It’s a matter of principal

Where there is a lack of vision, there is a lack of progress.  The vision for a school begins with the leader – the principal.  A lack of vision on the part of the building administrator leaves the staff wondering which way they are going, or if there is any direction at all.  The direction, though it may seem aimless, is that, aimless.  The only guiding factor may be a state standardized test – a truth for Ohio right now – that all teachers want to have their students pass leading to a vacuum of real education practice.  The vacuum is the single focus to have students pass the test and while we talk ourselves into deep educational practices continue, they simply cannot.  The classroom and teacher need to be breathe and the oxygen comes from the teacher’s creativity to create amazing learning experiences.  The principal of the matter is that it is up to the educational leader to protect the creativity.  No one said that is easy.

As the education leader in the building, the principal is responsible for various items though the highest priority is education.  Education is not just about teaching, but the overall impact the school has on students, parents and community establishing itself as point of pride.  When the school has a relevant vision and the principal carries it out, the school progresses to educate the students with engaging methods.

It is the principal who should be the visioneer.

What if this is not the case?   Who drives the vision and who takes the ownership if the education leader does not?


Teacher Practice Upgrade 2.0

How do we make strong groups of teachers who learn from each other, create innovative curricular models, and are constantly upgrading their practice as an educator?

This question comes from a simple invitation from someone on Edmodo and a result of reading Curriculum 21 by Heidi Hayes Jacobs.  Needless to say, her book causes me to think about reform, the title of this blog, as innovation through high quality practice and collaboration.

As a teacher I am solitary sticking to my own routines, thoughts, preferences, pedagogy, practice and logic.  What I do is a direct result of my own vision as an educator.  However, as an educator my role is greater than me, my role is national and global as one of thousands of educators who seek to educate children coaching them to be ready for college and the real world so that they may step into new roles as learners taking risks to engage life’s roles contributing to the global good.  How our schools and, as teachers, respond to diverse needs of people depends directly on our ability to adapt to rapidly changing shifts in education.  It is not ours to remain static but it is ours, our heritage, to be dynamic engaging students in the world in which they live outside of the walls of school sharing with them the process of learning to learn pushing limits of what is with what will be so that the innovations we need to survive in a changing world are created by minds that do not know boundaries of thought yet guided by moral aptitude that improves all lives.  This is education.

»How do teachers come together?

Physical and virtual spaces are important to the common goal of education.  Physical spaces give direct psychological, emotional, and philosophical connection all teachers need to communicate their point of view and determine what is the collective good for all students, teachers, and future of education.  Yet, as we all know, we are limited by physical limitations of geography, society, and living demands.  What was once impossible is now readily available through technology.  The physical limitations of time and space are not removed but are altered allowing us to interact via the Internet.  There can be no excuse for educators to have multiple touches and interactions within a district, between districts and abroad.  We learn from each other.

»What might be a new curricular model?

Often I wonder why some children are not further ahead in the curriculum given their aptitude for a particular content area.  Similarly, I wonder why students who are not learning the content are being pushed forward through it, or to another grade level, without demonstrating a high level of understanding.  This is a construct that needs to be deconstructed.  There is no point pushing a student forward or holding a student back based on age and grade.  A grade level, and its corresponding curriculum, should always seek to accelerate or decelerate a student’s progress based on multiple forms of assessment.  Decisions pursuing this form always put the learner first leaving little error as to whether or not learning is enriched or further supported.  Grade levels are just a means by which to group similar age peers and should not be viewed as the definitive guide as students progress in learning.  The student who is accelerated in the physical sciences would likely be accelerated in math, but may need more support in language arts.  In this model, students get what they need and not get what they get.  Every teacher, myself included, is guilty of saying they have done everything possible to enrich or support learning for every child.  With so many students in a classroom as a result of budget cuts due to the economy, a teacher simply cannot get to every child as individuals.

This model will force teachers to work together vertically, in teams, from early childhood through the high school years.  In this way teachers are able to be a complete team meeting the needs of the children entrusted to them for thirteen or fourteen years.  Conferences are not by grade level but need with a team of teachers who know the child at the beginning of school to the end.  Teachers are able to communicate among each other drawing on each other’s strengths and views to help the student at every turn.

»How do educators upgrade their practice?

I want to upgrade my computer so I go to the store and purchase the component I need.  Be it RAM, a new hard drive, or monitor, I first have to be aware a replacement is needed and aware that what I am using is degraded or deprecated.  Being aware my practice is not up to par is my responsibility, and the only way to know if I need an upgrade is to talk and watch others teach.  No one teacher has every conceivable skill to meet the learning need of every child but can grow in the ability to improve their practice.  Social networks are important here.  Such networks allow teachers to meet, ask questions, gain insight and shift in practice and pedagogy.  Teachers talking teaching allows us to improve what we do and how we do it.

We must have an urgency to meet the needs of every student by communicating, collaborating, and improving our practice.

Do you teach or educate?

Do you teach or educate?

I teach and I educate.  There is a difference but teaching does not mean I educate.

Teaching is the act of standing in front of class to follow a lesson plan while sharing the content students are to learn for the class or period.  It is the act of conveying information from one mind to another to take notes mentally or physically generating a log meant to be used later for review and processing.  This synapse is static; as neural  membranes, students are not receiving or sharing energy to change their mind or capture their attention.  The network of students can be said to be dead because no real engagement is taking place.  As a static, from teacher to student, “push notification”, transfer, the students are not engaged nor being led to some new thought as the information being given to them is not provocative or life relevant.

Education takes place when a student reflects on what is known now and compares that to what is being learned deciding if the content should be kept or discarded.  This is a universal choice process. I think of my choices for lunch and discard all other choices if favor of a salad because I am dieting.  To be educated is to say the mind is changed, learning has taken place for new knowledge has replaced the old upgraded in favor for current understanding of concept, fact or generalization. Education is not standing in front of the class guiding every thought, instruction, and process for every student to do it the same way, at the same pace, and with the same depth.  Students learning maturity determines this for if the work they are performing is relevant and motivating, because it applies to their experiences, then they choose to be educated vs. taught.  In this, the teacher is to become the coach, the one who sees the potential of the student, knows how he/she learns, and then facilitates thinking to learn within the student for the learning leap but helps the child reason through the process without judgement thus sharing a powerful connection between coach as teacher and student and between people as emotional humans.  This is education when a person moves from one point of understanding to the next either by self or by coach with a completely new understanding.

Do you teach or do you educate?

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