Search ASCD EDge
What I Learned Lately (WILL #8)
It is this time of year that I pause to remember my non-negotiable(s). I scramble through my notes and journals to find those pieces of scribbling that remind me of the solid and holy ground that I fight for throughout the year. Some days it takes everything I can to not panic. Physically, my heart beats faster, the right side of my body tightens and I feel a tremendous pull of gravity. Mentally, I feel the drain of outside pressures and the unknowns of my life. Spiritually, I question my strength and feel an urgent need to withdraw from my inner conversation.
Just as I feel like I want to stop and I can’t do any more. I see it, in big bold RED Letters, “Is It Best for Kids”, my non-negotiable for making decisions. During this time of year, we are required to make decisions regarding budgets and cut backs, hiring and non-renewals, promotions and graduations and so many other difficult and emotional decisions. As leaders, we are often lobbied by adults for a variety interests. I can easily become lost in the barrage of conversations and activities. I desperately seek for stability, consistency and some sort of pattern that will ground me. This simple question, “Is It Best for Kids”, helps me find peace and ultimately gives me strength to serve another day.
Non-negotiable pillars keep us grounded during the most critical times. When we are tired from the hard fought battles of saving our students, they serve as inspiration and open our eyes to the enlightenment that we find in our daily work. In these last few weeks take pause to remember your non-negotiable pillars, yet in pausing don’t rest for there is more work to be done. If you haven’t found your own “non-negotiable pillar”, consider starting with - “Is It Best for Kids”.
Finally by David Whyte - The Opening of Eyes
The day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before,
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.
It is the opening of eye long closed.
It is the vision of far-off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.
It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.
I think I have always been a connected educator even before “Al Gore invented the internets”. I received journals in the mail, signed up for numerous workshops, attended any and all conferences I could get sent to, continually joined school committees, and I taught many in-service courses. With that type of exposure, I developed a fairly evident footprint in my school and district. People knew who I was, and what my educational philosophy was because I lived it. Of course looking back to my 20th Century career with a 21stCentury eye, there are many things I did then that I would never do today.
The idea of an educator’s digital footprint is a far more than just a reaching reputation. If one is to have any involvement online, that involvement better be positive and constructive, for it is there for eternity and for all to see. If one has amassed a number of good positives in one’s digital impression, it is not usually offset by the occasional misstep that we are all prone to have from time to time.
In regard to the recent “Jeff Bliss” viral video, I felt bad at first for the teacher in the class at Duncanville High School. Too many people were out to demonize her without knowing who she was, or if this packet curriculum she handed out was her personal style, or a mandated, packaged, paid-for curriculum of the school district. She had no digital footprint to go to. I looked, and I could not find one.
I am fortunate to work for SmartBrief as a contributing editor. I am sent to many education conferences in order to promote my connections with educators. Even before this however, I found the digital connections made through Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook were, for those people I wanted to get to know, more than introductions to people. They were the beginnings of relationships. Most of the people in education, that I call on as friends today, began as digital connections. Technology has helped me expand and deepen professional relationships to a degree never before possible. As a regular teacher I was now able to connect, and interact with authors and experts as an equal in discussions on education. These digital relationships were further expanded with face-to-face contacts at education conferences.
Since the interactions were digital, they took many forms on several places: groups, discussions, comments, and interviews, and my footprint grew. As I ventured out to write a Blog my educational philosophy took on a life of its own. People could now read my thoughts and views, as well as my personal beliefs, likes, and dislikes. All of this has fit into my lifestyle. I love the connectedness, I thrive on the interaction, and I live for talking about where we are going, as well as, where we should be in education. All of this, and age, has morphed me from an educator of kids to hopefully a wiser educator of educators. It has always been about the connectedness.
This year I was fortunate to attend the MACUL conference in Detroit. That is a statewide education conference for Michigan educators. MACUL is an ISTE affiliate. My connectedness led me to friendships with many of the featured and keynote speakers; Steve Dembo, Adam Bellow, Nick Provenzano, Kevin Honeycutt, Erin Klein and Gwyneth Jones to mention only a few. It was a great lineup of educators at The Cabo Center in Detroit.
My connectedness and its range along with my responsibility to be true to my image was driven home to me with an email from Matt Keillor an educator connected to me and who also attended the MACUL Conference. I left the conference as it ended. Having my luggage with me I found a line of cabs outside and went to the first in line. I had a pleasant conversation with the cabbie who was originally from an African country. As I was in the airport Matt tweeted me saying that he had a ride in the same cab as I did and he would email me the details. Here is Matt’s account:
MACUL13 Cab Story
From Matt Keillor
I hopped into a cab from Cabo to Detroit airport on Friday afternoon. The conversation with the cab driver went like this:
Me: Airport please
Driver: Sure. Are you a teacher?
Me: Why yes I am! There are thousands of us swarming Detroit, have you had many teacher customers?
Driver: My last customer was a teacher. He lives in New York and has been teaching for over 40 years!
Me: Did he have a mustache?
Driver: Yes he did!
Me: A nice full manly one…not a wimpy pencil ‘stache.
Driver: Ha Ha! Yes he did.
Me: I believe that was Tom Whitby! I pulled up Twitter and showed him a pic…
Driver: Yep. that’s him!! He was a very nice man, I could tell he is a man of principle…I saw him walking out and another cab driver tried to lure him in. He refused, kept walking and continued to my cab at the front of the line. He is a very nice man!
Me: Great to hear! I’ll be sure to tell him you said hello.
Driver: Ah yes, please do!
Lessons learned: It’s a small world. Twitter is cool. Always do the right thing; you may never know the impact has on others.
I am proud of my digital footprint. I am happy to be recognized for as much what I am as who I am. In addition to educators maintaining connections and providing a positive footprint, we need to also stress this with our students. There may come a time when your digital footprint will be your accomplishments for portfolio. Interviews may be have less of an impact on job procurement. It may also go a long way in maintaining a position. Of course that brings us back to our teacher on the viral video. Given the information on hand and their digital footprints, who looks better, the teacher, or the student? What impact will that video, and all that follows from it, have on each of their lives? YES, Technology and Social Media are important in our culture. It cannot be effectively and responsibly self-taught.
Unmuted: Using Student Feedback to Create an Effective Secondary Learning Environment
I had no idea how important it was to my high school students that I asked them for their feedback on our courses. The impact was far more profound than I ever imagined.
In light of the recent Duncanville issue, where student Jeff Bliss offers criticism to his teacher, the time to discuss listening to student feedback, particularly on how they're learning, is now. Had his teacher taken the time to establish a learning environment where criticism was not considered a form of disrespect, but rather, a constructive dialogue, things might have turned out differently for both of them.
In this video, some of my former students offered their perspective on just how much they appreciated being asked for their feedback. We're also offering a webinar on the topic!
Unmuted: Using Student Feedback to Create an Effective Secondary Learning Environment
Hosted by Kappa Delta Pi, June 25, 8pm
Register at: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/580671226
I was recently sent this amazing video made from a commencement speech title “This is Water.” The speech, given by David Foster Wallace, which was hardly known until it was discovered by The Glossary a few years after David had passed away.
In the beginning few lines of the speech, Wallace describes two young fish swimming past and older fish who says, “Good morning boys, how is the water?” The two young fish swim on and eventually one asks “What the hell is water?”
I’ve watched this video about 5 times now, and have discussed it with friends, co-workers and relatives.
Now I ponder to myself, as a principal… if this is water, what is education?