“Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes…” Paramahansa Yogananda
Does what you’re doing feed your soul?
Spring brings reflection and opportunities for change, particularly in the field of education. College students wonder about changing majors, changing schools. Teachers and professors wonder if they are in the right place, right grade level, right subject matter, on the right team. Leaders wonder if they are in the right organization, are they leading their teams well, have they empowered others to be their best?
“When do you sleep?” “You look so happy.” “You must love what you do.” “Are you going to quit?” “I feel in limbo.” “Should I really change majors?” “I was told I could make more money…”
There is a dichotomy to these questions and statements every one of which I’ve heard this past week. Each question, each statement allows for the same responses, “What is it about what you’re doing that feeds your soul?”“What is that you think will feed your soul about the change you are considering?” “What does success look like and feel like to you?” Success is not defined by what others think and feel about your decision. Success is defined by how you feel and think about your decisions when you lay down to fall asleep at night.
Ask yourself, “What my feeds my soul?”
Do what energizes you. Do what makes you smile. Do that which makes you feel vibrant and causes others to ask and comment, “Do you sleep? You look so happy.”
Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through the experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambitioned inspired, and success achieved. Helen Keller
I enjoy starting my mornings with a look at my Twitter feed. There’s always something there that is intellectually stimulating, thought provoking and entertaining. Some posts stand out more than others and some continue to resonate well after the initial reading of the post. Eric Saibel, assistant principal at Hall Middle School and author of the blog Principals in Training, shared the video A Tour of Copenhagen’s Noma with Chef Rene Redzepi this morning. The analogy of the chef’s observation of his professional field were stunningly similar to those of the education profession.
The story of Chef Rene’s kitchen begins as he describes the kitchen’s reliance on local resources, not unlike the classroom and the LCAP, as well as changes that have been implemented in his kitchen the past couple of years, not unlike changes occurring in our classrooms as the impact and possibilities available through the use of 21st Century tools are continuing to work their way into classroom pedagogy. There is a lesson in Chef Rene’s insight on the importance of the design of the working environment to support openness, light and creativity that can have a powerful impact on the learning environments we create for our students.
“We almost ruined our own trade by making it too tough, too hard… People are entering our trade for the wrong reasons and are surprised when they work 85 hours and then they feel tired one day and they’re out. We need to change this.”
It is important to employees in all industries that they feel valued and invested in, yet it is not uncommon to see teachers’ passion for education being taken advantage of as evidenced by the recent economic downturn in which many of our schools survived because of the furlough days and pay reductions taken by the professionals in our field. A July 2014 report from the Alliance for Excellence in Education showed an annual turnover rate of 20% for teachers in the education profession correlating to 1 in 5 teachers leaving the profession every year. While the reasons vary among those leaving the profession, the most often cited reason is “dissatisfaction with working conditions.” This high rate of turnover is costly bringing with it a national annual price tag $2.2 billion to replace the vacated positions.
“We work a lot in the trade. There’s no way around it. You’re going to work your ass off and so do we, but with a little less of the pressure…”
There continues to be a myth that has run through generations that educators are done by three, have weekends off and enjoy long summer vacations. Every teacher will tell you about the late meetings they stay for, the committees they serve on, the lessons they plan and the papers they grade at home during the evenings and on weekends as well as the work they do over the summer to prepare for the upcoming year and investing in their own professional development. Yes, educators work their asses off which makes Chef Rene’s next quote also fitting to the industry.
“It’s a business where you work so much for very little money that it needs to be very inspiring, it needs to be very cool. It needs to be family. It needs to be a tight team.”
What would happen if we truly invested in the on-going professional development of educators allowing teachers to take the lead in the decision making of the direction of their professional growth? What if we designed classrooms and teachers lounges to support 21st century tools? Would they become, as Chef Rene describes of his staff, more confident? Would they make more decisions, be less afraid to try new things, to be creative and innovative? What can we do to make our industry/our passion cool? How do we create tight teams that feel like a close and supportive family so that members don’t want to leave?
“It’s the cook that cooks the food that creates the magic it’s not the recipe.”
It’s the teacher that the teaches the lesson that creates the magic, it’s not the script.
There are quotes throughout the interview that are open to analogies with the education profession. I hope you enjoy watching the video, consider sharing your favorite quote and it’s analogy to our profession and your ideas for making life in education “cool” so that we grow together as we educate each group of students that come through our classrooms.
I just finished taking the Kingdomality Vocational Personality Profile sponsored by Career Management International. My results – A Dreamer Minstrel. I was surprised at first to see “Dreamer” in the description, but as I read the personality description, I was very entertained as it described me to a T.
“You can alway see the ‘Silver Lining’ to every dark and dreary cloud.” – Yes, and this is not always well-received. I was once referred to as “pollyanna” in unkind terms by a colleague in my field. I’ve chosen to carry the reference with pride!
“Look at the bright side is your motto.” Yes, I believe everything happens for a reason. It’s not always clear why something happens at first reflection, particularly when the experience has not been positive or rewarding. Nevertheless, I do believe that with time, we gain awareness of why certain experiences have been a part of our lives and how we benefit from them.
“There is nothing so terrible that you can not find some good within it.” True. I’ve taking care of a lot of student discipline lately and a child who get’s sent to my office during 6th period, has made it successfully through 5/6 of his or her day. A student who comes to tears in my office is facing acceptance and is starting to heal. My son got a 50% on a quiz (darn kid is usually a straight A student); he mastered half the content before the quiz and the other 50% afterwards and learned a lesson in perseverance as well as a valuable life lesson as he continued the learning process even when the grade wouldn’t go up.
Positive, Spontaneous, Charismatic, Idealistic, Empathetic – yep, I like this!
This week brings the culmination of the IEASC Spring 2014 cohort Leading Edge Certification in Online and Blended Learning. The learning throughout the process of earning this certification was tremendous. Each module brought a specific focus that increased the knowledge base of members in this cohort. I, however, found three areas that proved to be most transformational in my personal development as an instructor.
I entered the course feeling like I was bringing with me a pretty solid foundation and understanding of assistive technology (AT) and universal design for learning (UDL). I’ve spent the past couple of years working closely with and supporting the work of an occupational therapist and speech language pathologist who have real expertise with AT and engaged in a two year Assistive Technology Project. This course however got me to dive in and start creating and embedding accessibility features into my websites, videos and presentations. I learned a lot about what it takes to create accessibility features and grew in my understanding of how many people can benefit from their incorporation into instruction. It is essential that we provide pedagogically sound programs to all of our learners whether they come to us with typical cognitive and physical functioning abilities or with disabilities.
I appreciated the focus the course placed on the four primary roles that an online/blended learning instructor engages in. Ed Hoostein describes the roles of social director, program manager, technician and instructor in his blog post, “Wearing Four Pairs of Shoes: The Roles of E-Learning Facilitators.” There continues to be discussion in the education community about the integrity of online coursework and how it measures up in quality and accountability to traditional brick and mortar instructional environments. Diving into a deeper understanding of how these four roles are interwoven into a strong program gave me an understanding of what to look for in evaluating online and blending learning courses and their pedagogical soundness.
Finally, a review and self reflection of the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Instruction proved to show me just how much room for growth I continue to have. As I finish the requirements for the Leading Edge Certification, I am cognizant of the need to continue my professional growth as an educator interested in incorporating digital literacies into the curriculum for both adult learners and students in the K-12 education system. The role of the technician as referenced in the four roles of the online/blended learning instruction in the blog post by Ed Hootstein, as well as ongoing inquiry into developing software that supports student learning, will continue to be an area of focus. Embedding the use of the tools society uses in everyday life into instruction are an essential component of providing students with an education that will allow them to be contributing members of society.
When looking at the Common Core, I see more opportunity than I do challenges. I see the opportunity for teachers to engage more in the “art” of teaching. I see the opportunity for greater focus and financial support to integrate the 21st Century tools our students use in their personal lives. I see the opportunity to take all students to application and synthesis as part of their learning. I see the opportunity for teachers to engage in the art of teaching. As a profession, we have spent significant time and resources on training our teachers in the science of teaching, direct interactive instruction and implementing researched based curriculum in a structured and consistent manner. The importance of this can not be understated as we consider Bloom’s taxonomy and providing our students with the foundational skills needed and acquired through gaining knowledge and developing skills to support comprehension. However, as we get into the higher levels of learning that support students as critical thinkers where they begin experimenting, comparing ideas, evaluating outcomes and imagining possibilities, we need to engage with them from the heart. Teaching and learning involve emotion. We can inspire a student. We can also bore a student. The Common Core with it’s focus on critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration create opportunities for teachers to engage the mind and help students understand the “why” of their learning and the “why” of what they are learning. Part of the transition to the Common Core will be in changing the mind-set of educators on how they approach the presentation of lessons in the classroom. There will have to be a shift in professional development, the tools used to support the learning of both the teacher and the student and how we teach students to express their understanding. It will take a while to adjust from a long-held practice of filling in bubbles and circling the correct answer to supporting students in articulating how they have arrived at their conclusions, but this approach will ultimately engage the learner in much deeper learning. Transitions can cause trepidation. Thirteen years after the No Child Left Behind Act, a policy that strongly encouraged a very regimented approach to teaching, our educators are being asked to make quick shift in their practice. It will take time to make the mental adjustment, to engage in professional development and reading that support our teachers’ expertise and to implement changes in the classroom that support the Common Core. Educators are by a nature a conscientious group of people. They want to do what is best for their students. They want to meet the expectations set forth by their profession. It can however feel challenging to have to sway with the winds of both the State and Federal legislature as politicians define the focus of instructional expectations and the funding that is allocated to support the changes of those expectations. It is our responsibility as administrators to teach our teachers and our communities. It is our responsibility to support our educators in understanding the origin of and the “why” behind the Common Core. It is our responsibility to assist our teachers in understanding the caliber of input that was provided by our professional colleagues toward informing this educational policy. In order to successfully make this shift with buy-in from the teachers who are charged with modifying their current practice, we need to provide them with the knowledge, tools, professional development and time to adapt their practice. This will be done through an allocation of resources that will allow for the opportunity to engage in study and professional collaboration combined with the sharing of ideas, successes and failures. A well-organized Professional Learning Community focused on the successful implementation of the Common Core can support this. As the teacher’s pedagogical approach shifts they will need access to 21st Century learning tools that will support their instruction in conjunction with on-going professional development on how to incorporate these into the classroom instructional model. Ensuring and monitoring the success of Common Core implementation will be measured not only by the data collected from students’ Smarter Balance testing results, but also by how teachers’ instructional practices change, the tools they use, their knowledge base and comfort level with teaching to the higher level of learning that the Common Core has set forth as well as student work samples and projects. In order to evaluate on-going progress and success, site leadership should take time at the beginning of the year to collect baseline information on their staffs’ comfort level with the new standards, how confident they feel in the professional development they have been provided with, what tools and instructional strategies are currently being used in the classroom, the level of buy-in they have to the Common Core. After gathering this information, site staff and it’s instructional leadership team can decide on goals for the year and what type of professional development should be provided to support the goals for the site as a whole and for individual teachers looking to gain specific areas of expertise. The same survey given at the beginning of the year should be given to the staff again at the end of the year. Once the results are analyzed, they should be presented to the site’s instructional leadership team and then to the full staff. This process should be cyclical and can become a part of the planning done during the spring to plan for the following school year. Are these challenges or opportunities? I understand the mind-set of viewing these as challenges, particularly in terms of funding a transition of this magnitude, but I do see great opportunity in the process of making this change. It appears that as educators, we may be participating in a revolution of our education system; a revolution that may have a similar impact on how we teach as the industrial revolution did. I suspect this period of history will one day be studied for the influence it is having on society in the same manner in which the impact of the industrial revolution is studied for its effect on our culture. This is an exciting time.