Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Edublogosphere --Part of the Problem?

I don't really like to rant. I've tried to refrain from using my blog as a soap-box, but this has been building for a long time. The irony, and yes, I know it, is that not one of the people I'm talking to will read this. 

This post goes out to the educational leaders. Not all the leaders to be sure, but those who write and speak publicly at conferences, who travel around and make their living educating the educators, inspiring us, moving us forward in a new direction. I read your blogs. I bask in your brilliance, I've tried, as a teacher, to join the oft-referenced "conversation," to be one who, in the words of Will Richardson, is "reading and participating already. On some level, they get it."

I understand that you're frustrated, waiting for everyone to get it and schools to change already. But the criticism from on high, the putting-down of those you are supposed to be leading, how is that part of the solution? I'm finding a lot of the posts about bad schools to be pretty unproductive. It will be easy for you to dismiss me (I'm pretending that you read my blog). 
Actually, I am working pretty hard to bring real change to a real school and I've looked to you for answers, for ideas, help, a path to take, inspiration. To me, your job seems easy - you stand on the outside and offer your critique.

I've noticed that my reader has really changed over the eight months I've been part of the blogosphere. I used to read many of your blogs, you know, the blogs everyone reads. At first I was wowed by the writing and the ideas (you never responded to any of my comments, but you want me to participate). Over the months I've found these blogs, for the most part, more and more useless. Now my reader, full as ever, is filled with the blogs of those who actually teach and those leaders who I think "get it." 
I'm not making any lame excuses for my school or any others. But, as a teacher, I know and so should you, that you don't entice people to learn and grow and change by belittling their efforts. Criticism has its place, but I can't imagine trying to teach a child through constantly telling them how much they don't know, how far they have to go, how much they just don't get it.
Yes, it is frustrating that schools and teachers and administrators aren't getting it faster and change hasn't happened, like 10 years ago. 
But, what can we DO to make it happen NOW?


Gary said...

When you hear a popular speaker or read their blog you should be able to determine what they would "do" in a classroom or other context with actual learners.

Is their work and blather supported by evidence? Does it tell a story of success and failure? Do they stand on the shoulders of giants and are well rooted in the extant history and literature of the field in which they claim expertise?

Or, are they just making stuff up?

The easiest way to get a conference keynote and make a buck is to claim that our schools are in a crisis state unless YOU act. The speaker won't act because they have another audience to scare.

Andrea said...

Thanks so much for your comment. I guess I am becoming a more selective consumer of educational speakers and blogs. No need for me to read endless descriptions of the problem.
I do think that many of our "leaders" are rooted in the history and literature of the field, but have forgotten their humility (if they ever had any). It's the old theory vs. practice. I'm looking for leaders who understand and respect both.

Gary said...

I've been agonizing over an article I have half-written in my head.

Over the past year, I've encountered keynotes with fake credentials; others who make stuff up and some who just lie to the audience.

During one well known speaker's keynote, I was fact-checking on my iPhone and passing it around.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Gary and Andrea!

I listened to Michael Barbour give a great, down-to-earth keynote at the DEANZ Conference. I identified with a lot HE said. One of the many things I picked up was what he said about the myth of digital-immigrants - digital-natives. He confirmed my suspicions about this by giving some statistically significant research evidence that showed clearly that the myth was just that.

Nancy White also spoke at that conference. She too was impressive with her down-to-earth approach. Similarly Marcus Akuhata-Brown spoke with both his feet firmly on the ground - moving, but actual.

Not all icons are shouting about pie-in-the-sky, but I agree with what you both say. There is a lot of that about at conferences. I just wonder when the perpetrators get round to walking the talk.

Ka kite
from Middle-earth

Andrea said...

Kia Ora, Ken.
I've been very inspired by speakers at conferences as well. There are so many great people with great ideas to share, grounded in real understanding of the practice, no?
I guess I am just a bit of a hothead! It's all too easy to talk, talk, talk; it's much harder to really teach! I have noticed a pattern of sorts in the blogosphere and must be more careful to filter what I read. I had removed the high-and-mighty-blogs from my reader, but was still clicking on links to them. Must give them up completely, otherwise I spend time writing posts like this one, mostly a waste of energy and time, and compromising my own productivity.

Melanie Holtsman said...

I think your post takes a lot of courage - thanks for your thoughtful words. I think sometimes teachers "see" a taste of how far they have to go and it keeps them from jumping on the wagon. You have to start where you are and move at your own pace. I think the more I move forward the more I feel the pressure to keep moving. It has to come from within. How motivated would our students be if they thought they would never reach the goal?

Andrea said...

Thank you, Melanie!
I, too, feel that the more I learn, the more pressured I feel to do more. I am already my own biggest critic so when I read or hear the generalized critiques of schools, although I realize the truth of it, I take it personally and get defensive.
Your school seems like a prime example of a school where people do "get it" and, under your leadership, are making learning relevant, authentic and exciting for students.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Andrea!

There's no one more like a hot-head than me when I get started about some of the rubbish we can listen to under the name of education!

I don't think your post is a waste of energy or time!

But hey, when you write a post like this, doesn't it make you feel good afterwards? I mean, you get something released to the world, and then you can forget about it and get on with life. Didn't you get that kick?

Keep them coming Andrea!

Nga mihi nui
from Middle-earth

Anonymous said...

Great post, Andrea!

Sometimes, ones own proficiency can become the obstacle of teaching (and learning). In my own case, I try to remember that my explanation of a technique might be my 121st time explaining it -- but my student's first time.

There does seem to be a clique at times of those who "get it" -- but maybe some have stopped learning. Thank you for teaching.

To answer your question about what can we do now? I think you just took one of the steps necessary.

Angela Maiers said...

Andrea-thank you so much for you honest and heartfelt comment. As "one of those" presenters, I first and foremost a teacher. Whom ever my audience, be it five year olds or teachers, I have one put learners and learning first.

My lesson plan is simple:
1. Talk about what we need/want to get better at
2. Autopsy without blame- A Jim Collins term used to describe how to look at our work honestly and without blame in order to decide what steps need to be taken to improve.
3. Model-I do not tell students how to learn differently-I show the what efficient, effective learning looks like, sounds like and feels like.
4. Practice-"Give it a go"-this step involves seeing what works, celebrating our courage for trying, and trying again if we stumble
5. Reflect-It is important to come back together, take a breath, and take notice of where we have come.

This is not fancy, but it works. Talking and taking action are two different things.

Thanks for holding all of us "who do the talking" accountable ensuring that we also walk the walk. Great post!