soul strikers

powerful moments in education

The De-Isolation of Teachers: Crowd-sourcing Passion (part one)

In great schools, an intention will exist to value and create time for teachers to collaborate. In the very best, it actually happens- doesn’t just become a dream that disappears as the pages fly off the calendar, holidays and marking periods whizzing by with the wind. Teaching is a profession that can be isolating, and at times feel extremely safe that way.

But we all know that ‘safe’ doesn’t move any practice forward. A runner who maintains 3 miles and never attempts 4, will never reach 5, with a satisfied smile. Safe is stagnant and does not agitate the comfort zone, a process that creates new questions and new learning for all ages.  Staying ‘safe’ may be a product of comfort, of fear of not pleasing everyone, or fear of (taking or addressing) leadership .

Missing Pieces
Bravely, I might say that even when the time is provided not all teachers really know how to do this, or even honestly (gasp!) believe in its value.  Any teacher would be crazy to say this publicly, but seriously- if you have never had a positive, productive, fulfilling experience with something, are you going to want to do it more? It frequently seems that time for professional development is missing the boat- it is missing the piece that we truly need. We are missing the piece that allows us to set goals because of passion-not paperwork-, have the needed time for follow-up, the time needed to  build connections within and beyond our districts to sustain our progress, and maybe, just maybe, actually accomplish these goals. How many times does your team or district start something that falls off a cliff all too quickly? The follow up time becomes time for odds and ends and energy is sucked away by dumping our time in the trash can for testing and excessive test analysis.

Where are all the good leaders?
Lately, I’ve been considering the ways in which teachers become isolated in this profession and why. This led me to consider how districts, professional development initiatives, and state/national policies isolate teachers, not necessarily intentional. In the past year, I have begun to experience the power of connections, of sustaining goals for myself as a professional, and expanding my leadership to help others explore this, too.  It has become all too clear for me that this can really burn out a classroom teacher, this double role of feeling allegiance to both my classroom community and to strengthening the professional community among staff.  I can’t seem to let either go.

If I look back at my 11 years of teaching, I observe an interesting progression.  My most isolated years were in the first half, the half where I should have been the most surrounded by opportunities to connect with educators, chances to uncover how collaboration could assist me in this extremely challenging profession. Perhaps I wasn’t completely open and perhaps the opportunities were not there,  but it means that I now feel responsibility to create these opportunities for people in the field of education.

The Missing Pieces
Last April, I attended Edcamp Boston, my first experience in the “un-conference” model, where attendees build and facilitate the schedule, where there are no keynotes, and everyone is a participant in important discussions- not just an observer to pedagogy. Upon Tony Baldasaro’s announcement that Edcamp Seacoast was coming, Fall 2012, we laughed, but also knew it would be a reality.  We needed to spread this model to our area in the Seacoast of New Hampshire.

photo by Tony Baldasaro

Discussion at Edcamp Seacoast
photo by Jaclyn Karabinas

Well, last Saturday, it became a reality.  After months of planning, countless Google Docs, and a great deal of laughter, our crowd-sourced passion brought this to life.  With over 150 participants, Edcamp Seacoast was a day filled with thought-provoking discussions, important questions, and relevant professional development for all in attendance.  We had 4 sessions throughout the day, with about 10 choices each.  During session 1, I decided to just walk around and peek in to each and every conversation.  The whole day reminded me so much of a wedding- so much preparation and anticipation before hand, and then the day of , the chance to stand back for a moment and take it all in.  As I peeked in to each room, I couldn’t help but feel a full heart and a huge smile.

THIS was the de-isolation of teachers. THIS was what it looked like to combine educators, administrators, and community members to be the change in education. It was crowd-sourced passion.

That is what this series of posts is going to be about, so please join in the conversation!  As I stumble upon thoughts, questions, and articles  regarding this topic, I will blog about it and ask you to share, comment, agree or not.  Join the conversation.


6 comments on “The De-Isolation of Teachers: Crowd-sourcing Passion (part one)

  1. Pingback: The De-Isolation of Teachers (Part 3): Making the Day COUNT | soul strikers

  2. Pingback: The De-Isolation of Teachers (Part 2): Within School Walls « soul strikers

  3. bravesmartbold
    November 3, 2012

    I’m going to an all-day workshop next weekend for exactly that reason. Although the teachers in my school work together very well, I personally feel stagnant. Good view of a teacher’s life.


    • soul strikers
      November 3, 2012

      Great thoughts- so important to branch out beyond the school and join others who want to do the same. In the end, not everyone is going to feel that way, but it is still important to find community and balance. What is the workshop?


  4. Shawn White (@swpax)
    November 3, 2012

    Great post! I have yet to be able to make it to an edcamp. Last week I had my kids’ last day of soccer games, and I coach both their teams. I was going to come in the morning before the games but then couldn’t. I have not been able to attend Boston or Keene, either. Disappointing, because I crave exposure and participation in the crowd-sourced passion you write of. I too have been pondering what our profession needs to thrive, and I keep coming back to a very powerful, but finite resource: time.

    What I love about the idea of edcamps is that it is educators taking their own time to learn from and teach one another in a meaningfully engaging way with the freedom to allow the event and day to organically progress based upon what sprouts from the passion of those present. Brilliant! What a powerful way to de-isolate educators! I have seen of examples where districts are starting to facilitate edcamp-style days which might add to your exploration, but sorry I can’t say I remember from whence they came.

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts and for your efforts to help organize edcampseacoast.


    • soul strikers
      November 3, 2012

      Thanks so much for sharing. It’s true- education can be a 24-7 profession and the balance of family life is so important to maintain. We have an allegiance to both- this is something I am going to get a real taste of when my first arrives in March, and I wonder what this will do to my energy and passion in education.

      There will be more edcamps and more opportunities for sure- your own children are enriched by you prioritizing their soccer games for sure!



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This entry was posted on November 3, 2012 by in education, PD Power and tagged , , , .

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