Kids? Politics? Both?
The best part about our profession of education is…kids! Most–if not all–of us teach on the most dedicated staff, with the greatest kids, affectionately supported by a passionate community, in a district that unconditionally puts kids first and is a 21st century educational leader. What, then, is it that differentiates us? Country to country, state to state, county to county, city to city, district to district, school to school, classroom to classroom, we’re different. Drastically different. Some may point to standardized metrics to “compare apples to apples” and suggest better and worse.
What distinguishes us from one another may be as simple as black and white. Or perhaps more accurately stated, the grey muddle in between that can look 50 shades of grey. Do our decisions, initiatives, programs, meetings, speeches, directives, suggestions, and questions become lost across 50 shades of grey? For example, often times we’re encouraged/convinced/directed to:
- think out of the box–>within political structures which require us to stay in the same package
- differentiate instruction–>to perform for a standardized test
- celebrate and empower differences–>to be measured by a common assessment
- be creative and innovative–>to assure mastery of common standards
- be independent–>in an effort to get everyone on the same page
- speak our minds–>in systems that strive for one voice
- take risks–>in a society that historically values safe decisions and rewards predictability
This can cause a disconnect between words and actions. Our words are aligned, but our actions can vary amidst the 50 shades of grey. Our creativity and innovation can become diluted. Our growth can wane. Our vision can blur. Our leadership can waver. Our passion can diminish.
Perhaps all educators believe their era was the most challenging. If so, I will follow suit. I ask you: how do you go about aligning your words with your actions during this most challenging era of education? We all talk the talk. At the end of the day, how do you manage walking the walk so that you significantly move the needle such that student learning and school community needs are met and exceeded…in black and white? I would love for you to share your strategies, processes, successes, thoughts, and questions.
Thanks for the good read. I like to take risks when teaching. The misconception about risks is that they don’t have to be out of this world. A risk can be a simple and quick stray away from what we do as educators in our safe zones. In trying even the smallest new thing we may find that something works much better. This could lead to a permanent move of this “needle” out of the status quo or the grey area as you put it. And if it doesn’t work, then try something else. For example, getting all students to engage in writing when a quick class discussion is what you usually do can get crucial information on content mastery for every student not just the one who knows all the answers and isn’t afraid to show it.
You probably have more experience than I do.
On community in the school. I have found that having a welcoming environment for parents is crucial in maintaining a positive atmosphere. This means communicating with them regularly. Inviting them to observe lessons and offering them the opportunity to provide some real feedback is a great way to do this. For some teachers this alone can be a huge risk. I know this happens more with younger students. Communication shouldn’t stop when a student reaches the upper part of high school. Making parents aware that they are part of a team makes them feel just that, part of the education that their kid is getting.
On student community I feel that we can always improve the manner in which we celebrate good things. I know that many teachers would question rewarding a student for doing what they should be doing. But I disagree with this. I found better results and a contagious matter of competition amongst students when they know good things are happening and recognition is being offered. It leads to more positivity and is certainly developmentally appropriate. And it just plain feels good because compliments on a job well done are always well received.
I hope my two cents were well received.
Thank you for reading and sharing, Steve!
Great clarification of risk; I think you’re right on!
Love your point about making the learning environment a place that welcomes families, as well as kids.
To your point about rewards, it’s about relativity, sincerity, and what you’re trying to accomplish; picking up a pencil and returning it to the person who dropped it should garner a different response–or reward, if you will–than asking to eat lunch in the classroom rather than the cafeteria one day in order to voluntarily reorganize the classroom library. It could be said kids SHOULD pick up pencils and SHOULD want to keep their classroom library tidy, but the fact is not every kid does. So to encourage this expected behavior, we must recognize and respond appropriately. Playing devil’s advocate to those opposed to “rewarding” expected behavior…why are there teaching awards (golden apple, teacher of the year, etc)? Because teachers do great things for kids and learning. But shouldn’t we all just be doing that..?? As you’ve stated, done the right way, recognizing effort, actions, and accomplishments can promote inspiration, camaraderie, and community.
Great contribution, Steve!