heavily on the collective knowledge of “the room”, or in this case, the entire world. It was fascinating to see the high level of response the young lady in episode 1 received about her condition, within the United States and well beyond our country or our continent.

Both the doctor and the patient were fascinated and overwhelmed with the level of response they received. As an educator, I have encouraged and watched other educators do this to grow themselves professionally for over 10 years. In our age of information abundance and connectedness, we have the ability to learn from anyone at any time; not just in a physical classroom at a physical school building. While the results were fantastic in this documentary, it felt like the medical profession is behind here. Are doctors not encouraged to do this to better themselves and better help their patients? Why is this still treated as an anomaly as we approach 2020?

Image of the Earth with a connected wireframe laid on top of it.

Then this got me thinking on a “big picture” level about how this relates to teaching & learning. Are we creating opportunities for our students to reach beyond direct instruction and seek out learning opportunities elsewhere? What would happen if we encouraged this more? Students have lots of networks built up through the various mediums they use, but are we showing them (and allowing them to leverage) what’s truly possible? Which type of learning fosters more inquiry and creativity? We must think about what we want for our students and give them the opportunities they need to flourish.

I don’t know what I’m doing.

Ever have one of those days? When you feel unsure with just about everything? You wonder, “How am I the best person for this work?”. You second guess, have self-doubt, and always worry about whether or not you’re making the best decision for students/teachers/staff/team, etc., etc. It’s a hard place to find yourself, and I like to think I’m not alone. Actually, I know some of my friends share a similar struggle. There’s comfort in that; having people in your corner who either are there with you or have been there at one time or another. When you feel totally lost, clueless, frustrated – like having to install a new light bulb that isn’t going to come on no matter how tight you screw it in even after double checking that the electricity is working.

We’re hard on ourselves about this. We’re afraid to ask for help many times for fear of seeming incompetent or we worry too much what others will think of us. How many kids do you know that have the same struggles in their learning? It feels like, through the media, including social media, we’ve created too much negative stigma about what it means to be vulnerable and reach out for help. If we as adults struggle with these feelings, imagine how it must feel for kids.

It’s okay to be vulnerable and ask for help. It should be okay if you don’t know the best answer right away. It’s a culture thing we need to bring back to our work as teachers, learners, and to our schools.

Why I’m Awesome – And You Are Too

Over the last couple weeks, but really the topic has come up many times before that, I’ve seen folks talking about all of the self-promotion they’ve seen online from various authors, speakers, principals, teachers, etc., etc.  There’s plenty of it for sure – videos, tweets, blog posts, articles, keynotes, pictures with MC Hammer (yes, that really happened to me 8 years ago), and many more. Is it something that is over saturated? Yep. But let me ask you, would you ever wish that on your students that they would stop doing that? Isn’t that something we encourage them to do in this digital era we continue to craft for them?  To highlight their accomplishments, to create that oh so important “digital citizen” we want them to be. By the way, let’s just make that “citizen”. Let’s strive for good humans that know how to do amazing things with the tech and connections we provide for them. But I digress.

Why is it bad (negative) when a teacher or a principal or a superintendent does the same thing? Is there some kind of malice or other ill-intent I’m missing or just something I’m naive to? Is it because they’re trying to sell books or get more speaking gigs? For the people who are out there doing this that I know as friends, it makes me proud to know them. We should be happy for them. Why shouldn’t we encourage our teachers and teacher leaders to promote themselves in a positive light just like we do for students? Picture of Bitmoji Kyle

So, I’m deciding to put myself out there with this post. I’m going to get out of my comfort zone and list reasons that I’m awesome. For the simple reason that I hope it encourages lots of others to step out and do the same thing. I’ve never been a “toot my own horn” kind of guy, and I probably will never become one, but I’m doing it today. We need more people to share the great things about themselves and the work they are doing. What can it hurt?

Why I’m Awesome

  1. I have good people skills.
  2. I put relationships first.
  3. I recognize that a team decision is always better than just me making a decision.
  4. I’m funny (I would likely pick stand up comic as a career in another universe).
  5. I am great at explaining things in a way that’s easy to understand.
  6. I don’t talk down to people.
  7. I really enjoy bringing people together for the betterment of themselves and our students.
  8. I’m approachable.
  9. I make people feel comfortable
  10. I recognize peoples’ needs and do whatever it takes to meet them.

Well, that wasn’t too awful. You should give it a try. It doesn’t feel horrible and we need to hear why you’re awesome. Let’s not stop having our students do this and let’s be less hesitant to do the same for ourselves.  Use #whyimawesome if you share yours online!