In year two, our Digital Learning Collaborative teams look at what they’ve learned and apply it in their classrooms. Using an inquiry model, we ask the teams to evaluate what impact their use of technology is having on students. But more often than I’m comfortable with, teams balk at this point in the process. Some of them do not want to do this work. That keeps me up at night.
One of our many jobs as teachers is to keep a professional separation between who we are and what we do. When we are doing our best, we are presenting ourselves in ways that help to manage that professional distance in thoughtful and productive ways. In social networks, this looks like being present, being thoughtful, and being intentional in the ways that we use those spaces to promote what we think is essential — ways that do not confuse our teacherness and our friendness and help our students understand the difference between the two.
Try very hard not to work all the time. I suck at this, at turning off my work brain and focusing on being a dad or a husband or “just a dude reading the paper at the corner coffee shop,” but I recognize the value of being at rest and at play, of knowing that it’s better to let small work things go in the name of preserving long term relationships. You CAN be that hero teacher that everyone loves and is in awe of, but only for a little while. Then, you burn out and fade away and don’t do anyone any good at all.
After being a little bit mistreated by some folks who don’t understand civil dialogue, Justin Hamilton, the US Department of Education Press Secretary, asked folks to share what they’re for, education policy-wise, as they were also sharing what they were against. That seemed like a reasonable request. Here’s my list.
It is essential that we write with our students. They need to see us struggle and grasp and stick and unstick and giggle and fume and wander and come back in order to get the right words in the right order to say the thing we think we need to be saying. They need to go through that, too. Regularly.
In the 21st century, it’s all about helping our students develop their 21st century skills, of course. And critical thinking is powered by thoughtful reflection and summary, which is fostered by writing. You don’t know what you know until you write.