I had a great Christmas. I realized a few things, saw my son explode with joy over the least likely gift, spent some quiet time with my wife, and had one of the most meaningful and perfectly timed conversations with my uncle.
Everyone should have an Uncle Bill like mine. He was an executive for various corporations for over 30 years, specializing in systems, which, during his time, meant that he was in charge of initiating change in process design for production and data analysis. He was the guy who brought computers to your parent’s or grandparent’s office and redesigned their jobs.
On Christmas day, after everyone had left the house, we sat down while my daughter snored on my chest, and we talked about change, and why it doesn’t make great bedfellows with workplace harmony. Just some light holiday banter, right?
Last week, Barry Bachenheimer, a fellow New Jerseyan, came to some realizations after thinking about professional development in his district. His aptly titled post, “Everything You Know is Wrong,” expressed a desire that we are going about helping our students and teachers in the wrong way if we offer them traditional methods to learn and grow. If you have given a workshop lately, what was expected of you by your audience? What did you deliver? For me, I have tried to move away from “sit and get,” and more towards “here is what you can do, here is the way to get started.” Lowered attendance and more requests for “specific activities we can take with us” have given me pause about the state of where we are professionally.
Barry advocates an idea, and I will gladly catch that grenade and chuck it farther:
For many teachers who are late adapters of technology and whom it is a struggle to get them to use digital tools to foster these ideas, we shouldn’t bother. I would argue it might be more important for them to effectively develop critical thinking, cooperative learning, and analysis skills for their students with paper and chalk rather than do it marginally with a SMART Board and a laptop.
Uncle Bill and I spoke about where your change comes from, who you target and who you tacitly neglect in the interest of the greater good. In an era where we are so focused on time, do we have it to spend on those that are not willing to accept change? I am more inclined to agree with Clay Burell, in his comment on Barry’s post:
When I look back, I don’t see much to be proud of in education over the last decades. But maybe that’s just my own student experience speaking.
My problem is, I don’t see change happening quickly either. I don’t like the view behind or ahead.
Where was the engagement in my education? Identifying with Clay’s student experience, the engagement came when I was with a teacher who cared about their craft to push boundaries and ask me to think originally, as scary as that was at the time. Do educators who don’t push themselves to grow professionally, at least a little, have that ability to reach students?
While we sat and talked about resistance to change and how my role will be defined, Uncle Bill gave me this advice: “Your job is to make it better for those who are yet to be in your charge, not to make it acceptable for those currently in your charge.”
As believers in educational change, who are we working for? The students and teachers of today, or the students and teachers of tomorrow?
Image credit: “[re]design,” from Kate_A’s photostream