powerful moments in education
For many professional educators, our day probably starts lying in bed, mind wandering to the number of tasks, to-do list items, and needs for the school day that we have lying ahead of us. I start to think: I am going in an hour earlier today. That will really help me feel set and prepared for the next few days. I’m not a morning person-mentally much more alive in the late afternoon-but in pregnancy, my body does not agree.
But if I DO arrive early, as I glance at the unfamiliar hand positions on the clock, the first thing I want to do is…visit! I want to go down to Amy’s room and see what has been happening in 1st grade. What types of new systems does she have in place these days? I want to go up to middle school and see what Melissa is doing. What kinds of cool interactives is she using on the Smart Board for middle school algebra? I want to go talk to Liz. What types of writing pieces are her students doing? What are they reading? What kinds of conversations are happening as a result?
Sometimes I allow myself one visit; most times I remember that it always takes longer to set up the materials for our science exploration than I think it will, and that there is a chance I need a 4th activity choice in math that day for a student struggling with our latest concept. I also know that if I have to go copy something in the teacher’s room, I might end up in a conversation with someone and, as much as I want to talk, I really can’t. I decide that going to my room and shutting the door is the best way to make sure I am prepared for the students, now arriving in 35 minutes, after all of my debating and wandering.
This practice in itself is not bad- any working human being needs to isolate themselves when there is time-sensitive work to be done. But week after week…after month…after year…this practice can lead to stale ideas and even a bitter sense of loneliness. How can one feel lonely when surrounded by children? At the end of the day, we still need our tribe. We still need to support and learn from each other.
The crucial (and for many, difficult) skill of collaborating is more prevalent in the real world workplace everyday. As educators, we know we need to foster collaborative learning, conversation, and creation to help our students apply knowledge in richer ways. While no one can argue the importance of this, we have to ask ourselves: How many teachers feel they can successfully collaborate? What types of personalities make this easier or more difficult? Has the staff created enough trust and connection to be able to openly share ideas and deep questions? How well do staff really know how to do this?
Answers will certainly vary from school to school depending on climate, or size for example, but if this is a process that is to be taught, then logically it needs to be understood by teachers from an experiential perspective. I cannot teach someone to use an iPad if I have only borrowed one a few times from a friend. I cannot carefully unveil steps of the writing process to students if I’ve never experienced the bumps and barriers along the way. I cannot foster collaboration unless I have had multiple opportunities to engage in this way with my colleagues.
The opportunities would need to be as differentiated and relevant as we would need activities to be for students to truly master any subject material. There would need to be stronger personalities to lead the process or facilitate conversations and there would need to be an understanding that all ideas are acceptable. What does this look like in a world where so much teacher professional development time gets swallowed up by examining the latest testing protocols or trying to interpret a revised version of standards?
While I’ve asked a number of questions here, my intent is to really examine this concept of teacher isolation in the same way I would research anything- with questioning! When we begin to ask these questions and consider how they might direct a change in time management of professional development, the possibilities shine on a bright new path.
The De-Isolation of Teachers (Part 1): Crowd Sourcing Passion
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Pingback: The De-Isolation of Teachers: Crowd-sourcing Passion (part one) | soul strikers
So I have been thinking a lot about this. But I think it may be a generational difference.
When I was first teaching, I found it best to be isolated from other teachers because I was then not exposed to all the negativism. Do you not experience this now? Is everyone so much more collaborative? I sure hope so…
Well, it depends on whether the experiences are positive or negative with collaboration. Generally, it seems that people tend to not want to join forces because we don’t know when we will actually have the time to continue that work. More often than not, ideas or initiatives fall off a cliff with time. That is extremely frustrating and has always been that way.
There are definitely always going to be people/places/situations to avoid the negativism, but I believe with the right leadership most of this can be snuffed out. I think teachers just want to know that they will be able to continue what they started after that particular PD day. Unfortunately, something new always makes its way down the track…
You have good questions here! I love how you try to get into school early and feel the need to shut the door to actually get work done. I do the same (even though my classroom has no doors.) I hide in my darkened room at my desk trying to get something corrected before I get noticed. (Boy, that sounds awful!)
But the truth is that we really do love to talk with one another. We have a natural tendency to collaborate, but the PD does need to be there. Planning together and sharing ideas is different than collaboration.
Good point about the differences! It seems to be the only job where you cannot actually do what you need to do during the day… School schedules are short-sighted- They only address that day, truly. Staff and student schedules need to reflect needs of not only the day, but the term and then the year.
I am hearing this in many places! Would you mind if I used some quotes from your blog as well as a link on a post on my blog?
I think this isolation is killing our best teachers.
Let me know your thoughts!
I HAVE to see you with a belly! Can I come by sometime early next week maybe? Or we can meet somewhere?
Anytime- go for it! There is hope, but it’s daunting to think about making this time and making this work in our largest and/or most dysfunctional schools. I’ll email you about meeting up!