Educational Heroes


I pulled this image from Ben Wilkoff’s Academy of Discovery Wiki, and he attributes it to the folks as Science Leadership Academy, but is something I think everyone involved in education should examine.

Let’s take a look at some of the words that are used to describe and “Educational Hero” in this picture:

  • Provocative: the first on the list, and for good reason. What is someone in education if not provocative. By nature, information is meant to incite in us something that lay dormant or underutilized. Giving our students access to such provocation is an act that we need to do often.
  • Risk-Takers: We teach our students to take compositional risks, to make cognitive leaps, and to attempt to connect several disparate ideas into one usable and coherent whole. Why should we as teachers not be doing the same? By nature, our approach should be daring, and variable based on “teachable moments.”
  • Balance-Freedom-Guidance: I like the inclusion of these words, and of “nurturing,” because if nothing else, our students need to feel valuable and safe before they can take the risks that they need to. These words, these actions are what makes it easier for learners to reach from the solid ground of what they know towards that which is shaky, unknown, yet incredibly valuable.
  • Humble: When I work with teachers who are trying to shift away from being the sole arbiters of information in the classroom, I always stress humility over the stress of trying to know everything. Being grounded, centered and comfortable with the idea that you do not have all the answers, and that these students can help you continue to learn, makes it all beautiful, doesn’t it?
  • Want to be like them: Perhaps the highest compliment anyone in education can receive. With the omnipresent stream of role models of ill-repute, being someone that learners want to be “when they grow up” is no small feat. I remember the moments that some of my past teachers did something amazing, showed us a door that we didn’t know existed, and then thinking back to it years later as I was doing the same thing to a group of students. It is high praise indeed.
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10 thoughts on “Educational Heroes

  1. Very cool post, Patrick….

    I’m actually surprised that it didn’t pick up any comments!

    Here’s an interesting twist to your post:

    If you had to rank these in importance from most important to least important, what would your list look like?

    Which of these traits is most important for a teacher to possess?

    Another question that rolls through my mind is are these traits even possible in an NCLB driven accountability culture? Has standardized testing–and the pressures that it carries with it—changed the very nature of teachers?

    I know I’m different now than I was 10 years ago—and I’m not sure all the differences are admirable.

    Thanks for making me think…
    Bill

  2. I agree with Bill. As I looked over this list and felt that “warm fuzzy” about the traits that I possess, I also realized that some of those traits have discouraged by the NCLB focus on standardized tests. After all, freedom, risk-taking, and provocation aren’t exactly the hallmarks of top-down control and multiple-choice assessments.

    Do we owe it to ourselves (and our students) to hold true to these highly regarded traits, or must we focus on those skills that will help our students perform better in the ways that are widely measured?

  3. Very cool….I think your post is great conversational starter. I hope that teachers who enter the workforce today are aware of all these traits and more importantly understand how to implement them in times when they might not feel like it. Teachers have a very powerful effect on the lives of each and every one of their students, and if they don’t try to practice these traits on a consistent basis than the students are the ones who will suffer.

    I see more and more teachers simply “going through the motions”. They do the same lesson, the same activity and they use the same tests that they have been using because it would take too much time to create a new one. We do need more teachers who will try to break this cycle and help others do the same as well.

    To comment on what Bill said earlier…I do believe that it is possible to achieve all of these traits in our modern day. Although it won’t be easy and it might also be time consuming, but the end result should be the goal.

  4. Bill,

    Thanks for picking up on this one. Call me crazy, but if I had to rank this list, I would want risk-takers first. I think your point about the trepidation we all feel about meeting AYP because of No Child Left Behind has driven the ingenuity out of our schools. Rather than recoil from it, I want teachers who embrace the idea that you can try and fail. Granted, if you are in a building where trying and failing means you are not hired back, that’s a problem. But I believe, for my own district, that we support our staff when they do something that is research-based and dynamic. And if they fail, we help them reflect and pick up the pieces.

    Innovation is great, but ingenuity is what is lacking in our classrooms now more than ever.

  5. Paul,

    My view might be tainted by Marzano, but my answer to your last question is: can’t these things be one and the same? We have means to measure student achievement gains using methods that rely heavily on the highly-regarded traits in this list. I think all too often we fall back on methods that we are told will increase student performance on standardized tests but also suck the life out of learning when there are engaging models out there that show real learning and motivate students to want to learn.

    Ewan McIntosh, in a presentation this summer I was fortunate to see, spoke of every one of us being in research and development. How are we finding ways to engage our students that still help them achieve success on assessments they are forced to take? I think that is every teacher’s challenge in today’s classrooms.

  6. Very nice series of comments – good to set the neurones buzzing! We did an evening for our heroes in a seminar about training for trainers in non-formal education settings and I think many of the descriptors here would also apply.

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