Sunday, March 25, 2012

ASCD part four: Changing Relationships

I had the opportunity to eat lunch with author Heidi Jacobs today at ASCD. As with my previous posts this week, I have lots of takeaways that I know will inevitably rattle around in my head for days and weeks to come. In full disclosure, I have not read her books or followed her blog with any sort of regularity. However, I did pick up her book today and do plan on diving in for further reflection after my conversation with her.

The first comment that she made is something that I whole heartedly agree with, “The relationship between teacher and student has changed.” I don’t think this is something radical or new, yet many are not teaching or leading schools with a pedagogy that supports this belief. If we know that this relationship has changed, then why are our schools not changing to reflect this? It is very possible that this comes from a place of ignorance and fear. Teacher and school leaders may want to change and some may even have the knowledge to do it. Yet, they lack the follow through and plan of action to get it done. As a tweet earlier in the conference from Gawande’s talk stated, “The knowledge to change exists but is not currently being applied correctly.” Do you have the knowledge needed to change? Are you changing?

To build upon the changing relationship between teachers and students, those roles have and need to change as well. We all know that the teacher is the not the sole holder of information in the classroom. Though, how many classrooms are still operating under the old pedagogy of the teacher as the keeper of the knowledge? The definition of a student is changing…so too must the definition of a teacher. Going hand in hand with that, is if we want our students to be true learners, we as teachers must be models of learning ourselves.

I anticipate I will post more follow up thoughts as I dig further into my notes from lunch as well as her book. To attempt another metaphor, we need to not only know which train we need to get on…but actually get on the train. If we have the knowledge, we need to put that knowledge into action.

ASCD part three: Great Opportunity

As I have wandered in and out of sessions and chatted with various people throughout the ASCD Conference this weekend, I have come to a realization. There is more opportunity for growth and change at this conference than any other one I have attended. The perfect example of this was during the EdCamp session I attend on Saturday afternoon. Now, I went to this session largely because I know some of the people in the room and just wanted to sit in what I knew would be a solid session. I sat in there with some of my friends and we chatted on the side a bit and even contributed to the presentation. While sitting there and listening to some of the questions from the audience, I was a bit taken back. Had these people really never heard of the EdCamp movement? That question started me thinking as I continued down the hall and on to other sessions.

I have been to ISTE, ICE, IETC, METC and a host of other conferences that have lovely acronyms. At most of those, I have presented to rooms full of nodding heads and looks of affirmation. My conversations in the hallways, happy hours and lounges are largely the same. “Hey, we need to get more people on board…” or “Yeah, I agree, that is what I am doing too.” Bottom line, most of those conferences are efforts in choir preaching and not real change. With that being said, there are certainly people at some of our smaller state-level conferences that do walk away “changed” or inspired. Yet, most of us are all saying the same thing and agreeing with each other. Back patting is always nice, but does it lead to positive change?

Back to ASCD…many of the sessions I sat in were full of what I would consider uninformed and unconnected educators. I mean no offense by that comment but it is true. By uninformed, I mean they are not plugged into the world of educational trends that are pushing our profession. I am not claiming to be an expert but I was shocked when people did not know about people like Alfie Kohn or Sir Ken Robinson or even things like the Khan Academy. Or as I explained earlier, how have these people not heard of the EdCamp movement, especially those in the Philadelphia where it was essentially born. On top of that, many of the attendees of ASCD are not connected with other educators outside of their schools or districts. To think of the potential learning that can happen through connections, it is sad to think of the many that are not connected. Obviously, I am a bit biased and think Twitter is the best route to take, but bottom line is, we need to be connected. I did see a handful of people signing up for Twitter as the ASCD Tweetup at night, but I bet some were just doing it for the free water bottle. I hope I am wrong.

In reflecting on all of that, many of “us” connected and informed educators need to step out and present, work and get involved in conferences like ASCD. There is a tremendous opportunity to truly improve teaching and learning through events like these. It has been abundantly clear to me that many of the things I take for granted and assume everyone knows, is not actually true. I want to challenge myself to step out of the role of preaching to the choir and start bringing these ideas and opportunities to those less informed and less connected. On a positive note, I think the educators coming to ASCD want to improve and be informed...which is a good sign. 

For those that have not attended an event at the Convention Center in Philadelphia, there is a super long and awesome escalator. In a lame attempt to include a picture I took on my phone...let's use the metaphor of the escalator and do our individual and collective best to get more people up that escalator of metaphorical educational growth... :)