Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Moving from private practice to talking with "strangers"

Don't talk to strangers--

Strangers are people whom you don't know
if they come too close just get up and go.

Deeply ingrained in us as children--

A habit generalized for many teachers to professional lives as well-
Private practice--

Maintaining a private practice, uncomfortable talking to strangers--

Despite research that points to changes in practice when teachers engage in conversations with strangers--

Practices differed between Professionally Engaged teachers and Private Practice (or professionally isolated) teachers of the same subject. Examples of these different practices are:

"Professionally Engaged English teachers were more than twice as likely as Private Practice English Teachers to have students work in teams to complete assignments" (p. 13) and they were more likely to have students write in a journal at least once per week.

Professionally Engaged Social Studies teachers were much more likely than Private Practice Social Studies teachers to have students work on long projects and assess their own work. Professionally Engaged teachers were less likely to lead their students in whole-class recitation or to ask questions to test if their students knew the correct answer.

"Professionally Engaged science teachers were almost twice as likely as Private Practice science teachers to ask students questions in order to get students to relate their school work to their own personal experiences, and they were more than twice as likely to have students work in small groups on a weekly basis to collectively solve a problem" (p. 14).

Secondary math teachers among the Professionally Engaged groups were more likely to have their students work on problems with no obvious answer and were less likely to ask questions to see if the students had done their homework.
Private practice teachers, challenged with breaking life long habits--

With others wishing they would join in, see the potential, what they are missing--

TEDxLondon is going on today–I caught the info about it on Twitter–and I know I am the only person on my staff listening to any pieces or parts of it. I wonder why, though, as I know many of my teachers are on Facebook and use social media in many different ways for personal reasons. How can I help them see the value of setting up a worldwide professional learning network and help them find the time to use it?

As I reread this in November, I can’t help but think how isolated many teachers are, for the most part. I can’t help but think how powerful conversations are for helping teachers see outside of their own little world of the classroom. --Paula White,
What if in our reaching out, inviting in--
  • We more fully acknowledged and celebrated their dedication to children
  • We worked even harder to get to know them and to appreciate their gifts and talents
  • We were more intentional in highlighting similarities
  • We took more time in sharing how important we believe relationships are to growing our practice
  • We suggested more clearly baby steps for abandoning private practice--

My part today-- my open invitation--

Dear private practice teachers,
We share in common our passion for learning, for helping students reach their greatest potential, for wanting to play some small role in making the world a better place--

Those of us who are connected educators invite you, I invite you, to find as we have the incredible potential for improving practice through talking with "strangers"-- I can honestly say that some of those "strangers" have become true friends (not "facebook" friends)-- we share our family's successes and tribulations, we rejoice together and we cry together, we learn together--

To those of you for whom the "private practice" habit so difficult to discard, what if you--
  • Make it a 30 day challenge?
  • In your social network, you take the time to get to know 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 people well-- comment on their photos, comment on their videos, ask a question about something they posted, asked about what they do in their classroom through a comment on their wall?
  • Make it a point to connect with 2 people that are located geographically in another area in the same way- comment on their photos, comment on their videos, ask a question about something they posted?
  • Get together with someone from your school and did this as a group/team?
It's about getting to know each other, just as it is face to face; it is about building relationships; it is about those relationships enabling your professional learning and opportunities for learning in your classroom previously not imagined.

It's about talking with strangers, talking with new friends--
Take my hand?
Let's make a difference together,

Photo Credit

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fruitcake and learning in community--

Fruitcake, anathema to many—

Now becoming a new tradition in our home—homemade of course

As I mixed the fruit pieces, the walnuts and the raisins with a generous amount of an old liqueur that Gus has kept over many years, I got to thinking about learning in community. Later as we worked through the process of mixing the batter, of stirring in the marinated fruit mixture, of spooning the rich goodness into the fluted iron bundt pan, of the shared process of putting the heavy pan into the oven, removing it when it was done, and releasing the fruitcake from the pan—that analogy to learning in community stuck with me.

The fruits, the walnuts, the raisins, missing together ——like the diverse, unique members of a community sharing ideas in a common space—

The liqueur, the batter once laden with 5 eggs, white flour, brown sugar—bringing the best of what is forward- the liqueur, the brown sugar and imagining what might be by exchanging the eggs for egg beaters and the white flour for wheat.
In community, bringing what works for us now in schools, for example, PLCs (professional learning communities) and moving them into the current century with CLCs (connected learning communities).

The shared, true collaborative process of putting the heavy cake into the oven, removing it, and then extracting it from the pan—you see I’ve a shoulder that doesn’t work right and can’t lift heavy and Gus’ balance is more than tippy thanks to his MS—so we play to our strengths— his strong arms and upper body and my good balance- I hold him steady while he moves the pan to the oven and out, and as he turns the pan upside down to release the cake— each of us appreciating what the other can do. In community, playing to the gifts and talents of each member, building on those strengths, accomplishing a task, learning something together, doing more together than we could as individuals.

And finally the fruitcake, in all it’s glory, flavors nuanced by each fruit piece, each walnut, each raisin—admittedly not perfect— bearing reflection and considerations on bringing forward what worked and trying new strategies. As in community, a more accomplished global practice that necessitates reflection and ongoing development of expertise, persevering toward deep thought by exploring ideas and concepts, rethinking, revising, and continual repacking and unpacking, resisting urges to finish prematurely.

The huge disconnect here, of course, is that our wonderfully collaborative process of making fruitcake is an annual event—so unlike the ongoing, continuous exploring, experimentation, and deep learning in community.

Yet there is a lot to be said for both! I’m on my way to learning in community and to enjoying our fruitcake while dreaming of next year!

Photo credit fruitcake
Photo credit community