In #slowchated a while ago the topic was on Change. Inspiring change, cultivating change, and the purpose of change. I remember going through a course on leadership and psychology that was focused on the text Change: Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution. The discussions often overlapped with the concept of thinking outside the box in order for change to be possible.
Example from parenting
(not from experience, no kids yet):
Son keeps locking himself in room to try and avoid interacting with family. Parents want their son to interact more and stop being so evasive.
Remove the locks.
The answer is simple, but it breaks a rule that wasn’t even a rule. There’s a lock on the door. It was already there, so it must be a requirement.
I feel like this is how educators and learners get stuck. That’s how it was, so that’s how it should be, and that’s how it will continue to be. The educator I started out being is only some arbitrary portion of the one I am today. How did that happen? I’m pretty sure I didn’t just do what everybody else was doing. I also did do the same thing that I did the day before. Often times I had an inclination that a lesson could have gone a different way, an activity or assessment could have been more authentic, or there may be an alternative to what I had tried in the class.
What are we so afraid of?
Why don’t we try new things or different things in the class? Maybe it’s a matter of effort and exhaustion. Maybe it’s discomfort with what others may see as failure. Maybe we would rather be safe than sorry because the development of the youth in the class is at stake. I don’t know what it is, but I’m more afraid of thinking that this is how things should be for the rest of my life and I might as well get comfortable with it.
Too Much Change?
Is it possible that change actually turns into chaos? I would say yes. In fact, this year has probably felt more like chaos than progress. That is, until I start to reflect on what has been accomplished through interactions with others. Blogging, tweeting, GHOs, and meet-ups have been huge stabilizers for me. Sharing experiences with others and learning from others experiences supports taking these leaps of change.
Where do I start?
Write it down. Talk about it. Be social about it. Journal. Locking yourself up in a room for 7+ hours a day won’t get you to change. Break the locks and start looking for others that are trying to break out as well. Start small or jump in, but however it may be:
My students ask me, “What do you do for fun? Like, what do you do when you’re not teaching?” I know they think that at 7am I just appear at the school, and sometime around 4 or 5 in the afternoon, I disappear. It’s either that or I have a cot size bed in the closet, and a George Foreman grill in my desk. Students know that teachers put in extra hours, but anything that happens outside of the 50 minutes of class time is completely off their radar.
So what do I do during my time not at work? This last month I went to EdCampIE and EdCampMurrieta. First of all, if you don’t know how this whole Ed Camp thing works, check this out before reading further.
One of the sessions I participated in focused on the topic: Curriculum Design, What are You Doing? The idea of scaffolding for teachers with new curriculum was tossed back and forth. Should we try this Rigorous Design Model, Understanding by Design, and probably some other branded research based model of how to teach and learn. Administrative reps from various school districts seemed to all be asking the same thing: What do teachers need? This is a great question. I feel like the discussions I’ve been primarily involved with has more of the focus, “What do students need?”
I’m about to get selfish, but it’s for a good cause. Teachers invest a lot of time into their students. We plan, implement, assess and repeat. Educators seem to race through the assess portion, at least as it pertains to our role in the learning process. Do I adjust what I’m doing based on how the students performed? How do I know if what I did actually worked? Wait, we have a holiday this weekend? Finally, a chance to recharge. Wait, is it Monday again already?
It can get so hard to keep up that we pass by the whole assess and reflect portion. It’s practically required for beginning teachers with induction programs like BTSA. After an educator reaches a more permanent status, cruise control is tempting. Repetition toward honing a practice to be better is great, but is there ever a finish line that says ,”Good enough.” We as educators model this to our students. If we lose motivation to learn and improve, why should our students do anything different?
“But where am I going to get the time, Butler?”
Time spent reflects one’s priorities. I’m not saying give up on your other priorities. I am saying consider if an EdCamp is worth yours (by the way – did we mention it’s free besides the time it costs you).
Cheers to change. It’s a year where I’ve changed jobs, become engaged, improved improved my health, and embraced the latest overhaul of the American education system. I was recently inspired to participate in the reflective side of teaching and learning. I’ve always been excited about my job, teaching kids how cool math can be. With all this change happening one might assume some type of exhaustion. I’ll admit this year has been tiring, but awesome in its excitement. Speaking of excitement…
…just around the corner my fiance and I will be tying the knot (November 27th). We’ll be enjoying sandy beaches, tropical paradise, and of course hanging out with family. So cheers to this, cheers to change.