It’s a theme this week. Thanking people who help me stay the course, get the best out of myself as a leader and do right by our kids.
George Couros was at the Marin County Office of Ed (#mcoe) yesterday (thank you too @burkemaryjane). He is a part of this year’s Speaker Series.
I really enjoy a skilled public speaker. If you’re good, you could talk about anything and I’d be right there, listening closely. George Couros has this gift. The one other time I had the chance to hear him was at ISTE in San Diego where he and Patrick Larkin partnered up. A great talk, to be sure, but George barely had a voice so he was not 100%. Yesterday was 100% @gcouros. [all quotes are paraphrased]
I remember well a line he shared at ISTE about the IT department always telling him ‘no’ as a teacher without really listening to the idea or thinking about student impact. Then he became their ‘boss.’ We all chuckled.
That situation comes to mind a lot as go about my work leading a small elementary school. Do I go to ‘no’ more than ‘yes?’
Fast forward to #mcoe yesterday; for me, it was all about ‘yes.’ “To innovate, you must disrupt your routines.” I nodded vigorously. Do I even have routines yet? Probably. But in just year 3, I’m constantly tweaking how I do things, when I do them…. What about teachers? Am I being the first, lead-innovator to model that this is what we do with students. This is how we grow as educators. Do I model it enough?
George shared Alyssa’s blog and briefly shared, “This is engagement, not compliance.” She rushes home to check her blog and respond to her commenters. What do our students rush home to do? Can’t we say yes to blogging to provide a real audience for students, give them voice and engagement?
“Isolation is a choice educators make.” I love this. No, not love it, but I believe it, I see it. Fortunately I lead a school of close colleagues who seek each other out regularly, of their own accord, and even on their own time. This is our culture. But are they isolated on our Grant School Island? How can I get teachers to say yes to online conferences, Twitter and blogs? I firmly believe in starting small (1:1 support, tips and links in the bulletin), but when should my tactic shift? Am I innovating the manner in which I encourage connection for our teachers?
“Change is an opportunity.” Indeed. And it’s an especially hard-hitting point when George shared this via a photo of his dad on the deck of a ship immigrating to North America. Now that’s change. Microsoft Office to Google Docs… give me a break. The audience got a good laugh out of that one, but the point was not lost. Change, real, significant, risky change is a huge opportunity for growth and learning.
The last thought I’m interested in pursuing here is the overarching fear of allowing students access to tools and technology in our schools. What might they do if allowed and encouraged (even taught) how to blog? Connect with others? Write more? Start a dialog on a subject they are excited about? Look forward to writing? Yes.
But might they say something mean to another student? Could they use incorrect grammar and poor punctuation? Will they write about things their teacher isn’t interested in? Yes again. But then what? We teach. That’s what we do. And George made an excellent point about high schoolers right now–we missed them. We need to retrain, reteach, undo bad habits. Our opportunity is with elementary, NOW. Set up good habits, proper usage, positive goals for online tools and platforms.
What about cell phones? I have my phone with me 24 hrs a day. Do I play Words with Friends during our staff meeting? Do I read blog posts while observing teachers? Do I text while driving? No. But I know the tools that help my work and support learning. Can’t we teach students these differences? Yes. Does it take time? Yes. But the alternative is to ignore it and ignore the benefit these tools have our teaching and learning. It’s not about technology. It’s about teaching and learning.
My husband wonders about the speakers I visit and conferences I attend. It’s hard to explain to a non-educator how challenging it is to keep doing this hard word, to keep investing time and energy when it feel like the mountain isn’t moving. Not discouraged by any means, but my forward momentum lags at times. I lose sight of what’s MOST important buried by paperwork, emails and budgets. Teaching and Learning are the MOST important tasks and I am in charge of leading us in the right direction. Leading, pushing, inspiring, modeling…. yes!