This first week(s) of remote teaching and learning has been quite an adventure for schools everywhere. I have said more than once that this feels a bit like we’re building the plane as we fly it. To say that things are fluid is an understatement. Teachers were already known for their flexibility before, but now more than ever teachers win “World Champion of Flexibility” with all of the adjustments and quick learning they’ve had to take on. Same for parents – they’ve had to adjust work schedules and figure out a new normal for students doing all learning from home. It’s been a lot for all parties involved, especially our students.
One of the things I have loved seeing though is the grace and kindness being given. It truly helps us all be successful in all of “the new” we’ve taken in over the last couple of weeks. It really helps allow teachers’ passion to shine. And shine it has! In all of the communications that our district leaders have sent recently, I am so appreciative of how perfection has not been expected, but passion has. When grace and kindness prevail, it paves the way for our passion to truly shine, which is what we need more than ever now in education, in the world, and in our every day lives.
Are you making sure the passion gets the spotlight?
I feel like we are at a time in education where now more than ever, we need to be encouraging each other to find belonging in a professional community. We have communities within our neighborhoods, our places of worship, book clubs, sports teams, the list can go on and on.
How much are we not only encouraging but providing time for teachers, administrators, and other staff members to participate in a professional community to learn with? It doesn’t have to be leaving the district, although it’s great if you can; it might just be letting 4th-grade teachers from around the district get together, or social studies teachers, or librarians. I love it when my staff wants to go talk with other Network Administrators, System Administrators, PowerSchool administrators, etc. I always enjoy the time I get to go bounce ideas around with other technology directors.
Communities give us fresh ideas, fresh perspective, and that great feeling we all long for, a sense of belonging. It refreshes the soul and it helps us all be better in the work we do for kids.
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?
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.