Why are we trying to cookie cutter everything?
I just spent the weekend following the 2010 Reform Symposium Online Conference. You might have seen me tweeting a few resources and quotes from presenters using the conference hashtag #rscon10. This conference was organized by Shelly Terrell, Kelly Tenkely, Jason Bedell, and Chris Rogers, These were the moderators I saw pretty much in every session. If I left anyone off that list please accept my sincerest apologies. The presentations were delivered via the Elluminate platform and I was able to catch several presentations by some great education leaders such as Steve Hargadon, Nick Provenzano, Steve Anderson, Sylvia Tolisano, Paula White, Tom Whitby, and Sue Waters. If you missed the live version of any of these, please be sure to carve out some time and check out at least one or two. You won’t be disappointed.
A lot of you that are reading this probably attended at least one session of the Reform Symposium. Whether you attended just one session or every single one I hope you learned a lot, even if it was just one new tool, strategy, or a boost of support for the upcoming school year. In my opinion, if you gleaned one thing from one session, it was worth the time. I was excited to hear so many people speak. Some of which I have heard in person, some I’d never heard present face to face or virtually, and some of the presenters I call good friends.
I’m not quite sure where to start with the point of this post to be honest. I’m already fearing that from this point on that it’s going to sound like a rant. To a degree I’m ok with that. I’ll try my best to not let it sound like one too much. However, I have a bit of a beef. A bone to pick I guess. I’m not going to call out anyone by name of course, because while there are individuals that began my thinking on this post, I still respect these people for the work they’ve done and the work they continue to do.
This has to do with some conversation around the conference hashtag mentioned above. From what I understood and observed in a couple of instances (tweets), the Reform Symposium wasn’t enough about reform in education. I don’t know if this was because these individuals were looking for the actual word “reform” to be used more often, or because the ideas were not radical enough or fresh enough in their opinion. I’m not really sure. However, there was one conversation I observed that really was burned into my brain. First a tweet was sent out about one of the tools that was taught during the session going on at that moment. Apparently it wasn’t high-end enough for a conference called the Reform Symposium for this person. Then one of the conference organizers sent out a tweet in response and asked this person if they were actually in the Elluminate session at that moment or if they were just following the hashtag. This person’s immediate response was, “Wouldn’t waste my time.” I wanted to immediately reply and express how disappointed I was in their firing back of such a response so quickly. I felt the comment was a low blow for those that have put in so much time from their already busy lives organizing the conference and making it a reality and also for the current presenter as well as the numerous others.
I don’t think I would have been disappointed as much if it had come from anyone else. Again, I respect this person. It’s a person I’ve seen present in person and been able to have casual conversation with. Even as I started my journey in which I get to travel and present at conferences and provide workshops for teachers in others parts of the country, this person provided me guidance and offered advice.
You know what, I would have been disappointed that someone could have cut something down so quickly regardless what kind of contributor they were to my PLN.
How could one respond with “Wouldn’t waste my time,”? It shocked me. Well I know you saw it as a waste of your time, but I know a lot of other people that didn’t. To refer back to the title of my post, since when has reform been about making things one size fits all? Why are we trying to “cookie cutter” professional development? I hope that it’s safe to say that this person was in the minority during the entire weekend the Reform Symposium took place. Were there tools and resources shared that I’d heard before? Of course there was. That happens everywhere, whether the conference be virtual or face to face. As I said, I’ve seen this person present before and even then there were some components of the presentation I had heard about before. I didn’t throw my hands up and walk out saying, “What a waste of my time!” Instead I see it through the lens of, “Yeah so I know this tool already, but I hope to learn a new way to share it with teachers or with students!” I would say the great majority of the time I do. I learn something new. I don’t ever want to be at the place where I think, “Nah I’m good I think I’m done learning now.” It’s exciting! Isn’t this is what reform in education should be about? Offering lots of avenues, tech related or not, for us to grow as educators and ultimately bring about a positive impact on students? What’s significant in a session, virtual or otherwise, isn’t the same for me as it is for anyone else. What brings about reform in my district isn’t what bring reform in another. It’s not one size fits all. I would have expected more from this person.
I was invited to present at the Reform Symposium. I was bummed to turn down my first opportunity to present virtually. However, it just didn’t work out due to previous commitments. If there’s another I hope I am invited again to present. If the Reform Symposium wasn’t enough about “reform” for the other party, I expect to see them make presentations next time as well. I know they’ll be welcome. I’ll be anxious to see a presentation that meets their expectation of reform.
Thank you for reading. I welcome your insight.