Friday, September 25, 2015

Do We Only Share The Amazing?




In “No One on the Internet is Living the Life You Think They Are,” Paul Jarvis reminds us that there is more to people than what they share online.

Social media and really anything digital is setup to be a near-constant stream of editorialized data…In seeing this, we assume everyone is smarter, more successful, more interesting and so much happier than we are…
…When I go online and read or see other people’s stuff, I assume they’re different, and somehow, their lives are awesome and interesting all of the time. That’s because all I see are their interesting bits and bytes…

My days typically involve: watering my veggies and herbs, cleaning rat poop, cleaning my house and yard, staring out my window instead of writing or designing, sitting on my couch reading, refreshing social (with my wife sitting beside me, doing the same), and so many other absolutely mundane things that aren’t worth mentioning (except in this specific instance).

So why am I telling you all this?

I just want to illustrate that no one is living a perfect life. I’m not, you’re not, no one is. And that’s totally ok! Everyone’s got their own ups and downs.

That’s a condensed version of the post. I encourage you to stop reading this and read the whole post, right now. It’s a brilliant post and has me questioning the burgeoning world of teacher branding.


Image Source: User Unsplash, Pixabay.com

Social media, blogging, and myriad other outlets give teachers a whole new voice. The internet enables and empowers educators to connect, to collaborate, and to learn with other educators from all over the world. A growing handful of educators have used the relatively nascent outlets to become thought leaders and influencers. Some of these new superstar educators write, share, and lead from the classroom. It is exciting to see influence rise from the bottom, from the practitioner. It is inspiring to see wonderful examples of projects, lessons, stories, and social action from my profession colleagues.

Being connected to this ‘movement’ has pushed me in many ways. I’ve learned so much from the thoughts and insights of remarkable educators. I’ve tried Genius Hour. I’ve questioned my ‘discipline’ policies. I’ve jumped into PBL. I’ve reflected on my privileges. I’ve used my voice to elevate social issues.

To a very, very small degree, my own blog and social media accounts have elevated my status within the field. People contact me for advice, I contribute to publications, and I lead a variety of projects. At one glance, I might be one of those superstar teachers. Every day is a overwhelming success. My classroom is a utopia. I have it all figured out.


Image Source: User Jill111, Pixabay.com

That couldn’t be farther than the truth. I, like so many others, overwhelmingly share the best, the exciting, the remarkable. In many ways, this is important. Teaching can be a very isolating profession. We need amazing stories of practice and accomplishment to keep us going, to force us to focus on the positive, to keep our field moving forward. But the sensational is only part of the story.

I struggle. I mess up. I make mistakes. My daily routine does not consist of an endless stream of astonishing projects. I have students that dislike my assignments. I have students that distract other students. Students play games on their iPad behind my back. Parents get upset. I forget deadlines. I ask for A LOT of help. Recently, I lectured from a PowerPoint. Just now, I gave a Scantron test to a bunch of sixth graders. I am ashamed of that.


Image Source: User HebiFot, Pixabay.com

I am imperfect. I am imperfect because I am human. I am imperfect because systemic issues of education make doing a good job hard. As Theodore Sizer says, “Americans underrate the craft of teaching. We treat it mechanistically.” Teaching is a humane profession, an ethical one, but we are treated like robots. That is another post for another day. Regardless, education is messy. I would argue it is necessarily messy. There is no magic formula. Teaching and learning is an iterative process, one based on growth and improvement. It is also a critical process. One the demands we question our content, our biases, our relationships, our values.

Bill Ayers says, “becoming a wonderful teacher, or a great or awesome teacher, is a lifetime affair. This is because good teaching is forever pursuing better teaching.” This is what I wish to convey with the post. Teaching is a demanding profession. Educators should celebrate and share our insights, our triumphs. We also need to remember that we learn from each others’ struggles, from our mistakes.

I will continue to read about other people’s success in the classroom. I will continue to write and share my own journey. I write to get things off my chest. I write because I am trying to work things out. I write with the hope that my words may help someone else. I write because my voice matters.

I do not write because I am perfect. There is more to me and my practice than the short vignettes I share. To quote Bill Ayers once again, “To teach is to choose a life of challenge.” Our challenge is a real one, a worthy one. With any authentic challenge we are tested. We rise and fall. We work through trials and tribulations. We might not share them all, but they are there. We live with the daily routine of pure joy and utter defeat. This is the real life of a teacher.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Learning Target: I can change the world




I am in a new home, a new city, a new state, a new job, and a new school. There are many other things I can add to the list. It seems like just about everything is new these days.

Change can be hard. It is easy to get frustrated. I am used to things a certain way. I want to step in and immediately be in the flow. I want to be comfortable. I want to make an impact.

Breathe.

Be patient.

Breathe.

Be patient.

Last week, I missed a meeting, filled out the wrong form, and was late to a grad school class. It would be pretty easy to focus on all that stuff. Then again, in the midst of last week’s craziness, I walked into eighth period. During eighth period, I co-teach an experimental class with a phenomenal colleague. I looked up to see the world’s best learning target on the board.

It’s like she knew what I needed.

Breathe.

Be patient.

Be present and enjoy the ride.